The debate over who the Bengals should take with the fifth pick in the 2021 NFL draft has been a hot topic over the past few months. The conversation primarily revolves around two very different prospects.
The opinions either teeter towards LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase or totter to Oregon’s Penei Sewell with very little room in between.
Former Bengals wide receiver Tim McGee gave his thoughts in an exclusive sit down with AllBengals.
“If they don’t draft an offensive lineman, they should draft a quarterback because they’re going to need multiple quarterbacks who can shuffle in between Christ hospital," McGee said. “In the Bengals case, it was scary what we were seeing. We were like they’re going to get Joe Burrow hurt, he’s going to get killed. The average and below average fans, a third grader was saying the same thing. Low and behold when he gets hurt, none of us are surprised. We are all disappointed and we are pissed because we knew this would happen.”
Burrow’s season ended prematurely, but the offensive line was not the sole party at fault. McGee believes coaching was a big factor as well.
“It is the coach’s job to protect him. If you tell any young man to go out and throw the ball 60 times, I don’t give a damn what you’re doing, there’s not going to be clean pockets," McGee said. "You might get clean pockets 30-60% of the time but you are setting him up for failure and physical abuse. You cannot throw the ball 60 times. You have to commit to the run and you have to force the run.”
Offensive line coach Frank Pollack returned to Cincinnati in January. He was rehired by the Bengals after the franchise parted ways with Jim Turner after two seasons.
Pollack and Joe Mixon worked closely together and found success in the run game in 2018. Mixon ran for 1,168 yards and eight touchdowns in one season with Pollack.
The star back missed 10 games due to injury last year, and only managed to rush for eight total touchdowns through the past two seasons with Turner at the helm. Mixon was just one of the players who was upset when Pollack left in 2018 to join the Jets.
That much was evident from the tweet he sent shortly after the news about Pollack’s departure broke on January 15, 2019,
“Because we’re just gonna to let the best line coach in the league go right? Makes sense," Mixon tweeted.
While Pollack coming back was a step in the right direction for Zac Taylor’s journey into year three, McGee says he needs to see more in order to be confident in the Bengals chances at being competitive in 2021.
“Frank (Pollack) coming here is definitely a positive. He breeds confidence in Joe Mixon, to the offensive line, to whoever in the organization and even the fan base, but do you have the horses that can do it?” McGee asked. “Putting the product on the field, that’s just one phase of it. There are professionals on the other side and there are some damn good ones on the other side of the line, so you have to win those battles. Again, I’m trending neutral. I’m not an offseason type of guy, but there was very little or close to nothing that they could go into the 2021 season with saying ‘if we did this, we would have done better.'"
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What about going flashy and taking Chase with the fifth pick?
“You don’t need to get fancy smancy with getting another receiver, and here’s a receiver saying, ‘don’t draft a receiver’ trust me,” McGee said. "If you’ve watched the Bengals over the last two years, you know they do not need another receiver over an offensive lineman. Receiver is not an area of need, it may be an area of want, but it’s not an area of need. They need offensive linemen.”
With Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins established as the main features in the receiving room, McGee says the draft will point to Taylor’s agenda for the upcoming season.
“Will they get substance? Or will they get shine?” McGee asked. “Substance is picking an offensive lineman. I won’t say which one because there are a couple good ones out there. Or do you go with a receiver who is going to come in and shine and score some points and still make the coach (Taylor) look good and make him look like the next up and coming offensive coordinator so that if he loses this job he can get another job? Are they trying to compete at a top level? Or is this just a show of entertainment? And the draft will basically tell you what they’re thinking.”
McGee added that the Bengals only have two options here and neither choice should be a wide receiver.
“You have one of two options—draft an offensive lineman to protect him or hire a security team," McGee said. "They’re not going to let the security team on the field, so just draft an offensive lineman and get this over with.”
The Bengals only have a few weeks to make their decision. The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 29 at 8 p.m. ET.
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