The Cincinnati Bengals’ 2023 future is in limbo after it was announced quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a torn ligament in his right wrist last Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens on a touchdown pass to Joe Mixon.
Burrow’s season is over, and it’s a reality Bengals fans might not be too accepting of.
Entering Week 12, though, Cincy remains in playoff contention at 5-5, sitting one game out of a wild card spot. Head coach Zac Taylor, then, is relying on rookie quarterback Jake Browning to lead the offense the rest of the way. Whether that’s the right move is irrelevant considering the lack of options in free agency this late in the season.
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Bengals legend Andrew Whitworth was in Baltimore for Amazon Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football” broadcast, where he and the rest of his colleagues were stunned by what occurred. However, after processing what happened to his old team since Burrow’s injury, there is a silver lining in his eyes.
“I think in some ways it can be really good for your football team because new guys are going to have to step up,” Whitworth told Fox News Digital while highlighting the first NFL Black Friday game that will air on Prime Video this Friday. “You’re going to have to have this resolve that Joe’s not there, but we’re going to go play in a certain way that represents the style that he would be leading us through. You’re going to have to have somebody on that offensive side of the football that takes the reins for that.”
The easy answer is for Browning to step up. He must if the Bengals wish to make the playoffs once again this season.
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When Browning had to take over, he went 8-of-14 for 68 yards with a touchdown to Ja’Marr Chase at the end of the game to slightly close the margin of defeat.
Speaking of Chase, the third-year star receiver is going to have to step up as well on the offensive side of the ball. Chase’s production will be paramount for the Bengals as well as running back Joe Mixon and other weapons that can make things easier on Browning if they’re getting open, picking up yards and making the best of their opportunities on the field.
Either way, at least in Whitworth’s eyes, the Bengals are going to be a better team in the long run because of the Burrow injury.
“Obviously Browning got some reps in camp and those kind of things. But real games, real moments, [you say], ‘You know what? Maybe we need this guy to grow and this puts us in a better position next year if we feel like we have a guy that can back Joe up and be that guy for us.’ Either way around, I think what they have to rely on is who they have talent wise. You guys got to lead this locker room.
“I think regardless of whether you find a way to get into the playoffs or not, next year, since they have most of these guys coming back, I think you have a different resolve and mentality of that team because of going through something like this.”
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Whitworth doesn’t view the Bengals as a team that’s closing their championship window anytime soon. Burrow just signed the most lucrative extension in NFL history, while players like Chase will have to be paid down the road soon, too.
The Bengals will still be competitive in the future, and this development of Browning and how others step up with him in place could help cultivate a stronger culture moving forward.
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And who knows? Perhaps more game reps for Browning could have the Bengals in the playoffs come January.