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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The last time the Jets faced the Bengals in 2019, Cincinnati was 0-11 but pulled off the 22-6 upset win. Since that time, the team’s fortunes have flipped and they now find themselves 5-2 and tied for the lead in the AFC North.

Quarterbacks

After suffering a season-ending injury halfway through his rookie season, former number one overall pick Joe Burrow is having a solid second season and is coming off a game where he passed for a career-high 416 yards against the Ravens.

Burrow leads a big play offense that is currently second in the NFL for net passing yards per attempt. Also, after being sacked 10 times in the first two games, he’s only been sacked seven times in the last five.

Brandon Allen is the backup. He went 1-4 while starting in place of Burrow last year. Allen’s only pass attempt this year went for a touchdown.

Offensive Line

The Bengals have an interesting mix on the offensive line, led by former first round pick Jonah Williams at left tackle. They solidified the group by signing veteran Riley Reiff to a one-year deal to play right tackle.

On the inside, center Trey Hopkins led the team in offensive snaps last year but has been struggling this year. Journeymen Quinton Spain and Xavier Su’a-Filo started off the year as the guards, but Su’a-Filo is now on injured reserve so second round rookie Jackson Carman has stepped into the lineup at right guard and he is also struggling.

On the bench, the versatile Fred Johnson started six games last season while Isaiah Prince and sixth round pick Trey Hill have also been added to provide depth. Prince often gets reps as a jumbo package tight end.

As noted, things seem to have settled since the first few games, especially in pass protection.

Running Backs

Joe Mixon, whose 2020 season was cut short due to injuries, is third in the NFL with 539 rushing yards and has five total touchdowns. However, he hasn’t had a 100-yard rushing game since the opener. His backup, Samaje Perine, is averaging 4.5 yards per carry in a rotational role.

Rookie Chris Evans has 122 yards and a touchdown on 12 touches so far this year but has been bothered by a hamstring injury and is ruled out. Cincinnati could therefore elevate a back from their practice squad with Trayveon Williams the most likely candidate.

The Bengals don’t list a fullback on their roster but will employ their tight ends in the backfield from time to time.

Pass catchers

Rookie Ja’Marr Chase, the fifth overall pick, has been a revelation with an NFL record 754 yards and six touchdowns in the first seven games of his career. He’s also leading the league in yards per reception.

The Bengals already had a solid receiving duo with Tyler Boyd catching 79 passes for over 800 yards and Tee Higgins adding 67 catches for over 900 yards last season. The 6’4” Higgins had a team-high six penalties last season, including three false starts, but has cleaned that up this year.

Mike Thomas, Auden Tate and Trenton Irwin are also on the roster, but have just seven catches between them. Stanley Morgan has only played five snaps but will be active for special teams duties. Tate is listed as questionable.

Another player whose 2020 season was curtailed by injuries is starting tight end CJ Uzomah. He’s bounced back and is on his way to the best season of his career as he already has five touchdown receptions.

Drew Sample and Mitchell Wilcox have mostly been used as blockers this year, although Sample had 40 catches last season.

Defensive Line

Carl Lawson was the only Bengals player with more than two sacks last season, but this year’s pass rush is off to a better start. Sam Hubbard, who had 8.5 sacks two years ago already has four and their big offseason acquisition, Trey Hendrickson, has 6.5 to lead the team.

On the inside, Larry Ogunjobi is a disruptive force, who leads the team with six tackles for loss alongside the space-stuffing nose tackle DJ Reader.

Reader and Hendrickson are the only two Bengals players with a cap number over $10 million this season.

The Bengals will sometimes operate out of five man fronts with reserve Josh Tupou also on the interior. BJ Hill is another tough run stopper on the inside, but rookie Tyler Shelvin hasn’t seen any playing time yet.

At defensive end, Cam Sample is the primary backup and Darius Hodge and Wyatt Ray have also seen action. Ray was in camp with the Jets a few years ago.

Linebackers

At linebacker, Logan Wilson - a 2020 third round pick - is the team’s leader in an every down role. Wilson leads the team with 60 tackles and has also intercepted four passes to lead the AFC. Germaine Pratt is the other starter but he’ll often come out of the game in passing situations.

Akeem Davis-Gaither will be the third linebacker while Markus Bailey and Joe Bachie don’t see much playing time on defense.

Defensive Backs

The Bengals don’t have much high-priced talent at the cornerback positions with Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple currently starting for them and Mike Hilton as the nickelback. Trae Waynes also started a couple of games for them this year but he’s was placed on injured reserve a few weeks ago.

Darius Phillips and Nick McCloud provide cover on the outside and Jalen Davis backs up Hilton in the slot plus the team recently added Tre Flowers for additional depth at cornerback. Phillips started eight games and broke up 12 passes last year.

At safety, Jessie Bates III is establishing himself as an elite talent. Last year, he had 109 tackles, 15 passes defensed and three interceptions. His fellow starter Vonn Bell led the team with 114 tackles, though.

Ricardo Allen and Brandon Wilson are the reserves but the Bengals don’t run many three safety sets.

Special Teams

The Bengals drafted Evan McPherson to be their kicker this year and he’s already nailed two game-winners, although he also missed two potential game winners in the overtime loss to the Packers.

Kevin Huber has been the Bengals’ punter since 2009. He was an all-pro back in 2014 but is probably in the middle of the pack these days.

Wilson is the primary kick returner and he had a 103-yard touchdown last season. His longest return of this year was 44 yards. Phillips handles punt return duties in addition to backing up Wilson on kickoffs. Irwin is Phillips’ backup on punts.

Morgan is the team’s best gunner on punts. Wilson and Davis-Gaither are also good in kick coverage and Wilcox is a good blocker on the return units.

Unsurprisingly, DraftKings Sportsbook is projecting the Bengals to win this matchup. We’ll see if the Jets can pull off the upset.