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Top 5 Cincinnati Bengals Under the Most Pressure in 2021
The Cincinnati Bengals will be taking part in the toughest division in the NFL when football season rolls around, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Baltimore Ravens helping to form a powerhouse of a division.
Coming off of a 4-11-1 season, expectations for the Bengals are relatively low— but what many are not discussing is the team’s high potential and talented young core.
There are a few players in particular that will be expected to outperform their opposition and help lead the team to a winning record; they are as follows.
No. 1: Trey Hendrickson
Trey Hendrickson is facing pressure because of his contract, valued at $60 million over four years with an out after 2021 and $15 million. Only 13 pass-rushers made more than this amount last year, and although Hendrickson has demonstrated his quality, he is not at that level just yet.
A four-year pro from FAU, the Bengals’ new defensive end is coming off of a career year with the New Orleans Saints in which he amassed 25 tackles and 13.5 sacks with a forced fumble. He will be given plenty of opportunities with Cincinnati and should be the pillar in their defensive attack.
No. 2: Joe Burrow
Burrow was a contender for Rookie of the Year before tearing his ACL in Week 11; now, he should be back with a vengeance and another year of film study and experience under his belt.
The Bengals took the former LSU quarterback with the first overall selection in 2020, and he was on his way to a 4,300-yard, 20-touchdown season before the knee injury forced him out of action. Now that Cincy has improved its supporting cast, Burrow is expected to be in the top half of NFL quarterbacks, at the least.
No. 3 Ja’Marr Chase
One of the players in that improved supporting cast is wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, a former LSU man and college teammate of Burrow’s in the bayou. The Bengals took their new 6-foot-1 target with this year’s fifth overall selection and are expected to start him opposite the team’s number-one, Tyler Boyd.
Any player that was taken as high as fifth will face some sort of expectations regardless of their situation, but Chase especially will be under the spotlight because of his dynamism in college and familiarity with Burrow. Cincinnati’s top two receivers (Boyd and Tee Higgins) accounted for 1,749 yards last year, and with Chase now entering the mix, the passing attack could soar to even greater heights.
No. 4: D.J. Reader
Reader signed a four-year, $53 million deal with the Bengals last offseason but was dealt a season-ending quad injury in Week Five, forcing Cincy’s defense to play without one of their featured members.
Reader, a 27-year-old defensive tackle, is not known for applying pressure to the quarterback (6.5 sacks in 66 career games) but is capable of clogging the line of scrimmage and closing off running lanes, which will be vital to the Bengals succeeding defensively. $20.25 million of his contract is guaranteed, and he must play up to his salary or face a harsh ending to his career in Ohio.
No. 5: Joe Mixon
The Bengals drafted Mixon in the second round four years ago despite concerns off the field, and he has been up and down since. The former Oklahoma Sooner followed up a disappointing rookie season with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, only to be injured and ruled out for the year six games into the 2020 season.
With Burrow back under center and the complements of Chase, Boyd, and Higgins out wide, Mixon finally has a talented group around him. He is also entering the first year of his new four-year deal and will be tasked with notching another 1,000 yards and helping the team climb the division.
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