The Cincinnati Bengals were already facing a disappointing development last year when their offensive line, which by that time had only lost right tackle Andre Smith, gave up an uncharacteristic 41 sacks after a few years of being one of the cleanest units in the game.
It helps that quarterback Andy Dalton has been consistently one of the quickest passers in the game in terms of getting the ball out from the snap to the time of release. Any offensive line is going to benefit if they have to block for a shorter amount of time, as should go without saying.
But even though they are bringing Smith back—and sticking him at right guard, mind you—the Bengals are now facing the prospect of losing their two best offensive linemen, two Pro Bowlers in left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler. This isn’t news by any means. But they will have to weather the storm.
And the benchmark appears to be three sacks per game. They have been particularly bad when hitting that mark. They gave up at least three sacks in a game nine times a year ago, and they won only three of those games, going 3-5-1 overall.
The year before that, while they only last four games, they gave up at least three sacks in three of those four games. And back in 2014, though they only gave up that number of sacks on three occasions, they lost each of those games. Other the past three years, they are 7-11-1 when they give up three sacks.
So how exactly are they going to manage to hold things down and limit the damage from the offensive line losses that they suffered? Simply cross their fingers and hope for growth from within, of course, which has been common knowledge for some time.
The Bengals are seriously looking at the possibility of fielding an offensive line this season on which center Russell Bodine is their best player, and that is a scary proposition. That would be like touting Chris Kemoeatu as the stud of your unit.
So much of their season rides upon the shoulders of their pair of third-year tackles that the drafted at the top of the 2015 NFL Draft, namely Cedric Ogbuehi, who was benched at right tackle last year and who will be attempting to fill Whitworth’s shoes, and Jake Fisher, who was benched at right tackle after Ogbuehi was benched at right tackle.
If you’re a Bengals fan and you’re reading this, I’m sure that is not the most comforting thought, but then again I’m sure it’s one you’ve already familiarized yourself with. Just keep the three-sack mark in your mind. If they can keep it below that number in enough games, then they may do just enough to be competitive.