The Cincinnati Bengals have done a lot of losing lately—enough to net them the first-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, quarterback Joe Burrow, who has already lost two games this season, though he has played well for his own part.
Burrow isn’t accustomed to losing, as he told reporters after dropping Thursday night’s game to the Cleveland Browns, saying that he doesn’t believe that he has ever lost two games back to back in his football career before, going all the way back to his peewee days.
Unfortunately, he also lost his top tight end during that game for the rest of the season, as C.J. Uzomah suffered a torn Achilles in the loss to the Browns. Originally a fifth-round pick back in 2015—the same round in the same year the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Jesse James—Uzomah has quietly bided his time between Tyler Eifert.
Through the first two games of the 2020 season, he already had eight receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown by the time he suffered his injury. For his career, he has caught 114 passes for 1098 yards and eight touchdowns, and he was prepared to take on the biggest role of his career.
Now the position will be handed off to Drew Sample, who was a second-round draft choice a year ago. He only caught five passes for just 30 yards during his rookie season in 2019, but he already has eight catches in two games, albeit for only 52 yards. Now it’s a matter of giving him opportunities to run with the ball, or to get the ball down the field some.
It’s not as though the Bengals’ offense doesn’t need it. Aside from the two tight ends each with eight receptions, only Tyler Boyd with 11, Giovani Bernard and A.J. Green, who has not looked the game, have more than six receptions through the first two games.
Of course, the passing game is going to develop over time. Burrow is just two games into his NFL career, is playing behind an offensive line that still needs a lot of work—including a left tackle with as much playing experience as he has himself—and is working with new faces as well. Tee Higgins is also a rookie, for example.
It won’t do him any favors to be deprived of Uzomah, but that can’t be helped at this point. Sample has some potential to contribute, and they have two running backs who are capable pass-catchers as well. They need more out of Higgins and John Ross, and it would be a great help if Green can start to look like his old self, but at the end of the day, you can only play the hand you’re dealt.