The Cincinnati Bengals are determined to show they are not a Super Bowl wonder.
The Bengals say they want to prove that the team’s culture has undergone a monumental shift under coach Zac Taylor and that winning is the new normal in a city that was starved of athletic success.
It’s not a hard sell as long as the Bengals’ quarterback is Joe Burrow, who in his second year led the team on a wild Super Bowl run that almost no one saw coming.
If Burrow can stay reasonably healthy — basically, if a revamped offensive line can keep the franchise quarterback off the turf — the Bengals have to like their chances in 2022.
Burrow was the league’s most sacked quarterback, but Cincinnati won the AFC North 10-7 before outscoring the Raiders 26-19 in the wildcard round. In the divisional round, rookie Evan McPherson threw his fourth field goal of the game, a 52-yarder as time expired, to give the Bengals a 19-16 win over Tennessee.
The AFC Championship Game was even more exciting: McPherson’s 31-yard kick in overtime was the difference maker as the Bengals beat the Chiefs.
Cincinnati lost to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20 in the Super Bowl as Burrow went down seven more times to make it a season total of 70 sacks.
Taylor, who was 6-25-1 in his first two years, believes Cincinnati is not only ready to make another Super Bowl run, but is built to last.
“It’s not worry, it’s excitement,” he said. “You know you want to see how fast certain guys come in, and there’s a lot of unknowns about how this team looks, even though we have a lot of pieces coming back. There are new pieces that are going to do integral part of what we do.”
COUNT ON JOE
This time last year, Burrow was still in rehabilitation after major knee surgery. This year he needed an appendectomy and missed the first three weeks of training camp.
He’s back in action in training while working to regain his weight and strength. He and Taylor aren’t worried about the preseason. The rest of the training camp will be devoted to his preparation. Every practice in camp is scheduled to prepare the quarterback for the regular season opener against rival AFC North Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.
“Feeling good. I feel better every day, working on getting my strength back, my weight, all that good stuff,” Burrow said last week.
BATES IS COMING
Safety Jessie Bates III will play with the franchise tag this season after unsuccessful efforts to secure a long-term deal with the team. After missing most of training camp, he showed up on Tuesday and signed the one-year tender.
Ahead of camp, owner Mike Brown acknowledged that part of the problem with re-signing Bates is that the Bengals are considering the huge contracts that will be needed to keep Burrow and receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins when their contracts go. recruits will expire in the next few years.
NEW LOOK FOR O-LINE
What Burrow calls his “safety detail” is set to be enhanced by the free agent signings of three veterans, right tackle La’el Collins (three years, $21 million), right guard Alex Cappa (four years, $35 million) and the Ted Karras Center (three years, $18 million).
Jonah Williams, Cincinnati’s first draft pick in 2019, has come into his own at left tackle, and 2021 second-round pick Jackson Carman is competing with Cordell Volson to start at left guard. The Bengals have high hopes for Volson, a fourth-round draft pick of FCS’s perennial powerhouse in North Dakota State. Collins called Volson “one of the best rookies I’ve ever known”.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
With Bates’ future uncertain, Cincinnati drafted Michigan safety Dax Hill and Nebraska cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt. Both are versatile enough to play either position in the secondary.
Taylor-Britt suffered a setback with a core muscle injury that required surgery last week. He will at least miss the rest of training camp. The Bengals expected the rookie to compete with Eli Apple for a starting cornerback position. ___
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