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State of the Cincinnati Bengals: Can Joe Burrow and Co. get back on Super Bowl track?

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Bengals organization, Bengals fans around the world and those who have come to realize that yes, is the ...

The Bengals were beset by injuries in 2023. The fact that they managed to win nine games -- including four of the seven started by backup QB Jake Browning after Joe Burrow was lost to wrist surgery -- made it a good season, but it's still never fun to miss the playoffs, especially during what should be the height of the Burrow era.

Could this be the year the Bengals put it all together and bring the great city of Cincinnati its first ever Super Bowl title? Let's take a look.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
Head coach Zac Taylor
Director of player personnel Duke Tobin
Offensive coordinator Dan Pitcher
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo
Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Bengals' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia (1-18) Zack Moss, RB Joe Mixon, RB
Kris Jenkins Jr., DT, Michigan (2-49) Mike Gesicki, TE Tyler Boyd, WR
Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama (3-80) Trent Brown, OT Irv Smith Jr., TE
McKinnley Jackson, DT, Texas A&M (3-97) Sheldon Rankins, DT Jonah Williams, OT
Erick All, TE, Iowa (4-115) Vonn Bell, S D.J. Reader
Josh Newton, CB, TCU (5-149) Geno Stone, S Chidobe Awuzie, CB
Tanner McLachlan, TE, Arizona (6-194) Nick Scott, S
Cedric Johnson, DE, Mississippi (6-214)
Daijahn Anthony, S, Mississippi (7-224)
Matt Lee, C, Miami (7-237)

New faces to know

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow stands with offensive coordinator Dan Pitcher during the NFL football team's practice on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Dan Pitcher
Offensive coordinator

Pitcher takes the offensive coordinator baton from Brian Callahan, who became the head coach in Tennessee this offseason. Zac Taylor will , but to me, what stands out about this promotion is continuity. Pitcher has been with the team since 2016, three seasons before Taylor was hired, and he's spent the past four seasons working with Joe Burrow as the quarterback coach. If Mr. Brrr says he "" a certain coach, it's probably a good idea to keep that coach around.

Zack Moss
RB · Year 5

The Bengals said goodbye to Joe Mixon, who was traded to the Texans after being Cincinnati's primary ball-carrier for the past seven seasons, and said hello to Moss, who just set career highs in touches (210), scrimmage yards (986) and touchdowns (seven) with the Colts in basically half a season of work as Jonathan Taylor's fill-in. Moss understandably took a back seat to Taylor when the latter returned, and he was slowed by at the end of the year. If Moss can be the player he was in the first half of last season, though (he put up 576 scrimmage yards and five TDs on 110 touches in Weeks 2-6), the Bengals might be onto something. (There is another back to take a look at in Cincy, but more on him in a moment.)

Jermaine Burton
WR · Rookie

Tyler Boyd, who'd been with the Bengals since 2016, joined Mixon in Houston this offseason, creating an opening in the slot. Trenton Irwin would be a logical option to take the majority of the snaps there, but keep an eye out for Burton, who led Alabama in receiving yards (789) and receiving touchdowns (eight) last season. The third-round pick joins veteran tight end Mike Gesicki (coming off a couple uninspired seasons with the Dolphins and Pats) as new blood in Burrow's pass-catching corps.

State of the QB room

For the second time in his career, Burrow had a season end in Week 11, with the timing of 2023's wrist injury mirroring that of the knee injury that waylaid his rookie campaign in 2020. Burrow, of course, won Comeback Player of the Year in 2021. And the Associated Press' that the CPOY award is meant "to honor a player who has demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity by overcoming illness, physical injury or other circumstances that led him to miss playing time the previous season" should only boost Burrow's candidacy to nab that honor again in 2024. Here's the thing, though: Joe didn't look right for most of last season. He came back from a calf injury suffered in training camp to start Week 1, but his play was often painful to watch, especially after he aggravated the calf problem in Week 2, with a Week 3 loss to the Rams on Monday Night Football (zero TDs, one pick, 59.8 passer rating) standing out as a low point. For the year, Burrow finished with a passer rating of 91.0 and a career-low average of 6.3 yards per attempt. Dude led the NFL with 8.1 yards per attempt and a 104.2 passer rating from 2021-22. Hopefully, he's able to fully recover, stop wondering about his "football mortality" and get back to that level this season.

Most important non-QBs

Kris Jenkins
DT · Rookie
Sheldon Rankins
DT · Year 9

You might have expected high-profile offensive players like Ja'Marr Chase, and Orlando Brown Jr. to be named here, but I wanted to go with some guys on Cincinnati's defense, which is fascinating to me. The Bengals have not finished in the top 15 in total defense since Lou Anarumo was hired as coordinator in 2019. But they always find a way to rise to the occasion when it matters the most, like the Robert Horry of NFL defenses, frustrating their opponents -- especially the Chiefs. Heck, even in a Week 17 loss last season, Cincinnati held Kansas City to three fourth-quarter field goals, when Lou was out there making magic. In terms of key spots on the depth chart, the Bengals are set at edge rusher, thanks to Trey Hendrickson (unfulfilled trade request notwithstanding) and Sam Hubbard, but they needed help alongside B.J. Hill on the interior, with D.J. Reader heading to the Lions in free agency. Enter this pair of studs. Jenkins, a second-round pick (and son of ex-NFL Pro Bowler Kris Jenkins), started all 15 games and was a team captain for the national champions at Michigan last year. Rankins, a veteran signing, had six sacks, nine tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits with the Texans in 2023. 

My HOTTEST Bengals fantasy take:

I'm going to stash Chase Brown.

The second-year pro is going to start the season splitting time with Zack Moss, but I'm intrigued because he looks like Cincinnati's biggest home-run threat this side of . Brown was great in limited spots last year, averaging 5.8 yards per touch. Just check out this 54-yard score against the Colts in Week 14 -- Brown hit a top speed of 22.05 mph on that play, the second-fastest top speed registered by any player in the 2023 regular season, according to Next Gen Stats, and the fastest by a running back.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 2: . Yes, the Bengals have enjoyed some success against the Chiefs in recent years, although renaming Kansas City's home stadium "Burrowhead" before the 2022 AFC Championship Game might have been a bit much, given the result of that contest. I just hope the Bengals aren't so focused on this one that they look past their Week 1 game against the Patriots. Fun fact: The Bengals play the three teams with the worst records from 2023 (the Pats, the Commanders in Week 3 and the Panthers in Week 4) during the first month of the season.
  • Week 10 (TNF): at Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals will face the Ravens at home and finish the season series with Baltimore before their Week 12 bye.
  • Week 18: at Pittsburgh Steelers. I would hate to be the team that has to go up against Mike Tomlin when he could be trying to sneak his squad into the playoffs again. Lately, it feels like dude turns into Bill Walsh .

For 2024 to be a success, the Bengals MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: A) Win the Super Bowl. Look, the Bengals have been to two of the last three AFC Championship Games. I know they took a step backward last season. But would you consider it a success if Cincinnati made it to the conference title match and lost? I get that some teams would be lucky just to make the playoffs, but the expectations for the Bengals are elevated; having Joe Burrow under center means the playoffs are the floor. (Or, as he put it in 2023: "") This is likely to be the last season in which Cincinnati has Ja'Marr Chase and the franchise-tagged Tee Higgins together. Anything less than winning a Super Bowl should feel like a failure. It's almost unfair, but it's the reality.

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