Before the 2021 season, a list of Bengals breakout candidates might have included the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Chidobe Awuzie, and Larry Ogunjobi. Each year, players seemingly come out of nowhere to make an impact on their team. In order for Cincinnati to get back to the Super Bowl and effectively defend their AFC Championship, new faces are going to need to step up.
Cincinnati Bengals 2022 Breakout Candidates
Defensive End Joseph Ossai
During the 2021 pre-season, Joseph Ossai played in just one game but his impact was felt. Ossai was the 2021 third-round pick out of Texas that was considered a steal and was looking to get into the pass rush rotation early on in his Bengals career. After posting a three-tackle, one-sack performance in preseason game two, Ossai’s year ended via a meniscus injury.
Cincinnati’s defense was solid last year and was a massive reason for their Super Bowl run. While their pass rush was not as anemic as the 2020 version, the 2021 pass rush was weak. Whenever Trey Hendrickson was off the field, there was no pass rush. The Bengals went into this off-season needing to fortify their defensive line and add a pass rusher. All they did was re-sign B.J. Hill and draft Zachary Carter. This shows that the team has confidence in Ossai’s abilities.
Already during the team’s optional workouts, Ossai has been working with the first-team defense opposite Hendrickson. Missing all of 2021 with an injury has motivated Ossai to “take” a spot on the Bengals defense. Should Ossai develop more as a pass rusher, he will be a popular breakout candidate amongst Cincinnati fans.
Tight End Hayden Hurst
After losing C.J. Uzomah in free agency and electing to not draft a replacement, the Bengals needed a non-Drew Sample tight end to catch footballs from Joe Burrow. After striking out with the Ravens and Falcons, the former first-rounder is due for a breakout.
Hayden Hurst is an athletic, receiving-first tight end who could end up as the Bengals fourth-best receiver on the roster. His best season in the NFL came in 2020 when he tallied a total of 571 yards and six touchdowns off of 56 receptions. He was in a bad situation in Baltimore considering the Ravens also drafted Mark Andrews in the same class. Then, in Atlanta, the Falcons drafted Kyle Pitts to supplant him.
Hurst needs a change of scenery. Thankfully, he believes that he’s in the right place. Evidently, Cincinnati understands what he’s capable of and Hurst is stoked to be playing with Burrow. The Bengals haven’t had a truly dominant tight end in years. Hurst has the talent to either earn a larger extension or earn a new contract with another team in 2023 after a great 2022 season.
Defenisve Tackle B.J. Hill
In what was one of the most underappreciated robberies of the 2021 off-season, the Bengals shipped off Billy Price to the Giants for Hill and a seventh-round pick. In his first season in Cincinnati, Hill earned a place in the rotation and stepped up once Ogunjobi went down with an injury. He added 13 tackles, two for loss, 1.5 sacks, and a crucial interception in the AFC Championship Game.
Hill is currently slated to be the Bengals starting tackle alongside D.J. Reader. At the same time, Cincinnati didn’t add to the defensive line outside of Carter. Ogunjobi’s 700+ snaps have to go somewhere and Hill just got paid.
It will be an uphill battle for an interior defensive lineman to break out. His partner, Reader, is one of, if not the best run-stoppers in the NFL. Unfortunately, it’s not a flashy position. Hill was a priority this past off-season. The Bengals signed him on day one of the free agency to be the pass-rushing 3T for the next three years.
Offensive Guard Jackson Carman
After a busy off-season, the Bengals fixed three offensive line spots to go with Jonah Williams. The only question is the left guard position. Currently, Jackson Carman is the man in possession of the starting gig.
For as much flack as Carman gets for his play, he did not allow one of the many sacks Burrow took in 2021. He did commit five penalties but his athleticism made up for it. Carman is a very good run blocker and managed a 76.4 PFF grade in run blocking last year.
Of the Bengals breakout candidates, Carman is pure projection. On one hand, Carman will likely be battling with Cordell Volson through camp. On the other, there have been some damning allegations to surface regarding his time at Clemson. In order for Carman to be the starting left guard for the Bengals Week 1, Carman is going to need to overcome and/or come to terms with what’s happened.
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