If you ask old school scouts what is required to field a championship contender, they will quickly tell you that it takes eight to twelve blue-chip players to compete for a title. This premise has been the standard for general managers around the league and I rely on it to help me identify the players to watch on game day.
With that in mind, let's identify the players to watch on the Cowboys' next opponent. Here's a quick report on the current blue-chip players for the Bengals, led by two of the NFL's brightest young stars.
Joe Burrow, QB: As the leader of one of the most explosive offenses in football, Burrow gets to play like a pass-first point guard directing a fast break in the open court. The Pro Bowler's superb vision, anticipation, and awareness enable him to throw his receivers into open windows against tight coverage. In addition, Burrow's quick release and high IQ enable the Bengals to attack opponents from the spread and empty sets. With a five-star supporting cast around him, the Bengals' franchise quarterback is capable of putting up a 40-burger on any opponent when he is on his game.
Ja'Marr Chase, WR: The Pro Bowler has become an unstoppable force on the perimeter utilizing his size, speed and running skills to terrorize opponents. Chase is a rare find as a receiver with the capacity to win with athleticism or skill (route running) while also displaying outstanding catch-and-run ability. As Burrow's favorite target in any situation, the defensive game plan begins and ends with finding a way to slow down No.1 on the perimeter.
Tee Higgins, WR: The long, rangy pass catcher has flourished as the Bengals' designated vertical threat on the outside. Higgins excels at running past defenders on go-routes and double moves that enable him to win with speed or length down the field. As a jump ball specialist with an accomplished basketball background, the third-year pro is a big play threat on the perimeter.
Tyler Boyd, WR: The crafty possession receiver is "Mr.Clutch" for the Bengals in key moments. He has a knack for finding soft spots in zones beyond the yard marker to extend drives on third-and "gotta have it" situations. With so much attention devoted to Chase and Higgins on the outside, opponents cannot forget about No.83 or he will come through with a big play when the game is on the line.
Joe Mixon, RB: The sixth-year pro is the straw that stirs the drink for the Bengals' offense. Mixon is an explosive runner/receiver with the size, speed, and quickness to take over a game, and the Bengals grant him plenty of opportunities to make his mark on the perimeter. With 20-to-25 touches viewed as the ideal target for his workload, the Cowboys' defense needs to be ready to deal with a punishing playmaker with the potential to put the Bengals' offense on his back.
Trey Hendrickson, EDGE: The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder is a disruptive force off the edge. Hendrickson has registered 27.5 sacks over the past 2-plus seasons exhibiting a combination of strength, power, and explosiveness that overwhelms blockers at the point of attack. With the sixth-year pro displaying a non-stop motor as a relentless competitor on the edges, the Cowboys' No.1 offensive priority is neutralizing No.91 at the line of scrimmage.
Sam Hubbard, EDGE: The fifth-year pro is the perfect complementary pass rusher opposite Trey Hendrickson. As a long, rangy edge defender with outstanding instincts and awareness, Hubbard is a crafty pass rusher with impressive run-stopping skills. Although the veteran has failed to tally double-digit sacks in a season, he is a credible threat off of the edge with enough athleticism and skill to create problems at the point of attack.
Logan Wilson, LB: As a tackling machine with outstanding range and exceptional instincts, Wilson is a headache for opponents attempting to run or pass between the hashes. The third-year pro has a knack for finding the ball and his ball skills (six career INTs) should make opposing quarterbacks pause for targeting the middle of the field. With Wilson also displaying excellent tackling skills in the hole, the Bengals "MIKE" linebacker is a five-star player with the potential to disrupt the game plan.
Jesse Bates, FS: It is hard to find a centerfielder with range, ball skills, and instincts. That's why Bates received the franchise tag in the off-season to keep the former Pro Bowler from hitting the open market. As an athletic ball hawk (10 career INTs) with excellent anticipation and diagnostic skills, he has helped make the Bengals' secondary a "No Fly Zone" for quarterbacks looking for big plays in the passing game.
Mike Hilton, Nickel CB: The sixth-year pro is one of the best slot defenders in the business with a combination of instincts, cover skills, and blitz ability that makes him a unique chess piece to the Bengals' defense. Hilton's toughness and tackling skills enhance the Bengals' run defense while his sneaky ball skills have helped the secondary generate more turnovers.