Hope is powerful.
In many environments, it’s the only thing keeping the lights on.
Hope pulls people out of addictions. It allows them to raise from the ashes when there appears no reason to move on. Hope powers revolutions! Inspires armies! The magnitude of hope is incalculable.
It’s the belief that something that’s never been done, can be done. The idea that anything considered impossible just hasn’t been made possible, yet.
This may seem dramatic for an article regarding a football team, but anyone mired in the pain and misery of Cincinnati football understands the power of hope.
In the past, one would search for hope in numbers, or symbols, or signs.
“Listen, in 2008 we were 4-11-1 and in 2009 we swept the division! See, it’s bound to happen this year!”
Bengaldom hope was wrapped up in things one cannot see. But that’s all changed.
Why it feels different…
There’s something about this squad that makes one forget all of that. For the first time in a long time, the Bengals hope isn’t tied up in numbers – but by the ‘wow’ factor on the field.
Ja’Marr Chase appears to be weightless as he moves at blazing speed (while weighing 200 pounds).
Joe Mixon is about as explosive of an athlete as you can get. Tee Higgins has top-end traits that should thrive in a high-powered offense.
Tyler Boyd would be a welcome addition to any WR room in the NFL.
With the way camp has started, even the defensive talent looks different than years past.
Add in the blitz master Mike Hilton, Chidobe ‘Cheetah’ Awuzie, Sam Hubbard the $40 million man, 13.5 sacks in 2020 Trey Hendrickson, DJ Reader who barely played in ’20, Trae Waynes who never played.
The offensive line will be better, Riley Reiff/Frank Pollack replacing Bobby Hart/Jim Turner gurantees that. The only question is how much better this line will be in 2021.
But those are just add-ons to the Bengals franchise. The Bengals have had great recievers, great defenses, and great defensive lines. The reason for the unbridled optimism lies in one man at the most important position.
The Burrow Effect
The current struggles in training camp should be no concern to Bengals fans. Burrow has tons to adjust to, and will only improve as camp rolls along.
One of the reasons for the early struggles is his timing.
Burrow added 5.5mph of “exit velocity” according to QB coach Jordan Palmer. During the 2020 draft process, Burrow was releasing the ball at 48.5mph, slightly below average for an NFL quarterback.
The critics who said he lacked zip, were right. Although Burrow was mesmerizing at 48.5mph – leading the Bengals to a top 10 passing offense. Imagine if Cincinnati’s savior could throw harder than Josh Allen, what would he look like then?
Lucky for us the former Bengal backup is also the mastermind behind Buffalo’s savior and reports that Allen releases the ball at 53 mph.
Now read this exhilarating exchange between Burrow and Palmer, courtesy of The Athletic.
54 miles per hour. Read it again: 54. Absolutely extraordinary.
What will never be truly known is how much effect Burrow had on his teammates offseason growth. HAving a leader with this type of work ethic bleeds through the team. Guys stay later, they do extra reps, they compete at the level the leader competes. How many guys are going to take leaps that wouldn’t have without Burrow’s example?
Growing through Tragedy
It seems that Burrow going down in a horrific mess was a blessing in disguise. That moment of agony for him and his family was actually the new beginning.
It’s the time Burrow will look back on as a key point in his development. The final chip on the shoulder, one could say.
We said all this back when tragedy struck in late November; on @3amConey.
But no matter how childishly optimistic I can be, I would have never imagined that he could accomplish all that he’s accomplished while rehabbing. Burrow managed to outpace his own expected goal of being 100% by week 1, by being nearly 100% a whole month before week 1. Now, it’s about fine-tuning and finding the groove.
Every single Bengals free-agent pickup credited Burrow as one of the main reasons for joining the squad. His presence undoubtedly led to 100% participation in voluntary offseason activities; a rare feat in the modern NFL.
He helped the Bengals through a daunting draft decision by emphasizing Ja’marr Chase’s work ethic. Chase has already impressed with his knowledge of the position. Oh, and Chase gave credit to Burrow for teaching him how to watch film back at LSU.
Burrow even improved his smile this offseason!
Instead of allowing an injury to define him, Burrow has found ways to work and to lead. He’s done more than any reasonable human could ask of a quarterback.
Defending the Hope
What many seem to forget about the Bengals offensive struggles in camp is that other Bengals are making plays against the Bengals.
In fact, the defense putting up this kind of a fight early in camp is the best case scenario for Cincinnati. The most worrisome unit on this team is the defense. They were a nightmare this year, and last year, and two years ago, and you get the picture.
But two years of free agency remodeling and intriguing draft prospects gives Lou Anarumo enough talent to make this defense respectable.
Burrow tore up the defense early in last years camp, and that same poor defense reared its head all season long.
Would it actually be good news if Burrow and the offense were tearing it up at camp? The defense has every advantage. No changing plays, no scripting plays, no hot routes. Burrow and his wideouts are adjusting to his new mechanics and each other.
If Burrow and the offense were winning Twitter would be a much easier place to be, but the end product of the Bengals 2021 season would be worse.
The bottom line, it’s early August. It is the time to be optimistic, for the sake of everyones blood pressure.