CINCINNATI — The Bengals knew they needed to bolster the trenches this offseason and that's exactly what they did.
They selected three offensive linemen in the 2021 NFL Draft, signed Riley Reiff and brought back Quinton Spain in free agency. They also hired Frank Pollack to coach the offensive line.
Despite the changes, Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt wonders if the team did enough to protect Joe Burrow?
"There is no question the Bengals took steps to better protect Joe Burrow, who was hit more than 70 times and sacked 32 times behind Cincinnati's line last year before going down with a torn ACL in Week 11," Brandt wrote. "Whether they did enough is another story altogether. Frank Pollack, who coached the unit in 2018, was rehired. Riley Reiff was signed as a veteran free agent to play right tackle across from former first-round pick Jonah Williams, who can be pretty good—if he stays healthy. But there is a concerning lack of proven depth at either tackle spot. And I'm not sold on the interior of the line, either.
"Passing on Penei Sewell to take receiver Ja'Marr Chase fifth overall was one thing. But the Bengals also missed on a chance to snag one of the top remaining tackle prospects in the second round after trading down eight spots, from No. 38 to No. 46—Teven Jenkins (No. 39), Liam Eichenberg (No. 42) and Walker Little (No. 45) were all scooped up before Cincinnati could pick again. The player they chose at 46, Jackson Carman, is moving to guard because his arms aren't long enough for blocking on the edge at the NFL level. Fourth-round pick D'Ante Smith does have the optimal size and length to play tackle, but he'll need time to develop. Whatever happens, here's hoping the Bengals are at least able to keep Burrow from becoming the latest promising young passer derailed by excessive pressure.
The Bengals were set on Carman at No. 38. They would've taken him ahead of Jenkins, Eichenberg and Little. Time will tell if they're right, but they believe in the former Clemson left tackle.
It is fair to question the offensive line as a whole. They're banking on Carman being a plug-and-play guard even though he played tackle at Clemson. They're hoping Reiff is just as effective at right tackle as he was at left tackle for Minnesota.
The Bengals' line has struggled in recent seasons. If they're going to maximize Burrow and the talent around him, then they need to find a way to become competent in the trenches. Analysts are going to question Cincinnati's offensive line until they prove themselves.
It's also worth noting that Brandt had the Bengals' offensive line eighth in his rankings of biggest roster concerns.
The Steelers' offensive line is seventh on his list.
"Sure, the Bengals have question marks up front—but they're still in better shape than their AFC North rivals in Pittsburgh," Brandt wrote. "Center Maurkice Pouncey retired, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva signed with the Ravens and left guard Matt Feiler signed with the Chargers, and there's only one position (David DeCastro's spot at right guard) that will not see any turnover in 2021."
Check out Brandt's entire breakdown here.
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