Wed, 08 Dec 2021

O'HARA'S SCOUTING REPORT: Cincinnati Bengals

Detroit Lions
15 Oct 2021, 19:25 GMT+10

Mike OHara

If anyone thinks there is any solace or bonus points gained by the Cincinnati Bengals for taking the Green Bay Packers to the limit before losing in overtime, head coach Zac Taylor says emphatically to look for it elsewhere.

The Bengals are playing to win, not to see how they measure up against the NFL's top teams.

They gave the Packers all they could handle in Sunday's 25-22 overtime loss. That dropped the Bengals' won-loss record to 3-2 going into Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Taylor reacted sharply when asked if outsiders might view the Bengals more favorably from their performance against the Packers.

"I don't want that," he said at his weekly Monday press conference. "We just want to win. It's important that we play hard for each other and put ourselves in position to do some really good things this year."

The Bengals are doing some good things in Taylor's third season as head coach.

They have two of the NFL's brightest young stars in second-year quarterback Joe Burrow and rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase with a solid supporting cast behind them.

Running back Joe Mixon has gone over the 1,000-yard rushing mark in two of his first four seasons and is on course for a third with 396 yards in the first four games.

Chase has been an explosive target for Burrow, with 23 catches for 46 yards, five TDs and an average of 19.8 yards per catch

Burrow has spread the ball around to other receivers. Tyler Boyd has 27 catches for 283 yards and a TD, and Tee Higgins has 15 catches for 150 yards and two TDs.

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On defense, the Bengals have 13 sacks - only four fewer than all of last season. Trey Hendrickson leads the team with 4.5.

"These guys have done a heck of a job of upgrading that roster," said Lions head coach Dan Campbell. "They're well coached. They know exactly how to play what they're coached to play. They have some weapons. It's a tough offense."

Most of the attention for the Bengals' turnaround from records of 2-14 and 4-11-1 in Taylor's first two seasons as head coach is on the dynamic duo of Burrow and Chase. And for good reason.

They were a prolific quarterback-receiving tandem in leading LSU to the national championship in the 2019 season, and they have carried that to the Bengals.

Burrow threw 13 TD passes against five interceptions in his rookie season with a completion rate of 65.3 percent. He went out for the season with a knee injury sustained in the 10th game. He was sacked 32 times.

Burrow has made quantum improvements over his rookie stats, with 11 TD passes and a completion rate of 71.3 percent.

The only place where Burrow has regressed is in interceptions. He already has six.

The coaching staff has cautioned Burrow to be more protective against injury when he's out of the pocket.

"I think he has really good pocket presence," Taylor said. "That's one of the things he's really good at. He has a really good awareness of that - as good as any quarterback I've been around.

"He has an aggressive mentality. He wants the team to get first downs. That's part of protecting our team. We need him out there healthy."

Chase has shown that he's a special player.

"What he did in college has really carried over," Taylor said. "He's physical. He's got really good hands. He's got good scramble awareness. He's in great shape.

"He plays a lot of snaps. He just goes and gives you great effort, even in the fourth quarter. He's everything we hoped and expected he would be."

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