Better, worse or the same? Joe Burrow to boost Bengals' offense, but is that enough?

Burrow doing his best to prepare for rookie season during isolation (0:51)

Even though Joe Burrow isn't physically in Cincinnati, the Bengals rookie QB isn't wasting time in his transition to the NFL. (0:51)

CINCINNATI -- When the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in April's draft, they selected their next franchise quarterback.

Burrow, who captivated fans in 2019 as he won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship, comes to a Cincinnati team that needs significant offensive improvement.

Last year, under first-year coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals were 28th in yards per play and 29th in points per drive.

It's going to take more than Burrow to fix a beleaguered offense, but he's a good starting point. Here's a position-by-position breakdown for the Bengals' offense and whether they are better, worse or the same going into the 2020 season.


Additions: Joe Burrow (first-round pick)

Losses: Andy Dalton (released)

Returners: Jake Dolegala, Ryan Finley

Better, worse or the same? Better.

The Bengals' quarterback saga was one of the biggest storylines of the NFL offseason. Cincinnati drafted Burrow with the first overall pick in the NFL draft and then had to figure out what to do with the veteran Dalton.

Once the Bengals zeroed in on Burrow, a process that seemingly didn't take long, Dalton's release was inevitable. The Bengals owed him no guaranteed money in 2020 and his $17.7 million salary was far too costly to keep him on the roster.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor has been hesitant to name Burrow the Week 1 starter, but it will be a stunner if he's not under center against the Chargers on Sept. 13.


Additions: Tee Higgins (second-round pick), Scotty Washington (rookie free agent) Mike Thomas (free agent)

Losses: None

Returners: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Alex Erickson, Trenton Irwin, DaMarkus Lodge, Stanley Morgan, John Ross III, Auden Tate, Damion Willis

Better, worse or the same? Better.

Technically, Green isn't a returner at this point. He still hasn't signed his one-year franchise tender the team offered in March, but that seems all but inevitable. Back in the mix after missing all of 2019 with an ankle injury, the former All-Pro receiver should be a big boost for a unit that could be the deepest on the roster.

The Bengals added former Clemson wideout Higgins, who modeled his game after Green's. The long-term future for Green is in jeopardy after the 2020 season when he can become a free agent, and Higgins could help replace Green's production if he does not come back in 2021.

Boyd, 25, is the one who doesn't get talked about enough. He has posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and has turned into one of the leaders on offense. The Bengals signed him to a four-year, $43 million deal in July 2019. Boyd and Tate had very strong seasons for the woeful Bengals in 2019.

As always, Ross, a first-round pick in 2017, remains the biggest question mark. He was off to a strong start in 2019 before injuries derailed his season, a constant theme for him. But there's hope Ross could be in for his best year as he finishes the end of his rookie deal.

Running backs

Additions: Jacques Patrick (free agent), Samaje Perine (free agent), Devwah Whaley (rookie free agent)

Losses: None

Returners: Rodney Anderson, Giovani Bernard, Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams

Better, worse or the same? Same.

Former Florida State running back Patrick was the most notable addition to the stable of tailbacks. He was most recently in the XFL and could see the field in certain packages throughout the season.

But this unit revolves around Mixon. Since the Bengals drafted him in 2017, he has turned into one of the AFC's top running backs. Mixon has posted two straight 1,000-yard seasons, with last year's feat especially impressive given the lackluster state of the offense.

Mixon's long-term status is still a big question mark, however. He's entering the final year of his four-year rookie deal and has been working toward an extension the entire offseason. Mixon could decide to hold out while awaiting a new deal like other high-profile running backs have done recently (Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Dalvin Cook).

If Mixon picks up where he left off, he should receive the bulk of the carries, much like he has in the past couple of seasons. Mixon will need to be more productive in the passing game to take his game to the next level.

Tight ends

Additions: Mitchell Wilcox (rookie free agent)

Losses: Tyler Eifert (free agent)

Returners: Moritz Bohringer, Cethan Carter, Jordan Franks, Drew Sample, Mason Schreck, C.J. Uzomah,

Better, worse or the same? Worse.

Eifert's departure was arguably the biggest offensive loss this offseason. For the first time in his career, Eifert played in all 16 games. The oft-injured 2013 first-round draft pick stayed healthy and was productive. He caught 43 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns on a one-year contract that was essentially a prove-it deal.

Eifert proved to be worth more than what the Bengals were willing to offer, which is a testament to the type of season he had. He ultimately signed with the Jaguars on a deal worth up to $9.5 million over two years.

Cincinnati will need to give its quarterback a solid pass-catching option in 2020. Uzomah and Sample, a 2018 second-round draft pick, will be the top options. Uzomah has been a reliable veteran and the Bengals are very optimistic about Sample's potential.

Offensive line

Additions: Clay Cordasco (rookie free agent), Josh Knipfel (rookie free agent), Xavier Su'a-Filo, Hakeem Adeniji (sixth-round pick)

Losses: Cordy Glenn (released), John Miller (released), John Jerry (free agent)

Returners: O'Shea Dugas, Bobby Hart, Trey Hopkins, Fred Johnson, Michael Jordan, Billy Price, Alex Redmond, Isaiah Prince, Jonah Williams

Better, worse or the same? Same.

The situation with Glenn and his spat with the coaching staff was the main storyline with the offensive line last season. However, if Williams, their 2019 first-round pick, was healthy, then Glenn wouldn't have been the top available left tackle.

Williams is back and healthy after rehabbing a shoulder injury last year. The Bengals' line is still a little shaky and needs to be much improved in pass blocking. Last year, Cincinnati was 31st out of 32 teams in pass block win rate, an ESPN metric powered by NFL Next Gen.

The battle to watch will be at right guard. Former Cowboys lineman Su'a-Filo will be in the mix for that spot along with Redmond and Price, a 2018 first-round pick who was drafted to be a center.