American Football

Tuesday Trenches: Which rookie will have the largest impact on the Bengals’ 2023 season?


Syndication: The Enquirer
Liz Dufour/Cincinnati Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Who’s it going to be?

The Cincinnati Bengals start mandatory minicamp today! Stuff is happening!

For the first time, we’ll see the whole(ish) team on the field taking part in organized team activities. Before we get to things we could see this week, let’s discuss which Bengals rookie selected in the draft will contribute the most this season.

Round 1 (28), Myles Murphy, DE

Murphy will be a rotational pass rusher along with Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, and Joseph Ossai. The talented pass rusher won’t be a starter, but he’ll get plenty of shots to prove why he was selected in the first round. Teams can’t have too many pass rushers, especially in a conference with so many great quarterbacks.

Round 2 (60), DJ Turner, CB

As of right now, the assumption is that Chidobe Awuzie will recover from his season-ending knee injury suffered late last season, and he’ll start opposite of Cam Taylor-Britt against outside receivers while Mike Hilton covers the slot receiver and plays in the box. If things work out that way, Turner will rotate in and come in on defensive packages that require more defensive backs. However, if Awuzie is not ready for the season opener, I expect Turner to start opposite CTB.

Round 3 (95), Jordan Battle, S

After losing Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell this offseason in free agency, snagging a safety was necessary. The Bengals drafted Dax Hill in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft to replace Bates, and they signed Nick Scott this offseason to replace Bell, but Battle also fell into their laps in the second round. Considering Scott has more experience, I expect him to start at strong safety at the beginning of the season. However, I see Battle rotating in on defense, and he’ll certainly contribute on special teams. Of all the rookies, Battle, in my opinion, has the best chance to supplant the veteran ahead of him on the depth chart.

Round 4 (131), Charlie Jones, WR

I think, like Turner and Hill, Jones was drafted a year before he was really needed. Tyler Boyd is entering the last year of his contract with the Bengals, and most believe this will be his last in Cincinnati. Jones could be the fourth wide receiver for the Bengals in spread sets, but I don’t think his real work comes until the 2024 season when he’s between Ja’Marr Chase and (hopefully) Tee Higgins.

Round 5 (163), Chase Brown, RB

It’s fairly clear (though not 100 percent certain) that Joe Mixon will be the Bengals’ lead running back in 2023. Samaje Perine left in free agency, though, and the Bengals grabbed Brown on Day 3 of the draft to replace him. Brown will compete with Trayveon Williams for snaps as Mixon’s backup, and depending on how Brown can handle blocking free rushers in the NFL, he’ll get the lion’s share of Perine’s offensive snaps last year (556), or he won’t.

Round 6 (206), Andrei Iosivas, WR

This is one of those picks where the potential upside of the player far outweighs the potential negatives. In the sixth round, why wouldn’t you take a chance on a 6-foot-3, 205-pound wide receiver with track-star speed? I’m not expecting Iosivas to do much this season as a member of the offense outside of possibly giving one of the outside receivers a rest, and that is if he makes the 53-man roster.

Round 6 (217), Brad Robbins, P

Robbins was selected to compete with Drue Chrisman to be the team’s punter for the 2023 season. Chrisman replaced long-time punter Kevin Huber in the middle of last season, but he didn’t exactly kill it. He punted one ball so poorly in the AFC Championship game that it set Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense up for a game-winning field goal. I expect Robbins to win the punter job this offseason.

Round 7 (246), DJ Ivey, CB

The Bengals used their final pick on Ivey to fill out depth at the cornerback positions. Ivey was likely higher up on their board than others that were available, and instead of specifically grabbing a cornerback, they likely just selected the person they felt was the best available player. I don’t see Ivey contributing a lot outside of special teams if he makes the final active roster.

So, which rookie do you think will contribute the most in 2023?

Here are a few things we could see during mandatory minicamp this week:

  • Jonah Williams – He requested a trade and obviously didn’t get one, so now we’ll see if the team’s new right tackle will show up and make the best out of what he feels is a bad situation.
  • Safety – Who do they have lined up at free and strong safety? Are they going to move Hill around, or are they going to try to recreate what they had with Bates and Bell?
  • Running back – Who is coming in to replace Perine? Who do the Bengals have in on third downs?
  • Quarterback – This is Joe Burrow’s first real offseason. He dealt with Covid, rehabbing from a knee injury, and then appendicitis. We know what to expect out of Burrow, but we should just be excited that we get to see him during this phase of the offseason for the first time.
  • Cornerback – With Awuzie still rehabbing from that knee injury, who is taking snaps in his place?
  • Flowers replacement – Tre Flowers was the Bengals’ tight end specialist, covering guys like Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews. He signed with the Falcons this offseason. Who is going to step up and cover the very talented tight ends the Bengals face this year?
  • The tone – This could be the last season that DJ Reader, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Logan Wilson, Awuzie, and a bunch of others are entering their contract years this offseason. Most believe the Bengals have their best shot at winning the Super Bowl this season because the core of the team is still together and Burrow’s massive contract is coming. It will be interesting to see if that is the same sentiment is shared by the Bengals coaching staff. Will we see a more intense offseason because they feel the time to win is now?

Who Dey!

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