CINCINNATI — The state of the Bengals offensive line has been one of the biggest storylines of the offseason.
Star quarterback Joe Burrow was hit far too often last year and ultimately suffered a torn left ACL and MCL in Week 11.
The Bengals did make some moves to upgrade their play in the trenches this season. They replaced former offensive line coach Jim Turner with Frank Pollack. They also signed former Pro Bowler Riley Reiff to play right tackle. Add in rookie Jackson Carman, who's expected to start at right guard and there are plenty of reasons why Burrow should have more time to throw this season.
The one complaint that a lot of fans and analysts have is what the Bengals didn't do in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Cincinnati opted not to take Oregon tackle Penei Sewell. Instead, they added wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who should also make life easier on Burrow.
Despite not taking Sewell, the Bengals are 24th in Pro Football Focus' latest offensive line rankings.
"They’ve taken a few steps in the right direction. Left tackle Jonah Williams is the team's best lineman, producing a 70.1 overall grade last year—good for 45th among tackles. He had the 12th-best pass-blocking grade on true pass sets, a great indication of future pass-blocking success, though he ranked just 72nd out of 84 qualifiers in run-blocking grade (53.4)," PFF analyst Steve Palazolo wrote. "Cincinnati signed Riley Reiff to a one-year contract to play right tackle, and he should be an upgrade over what the Bengals have had there in recent years. Reiff has earned grades of 69.9 or better in all but one of his nine NFL seasons, and he’s a good fit for the Bengals zone-heavy rushing attack. Perhaps the most intriguing lineman is second-rounder Jackson Carman, who represents the “other” piece to the decision to draft wideout Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick. Carman will likely start at right guard after playing left tackle for three years at Clemson. He was a solid college player, grading between 73.0 and 79.2 in all three seasons, and his size and power should play well at guard. The Bengals will also eye starting Carman at right tackle in 2022. Trey Hopkins returns at center after grading out at 63.8 last season, the 19th-best mark among centers. He’s settled into that grading range over the past three years, so it certainly could be worse.
"Left guard is a battle between Xavier Su’a-Filo, Quinton Spain and Michael Jordan. Spain has the best grading profile of the trio, though he’s a few years removed from his best work and has graded in the 50.0s in his two years with the Bengals. Either way, left guard looks like a weakness again for Cincinnati. The Bengals also added tackle D’Ante Smith and center Trey Hill in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively. It wasn't exactly the offensive line overhaul Bengals fans expected, but they're players who could pay dividends in a few years. Overall, Cincinnati has moved in the right direction on the offensive line, but they need better play from the interior trio."
The Bengals did have the worst guard play in the NFL last season. Carman and the tandem of Su'a-Filo and Spain should be an upgrade from what they had. The veteran duo (Su'a-Filo and Spain) only appeared in 15 games combined. Spain signed midway through the year after being released by Buffalo and Su'a-Filo suffered an injury in Week 1 that forced him to miss 10 games.
Cincinnati's offensive line (24th) was ranked ahead of the Steelers (29th) and Dolphins (30th). It's also worth noting that Miami also passed on Sewell and Pittsburgh didn't address their offensive line in the first round of the draft either.
The Cleveland Browns were ranked first and the Baltimore Ravens are 12th in the rankings. Check out Palazzolo's entire article here.
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