Why the Bengals will have the highest passing offense in 2021

Bengals passing offense can be the top in the NFL

By: Reese Nasser

With the Cincinnati Bengals choosing to take Ja’Marr Chase with the 5th overall pick in the draft, they are clearly making a commitment to both Joe Burrow and their offense as a whole. The willingness to pass on a talent like Penei Sewell and go with Burrow’s college teammate proves that they will do whatever to make their QB1 happy. You have to assume that Burrow had some sort of input on the decision. The reconnecting of two of the greatest college football players ever should put the rest of the NFL on notice. With an offense consisting of Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins, the addition of Ja’Marr Chase could make this a top-5 unit in the NFL and maybe the best passing offense the NFL has seen in years. Let’s take a look at why this could happen.

The 2020 Passing Offense 

Before looking ahead to next season,taking a look at the 2020 season could provide some needed insight. When looking at the Bengals passing offense in 2020, there was a high usage Play Action. Burrow had 78 play actions attempts which resulted in over 500 yards. Brandon Allen, who replaced Burrow after his season-ending injury, also excelled in play action. Allen had 35 attempts and 236 yards in just 5 games. With receivers like Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, who excel after getting the ball in their hands, the usage of play action makes sense. Boyd finished the year with 350 yards after the catch and Higgins finished with 310. While the offense was riddled with injuries there is a lot of promise and potential. 

Joe Burrow’s Production Pre-Injury

Prior to Quarterback Joe Burrow tearing his ACL, the Bengals threw the ball more than nearly any team in the NFL. During a week two loss against the Cleveland Browns, Burrow threw the ball 61 times, the second most ever by a rookie. The willingness to let Burrow sit in the pocket and throw the ball is a sign that this offense can be explosive. Through ten games last season, Burrow also had 404 pass attempts on the season, which put him at nearly 41 attempts per game, one of the highest in the NFL. With a coach like Zac Taylor who is very pass orientated, it is clear that the Bengals are committed to the passing game. This, plus Joe Burrow reunited with his favorite weapon Ja’Marr Chase, the passing production may be even higher. In 2012, Matthew Stafford had the most ever attempts with 727. Don’t be shocked if Burrow at least comes close to this. As long as he is fully healed from his ACL, the Bengals will be expecting big things from their QB1. 

Offensive Line Improvement 

With the signing of veteran tackle Riley Reiff and the selection of guard Jackson Carman in the second round of this year’s draft, the Bengals offensive line already looks much different than last years. All of this, plus the return of Jonah Williams should excite both Bengals fans and Joe Burrow. The improved protection from the offensive line could unlock this offense. 

The Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase Connection

The final key to unlocking this offense might just be Ja’Marr Chase. Burrow and Chase revolutionized college football in 2019 when they led LSU to a national championship. Burrow finished with 60 passing touchdowns and 5668 yards through the air. Chase caught 20 of those touchdowns and also had 1780 receiving yards. This is arguably the greatest quarterback-wide receiver duo that college football has ever seen. So why would it not translate to the NFL? It has been well documented that the Bengals biggest issue last season was pushing the ball down the field. This is something that Burrow and Chase excelled in at LSU. According to PFF, Burrow had a 61.5 passing grade on throws more than 20 yards down the field. While targeting Chase at LSU, he had a grade of 98.2. They also combined for 16 touchdowns of more than 20 yards. 

Even with choosing to opt-out of the 2020 college season, Chase still led the NCAA in touchdowns of more than 20 yards since the 2019. The instant threat that this duo brings to the team could be league altering. The addition of former LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss could also lead to some strong LSU flashbacks. 

A New Offense

Burrow, Chase, Boyd, Higgins, and Joe Mixon, protected by a revitalized offensive line with an offensive minded coach in Zac Taylor. This offense has all of the pieces. With a full off-season to perfect this squad, the Bengals could be absolutely electric this season. This passing game has all of the potential, and should be the best in the NFL this season. 

Grading the Bengals Free Agent Signings

Trey Hendrickson Brings Elite Talent

The Cincinnati Bengals are looking to be the team that takes the biggest leap from the 2020 season to the 2021 year. Joe Burrow is entering his second year and third-year head coach Zac Taylor is sitting on the hottest seat in his tenure thus far. 

To rise to the winning occasion, the Bengals have to win the first phase of the offseason: free agency. As of late, the Bengals have impressed in the 2021 FA period. Despite Peter King believing the Bengals haven’t done enough in FA, the big picture looks bright for Cincy. With that being said, I’m going to hand out report cards for the marquee signings in Bengals nation.

Trey Hendrickson: A+ 

I give absolute props to the Bengals for landing Trey Hendrickson. The Bengals need a defensive monster in their pass rush to complement the high powered Bengals passing offense. Hendrickson tied Aaron Donald’s sack number (13.5), while playing 200 fewer snaps. Another bright mark for Hendrickson lies with his potential — coming to Cincy at 26 years old. The Bengals would appear to many as the team that Hendrickson shouldn’t take if he wants a Super Bowl ring, but he’s still a young asset — plus he’s a high motor player mid round draft pick defender, NO worries about Hendrickson being a bust.

Mike Hilton: B+ 

The Bengals showed that they want to revamp the defense in the NFL free agency period. AND THEY DIDN’T DISAPPOINT. 

The Bengals landed a franchise slot corner with the addition of Mike Hilton. The 27 year old recorded three INTs, three sacks (9.5 in his career), and he’s a force at a position that’s hard to find quality players. 

Riley Reiff: B-

They may have lost Kevin Zeitler and they haven’t replaced him at this point, but the Bengals got a STEAL at RT with Riley Reiff. The 32 year old will be on the Bengals for a one year – $7.5 million year deal. 

Reiff is a quality pass blocker and this was a big need, as they face the likes of T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett in the division. Expect the Bengals to obtain a guard in the second-third round of the draft, while they may make a move for Pewell at OT early on.

Chidobe Awuzie: B

The new Bengals CB has four years of experience for Dallas. Chidobe Awuzie was drafted as a second round pick and he hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations. Awuzie has four ints in four years, along with 37 pass deflections in his short career.

Awuzie is under contract until 2023 and he will be able to resurrect his career with lower expectations. The Bengals have been sharp with adding talent at CB, so this will give the 25 year old time to improve his craft without being leaned on heavily.

Larry Ogunjobi: D+

I believe the Bengals didn’t need to break the bank at OL in free agency, but I would have liked to see the Bengals bulk up at DT in free agency. The team cut ways with the long time DT Geno Atkins, but downgraded with the once Browns DL. Ogunjobi recorded a mere 2.5 sacks in 2020 and 5.5 in 2019. Adding Hendrickson is huge, but the team didn’t take that significant jump by replacing Atkins with a lesser version of himself. The Bengals will likely bring in competition in the mid rounds and a veteran DT in FA for more beef in the interior DL.

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