The Cincinnati Bengals set out this offseason with a clear priority, which was to identify and sign individuals whom they believe could improve their offensive line. Before free agency even started, they had agreed to terms with two players who would become starters in center Ted Karras and guard Alex Cappa.
A bit later on down the road, veteran right tackle La’el Collins became available when the Dallas Cowboys released him after attempting to dump off his contract via trade. Nobody bit, so they took the salary cap savings by making him a post-June cut.
Collins’ plan was to go on the free agency tour, but he ultimately never left Cincinnati once he got there on his visit, and he signed a deal that will pay him roughly what he was supposed to be making in Dallas. One of the big draws? His old offensive line coach.
Frank Pollack was the Cowboys’ offensive line coach from 2015-2017, which encompasses Collins’ first three years in the league. He joined the Bengals’ staff in 2018, then spent two years with the Jets before returning last season. Head coach Zac Taylor talked about what the right coach means for a lineman, and how Pollack factored into Collins’ decision.
“I think the starting point probably was the relationship he had with Frank. He knew what he was going to be walking into from that standpoint, which is big for those linemen”, he told Geoff Hobson in an interview with the team’s website recently, in discussing Collins’ free-agent visit.
“From there, he got a chance to meet some of our older players, some of our newer players and see how he gets to fit in. It’s hard to speak for him, but just the feedback I got from him, this is a place he’d feel like he’ll be comfortable and win a lot of games”.
By and large, those were roughly the pinnacle years for the Cowboys’ offensive line, and while their taking a step back can’t be solely contributed to his departure, it probably didn’t help. And Pollack’s offensive line did allow 74 sacks in 21 games last year.
But now he’s got a much different group to work with. Karras, Cappa, and Collins will be three new plug-and-play starters, left to right, from center to right tackle. 2021 second-round draft pick Jackson Carman is the favorite to win the starting left guard spot, marking another new starter for 2022. Left tackle Jonah Williams is the only projected carry-over, a 2019 first-round pick who has developed into a decent starter.