The Big Lie is inevitable. It is everywhere you look. TV, radio, newspapers, Twitter, Facebook, bars, local hangouts, and everywhere else people consume news. The Big Lie has split people into two sides. There is no in-between. Either you are a believer and supporter of the Big Lie, or you rage against it to support the truth. The Big Lie isn’t politics. The Big Lie is that the Cincinnati Bengals have not done enough to improve their offensive line to protect Joe Burrow.
The national sports media and fans of other teams want you to believe that the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line is endangering the life of their 2020 #1 draft pick, quarterback Joe Burrow. It is true that last season Burrow took a nasty high low shot against the Washington Football Team that ended his rookie season early. The narrative says that the Bengals had put together an offensive line on the cheap, and they were carelessly going to do the same thing in 2021. The story is that unless the Bengals drafted the “generational talent” Penei Sewell to be their left or right tackle, they weren’t doing enough.
The Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line Will be Much Better in 2021
It is true that the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line was bad in 2020. Even then, it was still an accidental fall by one of the WFT rushers that actually injured Burrow. It was a fluke play, but it was a play that was exacerbated by the bad play of Bobby Hart and Michael Jordan. In fact, the Bengals offensive line was responsible for 23 sacks last season according to Pro Football Focus. 17 of those sacks were attributed to Hart, Jordan, and Alex Redmond.
A deeper look shows that the Offensive Line Coach for 2020 was Jim Turner. He bragged about teaching a two-handed technique on the offensive line while singing the praises of the much-maligned Bobby Hart. Turner was a curious choice from the start for new head coach Zac Taylor, as the previous OL Coach Frank Pollack was well-respected across the league. Pollack’s offensive line was respectable despite dealing with some questionable personnel choices by the team during his tenure. Turner couldn’t do the same thing during his time. The offensive line underperformed, and Burrow’s injuries can be linked to the terrible coaching style of Jim Turner.
2021 Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
So what have the Bengals actually done to solve these problems? Bobby Hart has been cut. His replacement is free agent Riley Reiff from the Minnesota Vikings. In Reiff’s past 1000 passing snaps, he has given up one sack. Michael Jordan is currently third string on the offensive line thanks to the return of Quentin Spain, a healthy return for Xavier Su’a-Filo, and the presence of third-round draft pick Jackson Carman. Alex Redmond? He has signed to be a practice body for the New England Patriots. This is a huge upgrade for the team. Add that with the return of Trey Hopkins and Jonah Williams, and you have at worst a decent offensive line in terms of talent.
Add to the talent upgrade the return of offensive line coach Frank Pollack. He is bringing back his two-handed coaching technique that is praised by experts such as (should be Hall of Famer) Willie Anderson and past offensive line coach Paul Alexander. Coach Pollack will boost up the talent, and he can be trusted to bring out the best in Carman, Billy Price, and the rest of the squad.
Sewell vs Chase
That leaves the other portion of the Big Lie. Was it malpractice not to draft Penei Sewell? By all accounts, Sewell will be a great offensive tackle in the NFL. That ignores the fact that Jonah Williams was drafted at the same position just 2 years ago. Williams has missed some time due to injuries in his two seasons, but his play is ranked well for left tackles across the league. Previously mentioned Riley Reiff was signed to take over the right tackle position. Where would Sewell fit? He said in pre-draft interviews that he would be willing to switch to guard to learn in the NFL. Still, the Bengals passed on him. Oddly enough, the Miami Dolphins (who picked directly after the Bengals) also passed on Sewell. Pro Football Focus ranked the Dolphins as having a weaker offensive line than the Bengals last season. Why would two teams that were “desperate” for offensive line help pass on a “generational talent?” Finally, the Detroit Lions picked this “can’t miss” pick to start at right tackle which is not his traditional position.
Meanwhile, the Bengals picked the top wide receiver in the draft. Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow lit up the SEC and all of NCAA football in 2019 en route to the National Championship. Chase had 1780 yards and 20 touchdowns in his junior season at LSU, and he is now reunited with Burrow. He joins last year’s draft steal Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd to form one of the deadliest wide receiver trios in the league. Chase also replaces A.J. Green who had been injured and lost a couple steps over the past 3 seasons. Chase should be able to pick up Green’s 100 targets from last season and make magic with Burrow again.
The Bengals could have taken Sewell and then they would have to take a far lesser talent at wide receiver to replace A.J. Green in the second round of the draft. They took Chase, which allowed the Bengals to draft the second highest ranked offensive guard in Jackson Carman in the second round. Right guard is where the Bengals weakness truly was last season on the line. The Bengals are set at wide receiver and offensive line to start the season.
Expect the Bengals to shock the national media and opposing fan bases this season. The local media knows the Bengals have made these improvements, and the fans who are paying attention are excited to see the results. There are some ifs, but it would not be a surprise to see the Bengals win their first playoff game since the 80’s this season.
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