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Fixing the Cincinnati Bengals: Where the offense can improve and players to target in the 2022 NFL Draft, free agency

Paradise, Nevada, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor (left) talks with quarterback Joe Burrow (9) the second half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to forget, considering they just played in the Super Bowl, that the Cincinnati Bengals are still in the middle of a rebuild. When the NBC cameras cut to head coach Zac Taylor early in their Super Bowl 56 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and showed his record with the team (6-25 before 2021), it was a startling reminder of how far the Bengals have come.

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Cincinnati picked in the top five in back-to-back NFL drafts and hit on both selections — Joe Burrow in 2020 and Ja’Marr Chase in 2021 — but the rebuild isn't complete just because they made the Super Bowl. This is an offense that, over the course of 21 games this season, finished with a slightly negative expected points added per play number (-0.005). It would be hard to replicate that and expect another run to a home playoff game — never mind the Super Bowl.  

Fixing the Bengals' offense starts with their porous offensive getting a makeover in free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft, but it doesn’t stop there. The offensive scheme needs a makeover as well to mitigate any negative regression this team is assumed to encounter next season. 

Silo Offense

There was never a chance the Bengals were going to move on from Taylor after he led them to the Super Bowl, and they made that official this week by agreeing to a contract extension. The fact that there was even buzz about how Cincinnati might go in a different direction — even if those thoughts never crossed owner Mike Brown’s mind — tells you all you need to know about the perceived issues in this offense. 

To talk about the offense, it starts with making something clear about Taylor’s life in football and understanding who he is as an offensive play caller. Taylor was once Nebraska's starting quarterback and won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2006 under head coach Bill Callahan, who was brought in to transform the Cornhuskers' offense from triple option to West Coast.

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