The Cincinnati Bengals finished with the worst record in the league in 2019. They were 2-14 after picking up a Week 17 win over a divisional opponent in the Cleveland Browns. This earned them the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, presumably where they can land their franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow.
Even though a lot of the results stayed the same, the Bengals were a team that improved statistically down the stretch of the season. Cincinnati improved on both sides of the ball and it was because of the resurgence of some of their top players. Here are the top three players who improved as the year went on.
3. Auden Tate, WR
Tate was a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He was a practice squad player during his rookie season and caught just four passes with the NFL squad. With injuries to A.J. Green and John Ross, the Bengals had no choice but to give Tate a chance.
Tate took his chance and ran with it. He played in 12 games this season and finished with 40 catches for 575 yards and one touchdown. Tate averaged 14.4 yards per reception this season and showed off his extremely reliable hands. He was known to catch anything near him. Tate does not have elite speed, but he has a 6’5″ frame and is physical enough to play in the league.
2. Carlos Dunlap, DE
Through Week 11, the Bengals ranked 31st in the league in total defense. The entire unit was slow, failing to pressuring quarterbacks whatsoever. This completely changed in Week 13 against the New York Jets where they picked up their first win.
Dunlap led the charge. He finished with nine sacks in 2019. Over the final six weeks of the season, Dunlap registered 7.5 sacks, including three in their win over the Jets. He was the main reason that the Bengals’ defensive line had a complete turnaround and began to look like a formidable unit.
1. Joe Mixon, RB
The Bengals came into the season with high hopes for Mixon. He did not fulfill those expectations until Week 10. Mixon had about the worst start that a running back could have. Mixon finished with less than 20 rushing yards in four of his first eight games. This included a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars when he carried the ball 10 times for two yards.
In Week 10, Mixon registered his first 100 yard game of the season. This set him off. Mixon scored five touchdowns over the final seven weeks. From Week 10 on, Mixon averaged 102.1 rushing yards per game. He began to look like the player that Cincinnati was expecting.
He finished off the season with 162 yards and two touchdowns in Week 17 against the Browns. This performance gives Mixon some momentum heading into 2020.