CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals will open 2021 NFL training camp Wednesday at Paul Brown Stadium. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
How will quarterback Joe Burrow look after the knee injury?
The early returns for Cincinnati’s franchise quarterback were nothing but positive. Six months after Burrow had reconstructive left knee surgery to repair multiple ligaments, he participated in every OTA and the one-day minicamp. Burrow wore a brace, but he looked comfortable in limited participation. However, the Bengals minimized any chance of contact and Burrow didn’t face a pass rush during offseason workouts. The true test for the 2020 top overall pick will come when he gets pressured in the pocket for the first time. And once the health questions are answered, there’s another big unknown looming over Burrow: Can he continue to make progress in Year 2 and unlock a more explosive vertical passing attack that was absent in 2020?
Can the Bengals make a playoff push? And will that be enough for coach Zac Taylor to keep his job?
This is easily the biggest question surrounding the franchise. After years of poor draft classes, the Bengals spent the past two offseasons gutting an aging roster and spending an uncharacteristic amount on external free agents. Taylor has six wins in his first two seasons. However, throughout all that losing, 2021 was always the year that was going to truly test where the franchise stood under Taylor and where it will be headed. Cincinnati hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015. If the Bengals aren’t in the playoff hunt in December, will Taylor have shown enough to merit a fourth year with the franchise? A re-engaged fan base is looking to support a winner after decades of seeing their rivals enjoy success while the Bengals are without a playoff victory since January 1991.
Will the Bengals have one of the best passing offenses in the NFL?
This will be paramount for the Bengals' success this season. The offense, under second-year coach Zac Taylor, is geared for a high-powered passing attack. The Bengals have used premium draft picks in back-to-back years and built a cadre aimed for big plays through the air. This year, the Bengals took wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick, pairing him with veteran slot receiver Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, last year’s second-round pick who led the team in receiving as a rookie. Between that trio and other key pieces such as wide receiver Auden Tate and tight end C.J. Uzomah, Burrow has the necessary personnel to score multiple touchdowns a game. That kind of production is necessary to win at the highest level in the modern game.