The Bengals continue to take a glass half full approach when it comes to their biggest weakness.
The coaching staff believes in its' offensive line. They signed Xavier Su'a Filo in free agency and are expecting Jonah Williams to have a big impact after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury.
"Do we have the character up front? Do we have the talent up front? I think we do," offensive line coach Jim Turner told Bengals.com. "I think we're going to have a good, solid offensive line."
The Bengals are hoping Williams makes a big difference this season. They drafted him with the 11th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He was expected to start at left tackle last year, but he never played a down after hurting his shoulder in minicamp.
"He felt great in the month of December when we got him back out on the practice field. He's fully healthy, ready to go," head coach Zac Taylor said last month. "It's too bad that we didn't get a chance to use him last year, but we're getting a healthy player who is in the right state of mind mentally. He's ready to help us at left tackle and we're excited to get Jonah back on the field and get him ready to go whenever that time comes."
Hoping that a former first-rounder can deliver in his first year of NFL action is one thing, but the Bengals need more than just one thing to go their way in the trenches.
They're hoping that second-year guard Michael Jordan takes another step forward in his development. The former Ohio State Buckeye got off to a shaky start last season, but his play improved as the season continued. The Bengals believe that's just the start of what could be a promising career.
"Mike is an enormous human being. Love the size, love the ability. He has tremendous intangibles, tremendous work ethic and look at how much he played," Turner said. "Total of 667 snaps, 14 at right guard, 15 as an extra tackle and the rest at left guard. I said to Mike in the offseason, 'We're obviously planning for you. We brought you in here to play.'"
Su'a Filo is expected to start at right guard in 2020. He's made 53 career starts for Dallas and Houston. The Bengals like his size and think he's a good fit in their system.
"You watch the tape and he's a finisher," Turner said. "He's in great condition. He plays as well in the fourth quarter as he does in the first quarter. The tape tells you the kind of toughness and character you want. You spend time with him and he's a soft-spoken guy, but you can just feel it from him. A presence. This is a guy that wants to be a great player."
Trey Hopkins brings stability at center. The Bengals know what they're going to get from the 27-year-old. They signed him to a three-year, $20 million extension in December. He's an intelligent player that has developed nicely over the past few seasons after signing with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2014.
The coaching staff believes they're close. They think the offensive could exceed expectations. Unfortunately for the Bengals, there's a lot of uncertainty up front.
They're hoping Williams is as advertised. They like Jordan and think that a promising end to 2019 will lead to more improvement this season. Su'a Filo is experienced and the coaches like him, but he's had an underwhelming start to his career after being drafted by the Texans with the 33rd pick in 2014.
Right tackle is the biggest question mark of the group. Bobby Hart, Fred Johnson and sixth-round rookie Hakeem Adeniji will compete for the starting job. The Bengals have options, but are they any good?
They believe in Adeniji. They also liked what Hart and Johnson did at the end of last season.
The Bengals' coaches know there is added pressure with Joe Burrow in town. Giving the top pick a clean pocket has to be their number one priority.
"We have confidence in the guys that are in this building," Taylor said last month. "We are counting on those offensive linemen that are here to continue to improve. Some of those guys are getting healthy. Again, second year in a scheme is certainly going to do wonders for a lot of guys as well, a lot of those young guys, particularly. But there’s no question we have to make improvement there. We’re not going to hide from that."