The Bengals got their second consecutive win this week in a comfortable 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. But did the game reveal something disturbing about the offensive line for the Bengals?
Cincinnati used their first two picks on offensive linemen in the 2015 draft. And it looks like they’re going to have to try it again.
When the Bengals drafted Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher at 21 and 53 overall, reactions were mixed. Some praised the Bengals for taking the next great tackles to replace aging Pro-Bowlers Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. Others condemned them for not grabbing the firepower they needed at the time to finally make their Super Bowl run. But no one saw it ending like this.
Two years after that draft, the Bengals find themselves in the worst situation of the Dalton era.
For the first time in five years, the Bengals won’t be playing January football. Some will call out Mike Nugent. Others will blame the departure of Hue Jackson. Many issues have plagued the Bengals this year, but none are as menacing as the dilemma of their offensive line.
This offseason, the Bengals allowed veteran right tackle, Andre Smith, to walk. It was hard, but they believed they had the players necessary to make up for his absence. And they had good reason to think so. Two of the most promising tackles of the 2015 draft class with experience under their belt. A veteran safety net in NFLPA President Eric Winston. It seemed like the pieces were in place for an ideal succession. But the move ended in a nightmare.
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The Bengals rushing game has performed extremely inconsistently all year. Through thirteen weeks, Andy Dalton has been sacked 36 times. That’s more than he was sacked all of last year. In this game alone, Cleveland, with league-worst 17 sacks on the season, tallied four takedowns on Dalton.
The Bengals Had No Answer
No matter who was trotted out at right tackle for the Bengals, they were used as a turnstile for Browns defenders. Fisher couldn’t keep the pressure off Dalton. Ogbuehi was given another chance off the bench and gave up a sack as well. Eric Winston got burned off the edge for a strip sack. If there’s an answer for the Bengals’ right tackle woes, it certainly isn’t on their roster. In all likelihood, they’ll have to burn yet another draft pick if they want to solve the problem.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom for the Bengals. If this season has taught fans anything, it’s that this team has what it takes to win despite their record. There’s been a hint of Ewing Theory with the loss of AJ Green, as Jeremy Hill has finally started to find a rhythm, and the passing game looks healthy with Boyd and Eifert. Dalton is proving last year was no mirage, putting up admirable performances week in and week out.
With the comfort that’s come from their more recent success, Bengals fans should feel relieved that their team has sufficient roster depth to draft for their offensive line need this year. With a more consistent kicking game as well, the Bengals should find themselves in a better position than ever to make a playoff run next season.