The Cincinnati Bengals passed up the opportunity to draft the consensus top left tackle in this year’s draft class at fifth overall in Penei Sewell, instead favoring LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. In doing so, they are placing their bets on what they already have, which, given what they have gotten, is a dicey proposition.
Like the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, they did move some parts around, and that included a new offensive line coach in Frank Pollack, who has a pretty simple policy about how they’re moving forward: everybody gets to start over.
“I told these guys, everybody gets a clean slate”, Pollack told the team’s website. “We’re starting everything from day one and it’s really irrelevant what you did last year. And that’s what every team’s approach is. Players. Coaches. If you’re not looking to prove yourself every day, you’re going to be on the outside looking in”.
The Bengals finished 24th in rushing yards, 22nd in rushing touchdowns, and 27th in rushing average last season. They ranked 27th in passing yards and passing touchdowns, and 28th in average net yards per pass attempt. The offensive line surrendered 48 sacks on the season, including 32 for Joe Burrow in 10 games.
The team did draft an offensive lineman in the second round in Jackson Carman. Though primarily a tackle, their intention is to begin him a guard. 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams will get another shot at cementing his place at left tackle, while free agent pickup Riley Reiff will step in on the right side.
Pollack, of course, isn’t an entirely new face. He was also with the team in 2018, but was let go after the organization parted ways with longtime head coach Marvin Lewis, as well as virtually all of his stuff. Now he’s back after spending the past two seasons with the New York Jets.
But he’s not thinking about having bounced around between gigs. He’s thinking about how to move this line forward, and how, for example, Carman fits into their plans. “We like him at guard to start to compete and he’s got the potential to swing out to tackle if and when we need it”, he said. “That may be the case. He’s a pretty good position flex, but right now let’s start him out at guard”.
Cincinnati drafted two more linemen earlier this month, using a fourth-round pick on tackle D’Ante Smith, and a sixth-round pick on center Trey Hill. But the center position and one guard spot still remain up for grabs, the former due to Trey Hopkins recovering from a torn ACL.
The Bengals had one of the top offensive lines in the NFL some five or so years ago, but it’s taken a pretty hard fall since then. Do they have the personnel both on the roster and the coaching staff to give Burrow the protection he needs? The Steelers’ first crack at helping them answer that question comes in week three on September 26.