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Hobson's Choice: Crash Course In Chemistry 

Joe Burrow (9) is starting to get chemistry with guys like Joe Mixon.
Joe Burrow (9) is starting to get chemistry with guys like Joe Mixon.

Joe Burrow has done a great job as a rookie connecting with the receivers considering the delay of off-season . He's over thrown a few deep balls to A.J or just purely missed him open a few times. Who is to blame? Chemistry? Coach? QB? Lamar Jeter, Louisville, KY

LAMAR: Covid. To me that's the one and only reason. Covid has crippled chemistry, the NFL edition. I go back to talking to former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer earlier this week about the lack of deep plays and he said that 1-for-22 stat on 20-yard-plus passes isn't a negative. Palmer talks about how sowing the seeds of the long ball comes in the spring and summer long before training camp. March. April. May. June. Early July. And that's even for veterans. He wondered, "Imagine it when they do have an offseason together."

Palmer says back in the day a few weeks before camp he'd meet wide receiver Chad Johnson in Los Angeles, where they'd run 20 go routes during the workout. When you get to camp, you just can't pound it like that with hamstrings and calf muscles and a full slate of games looming.

Now, you've got a rookie quarterback who never had any of those months to bond with his receivers. Not only an entire group of new receivers for him, but his first band of NFL receivers, too. And they don't start throwing together until late in July? Maybe we should be surprised they've got one deep completion at all.

Hey Hobs, with Burrow becoming more and more comfortable with Boyd and Higgins, I feel like the writing's on the wall and A.J. probably won't be a Bengal next year. I hope I'm wrong... please tell me I'm wrong! Joby Clayton, Lyman, SC

JOBY: Too early for that kind of talk. A.J. Green has been an all-time great on the field and in the locker room.

And everyone knew the deal for A.J. Green coming in. Hasn't played in basically two years and is in a new offense with a new quarterback and you know it's going to happen eventually. A couple of 100-yard games, which are no doubt coming, and now what is written on the wall?

Now, certainly the drafting of Tee Higgins and the 2019 extension for Tyler Boyd gives the wide receiver slot a different look than it had even before the April draft. But, look, the way they're built now, they need Green to beat people on the outside if they're going to win. Higgins is a rookie, John Ross III can't get on the field and Boyd can't do it alone from the slot. The good news is that the group looks good – lots of production from lots of guys in lots of roles (don't forget Mike Thomas, Auden Tate, and Alex Erickson), so everyone is happy to enjoy the moment and worry later about how it's going to look at the end of the season.

Cethan Carter - Dude is a blocking stud - watch the game film, he should be a starter over Sample, he will help Joe Mixon and take pressure off Burrow who is THE FUTURE!! Bob S., West Chester, OH

BOB: Agree with you on Joe Burrow and Carter. To paraphrase the great Willie Anderson, both are grown-up men. But can't agree with you on tight end Drew Sample.

After Sample dropped the touchdown pass early last Sunday, he came back and not only made some big catches but he was a major reason Mixon bolted for 151 yards. Both Sample and Carter blocked their butts off.

Check out the last drive of the game and Mixon slicing between Sample and Boyd on the right edge for eight yards and the first down that forced the Jags to start taking timeouts. Sample is a guy that reminds me of tight ends you always seem to see for the Ravens and Steelers.

Nothing flashy like a Tyler Eifert mismatch.

But after the game you look up and realized he killed you with 40-60 yards catching (Sample had 47 in the win) and some massive blocks. When rated the Bengals' top offensive players from last week's win, Sample was rated fifth behind Boyd, Burrow, wide receiver Auden Tate and he was just a few percentage points behind Mixon.

And Carter was right behind Sample. They miss C.J. Uzomah, but tight ends coach James Casey is really good and he's got these guys playing well.

Question: Why don't we play more man to man defense? It looks like when we play zone we give up way too many first downs and TD's, does the defensive coordinator not understand we shut offenses down when we blitz or play man to man? Jeff Ward, Virgie, KY

JEFF: I think they've played a mix of both man and zone. What you're reacting to, I think, are the drives at the end of halves and games, when teams have successfully attacked deep zones. No question they have to tighten up in those situations, but whatever they're doing overall against the pass maybe they can translate it to the run defense.

They've given up the third fewest TD passes in the league (five), have allowed just one pass 40 yards or longer and have surrendered the sixth lowest passer rating at 84.3, so much better than last year's 95.4.

Hello Mr. Hobson. Do you think AJ Green is healthy? If he is healthy do you think there's chemistry issues between him and Burrow? Darryl Smiley, Dayton, OH

DARRYL: See above. This is a chemistry issue all the way. They just didn't have that spring or preseason that Green always had with Dalton. Yes, his rookie year of 2011 they were locked out of the facility until training camp. But they had all four pre-season games. This August, Green's hamstring injury that knocked him out of most of camp really hurt that potential chemistry.

I do think Green is healthy. He looks to be over the hammy. But I also think he needs time to get his feet steadied under him. Two years is a long time off. Not only that, he's learning a new system for the first time in his career. I bet he plays well Sunday. He knows he averages 80.5 yards per game with nine touchdowns against the Ravens in 11 games

Is pride standing in the way of fixing the Offensive Line? The O-line played better with Redman in at Rt Guard, but Rt Tackle is still bad. Hart is smart but physically, slow. There's no way the coaches don't know that, ALL of the NFL knows. Kiva Dior Sr., Cincinnati, OH

KIVA: The coaches disagree with you, obviously, and I don't think its pride. I mean, you've seen offensive line coach Jim Turner and assistant Ben Martin waste no time if they're not getting what they need. Those guys are worried about winning and that's it. That's how they ended up with Alex Redmond the other day at right guard and he played well as their third different starting right guard in four games.

Heck, if it was a pride thing they would have stuck with Fred Johnson at right guard and not turned to Redmond. If it was a pride thing they wouldn't have said during the offseason they have up to upgrade right guard. They've got two promising right tackles in Fred and Hakeem Adeniji, but clearly they don't think they're ready yet because they want to win games.

And, yes, PFF has Hart allowing the most pressures of any tackle in the league, but that can happen pretty easily when you throw the second most passes in the league. The web site also has Hart rated as one of the Bengals' top two or three linemen in the last three games.

Look, Hart is intense, smart and plays with effort. That's what they see. If they thought they could win with someone else, they'd put him in. They've proven that. That's not a pride thing, it's a coach's thing.

Hey Geoff! Love your piece. Reader since early 00's. You think the Bengals update their uniforms after this season? At very least, switch to the color rush for away full time. Thanks! Who-Dey J.J. Tabor, Beckley, WV

J.J.: Thanks for your kind note. The Bengals are always looking at that and it is something they take under consideration annually. I do know the color rush is just as popular in the building as outside of it and I think that all things are always on the table.