Three lessons the Denver Broncos should learn from the Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin lifts up Joe Burrow after winning the AFC championship game Sunday in Kansas City. Syndication The Enquirer

It’s incredible to think that a team that finished with a 2-14 record just two seasons ago would find themselves as the AFC champions and Super Bowl contenders this season.  

There are many reasons that the Cincinnati Bengals are just one game away from being the 2022 Super Bowl champions. Their 2021 draft picks were highly praised before the season, but no one could have predicted just how immediate the Bengals would prosper.

The Denver Broncos are in a similar position to where the Bengals once found themselves, having not had a winning record since 2016.  

Here are three lessons the Broncos should take away from the Bengals.

1. Quarterback > Everything

Since Peyton Manning’s retirement, the Broncos have desperately been searching for their franchise quarterback. They’ve tried finding one in the draft (hello, Paxton Lynch) and gambled on veterans (remember the Joe Flacco experiment) but have continually struck out.  

Last year’s new general manager, George Paton, received high marks for his first draft, and yet the Broncos still found themselves finishing last in the AFC West. The Broncos’ many season woes have proven that if a team doesn’t have a viable quarterback, they have no shot, even with an elite defense.  

On the other hand, the Bengals 2020 first overall pick, Joe Burrow, has been a smashing success. In just his second season, he’s managed to get Cincinnati to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1988. If the Broncos want any potential of returning to their winning ways, finding their Joe Burrow needs to be the number one priority this offseason.

2. Utilize All the Wide Receivers

The Bengals had decidedly one of the best three wide receivers set this past season. They received a lot of criticism for passing on the top left tackle prospect, Penei Sewell, in favor of wide receiver Jamar Chase in last year’s draft.

That gamble would prove to be prosperous as Chase finished this season with the fourth-most receiving yards among receivers (1,455) and with the third-most receiving touchdowns (13).

Having a superstar wide receiver in this league is not uncommon. However, what set the Bengals apart from their competitors was the success they found in their WR2 and WR3.  

Both Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd managed to go over 800 yards and scored a minimum of 5 touchdowns. Burrow was never without reliable offensive weapons.  

Meanwhile, the Broncos didn’t even have one receiver achieve at least 800 yards. They entered the 2021 season with high expectations with a receiving set that had talent galore. Even with the ankle injury that kept him out six weeks, it’s inexcusable that Jerry Jeudy fell short of reaching 500 yards and having zero touchdowns on the season. The Broncos need to quit their excessive use of jet sweeps and utilize the talent galore they possess on their receiver roster.

3. Bottom Feeder to Contenders

Entering into this past season, it seemed laughable to think the Bengals had any chance of making the Super Bowl. Heck, many believed they wouldn’t even make the playoffs.

However, they proved that it’s possible to go from being one of the worst teams in the league to potentially the very best. They’ve managed to find themselves in this position due to a string of favorable decisions. 

Despite finishing dead last in his first two seasons, the team allowed head coach Zac Taylor a couple of years to find his footing. After finally being given a roster full of skilled athletes, he finds himself the frontrunner to win the 2022 Head Coach of the Year award.  

The other massive reason the team has managed to flip the script was acquiring impactful players. Not only have their last two seasons’ drafts been slam dunks, but they’ve been victorious through free agency with signing guys like defensive end Trey Hendrickson.  

Paton seems to be on the right track after firing Vic Fangio as the head coach and replacing him with Nathaniel Hackett. If he continues to follow the Bengals’ formula, there’s no reason the Broncos can’t find the same prosperity.

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