Andrew Whitworth and other Bengals are headed into free agency. This is the year Mike Brown has to wake up and secure the offensive line. It’s time to stop the recurring nightmare.
As the 2017 NFL Draft inches closer, mock drafts are everywhere. As I stated some time ago, even grandma has a wish list of linebackers in her recipe drawer. But, of all the shiny new toys that the Bengals could walk away with, they need to get the offensive line back on track. A solid line will go a long way in getting the Bengals to the Big Dance.
When Andy Dalton was on his way to battling Cam Newton for the league MVP, the offensive line was a huge factor. The 2015 unit was able to give The Rifle time to pick his targets. They created better than average pockets for Dalton to sit in and view the field. According to the guys at Pro Football Focus, the line that got the Bengals to the playoffs was ranked No. 8. The year before, they chimed in a slot higher. This season’s effort saw the O-line slip out of the top 10. Paul Alexander’s men claimed the No. 13 spot.
While some will say that a top 20 ranking isn’t that bad, the reality is a five-spot drop. For a position that requires split second decisions and superior technique, falling that far–in a year’s time–indicates problems. Bengals fans know this and surely Dalton does. He was sacked 41 times during the offensive line’s musical chair moments. Let’s take a look at a cruel reminder. The offensive line allowed 41 sacks combined in 2015 and 2014. I’m sure Southwest Airlines called for a commercial deal. Wanna get away?
It Starts Up Front
Russell Bodine made a few mental adjustments and showed flashes of potential. But, that word is often laced with dynamite. Hopefully, Cedric Ogbuehi will develop into the stud the Bengals hoped he’d be coming out of college. His benching was the start of the offensive line’s woes. Once again, the main man was Andrew Whitworth. As the enforcer guarding Dalton’s blindside, he was spectacular. But, as it always is with the Bengals, Big Whit is looking at the lucrative waters of free agency.
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Yes, the Bengals need to get the defensive secondary into shape. You’d also be correct to say Cincinnati needs help with the front seven on D. The speed issue needs to be put to rest. The draft is a defense-heavy class this year. But, the Bengals still need to get better offensively. If coordinator Ken Zampese is going to demand more from Dalton and the running game, the road graders up front have to be solid.
A huge relief would come with the re-signing of Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. Teams are already drooling over the possibilities of these mountains slipping away from the Bengals. Would it be nice to keep both? Please, don’t make me curse. But, the chance of that happening is like Marvin Lewis being replaced. It’s just not how Mike Brown works. When Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, and Reggie Nelson entered the free agency pool, Brown let them walk. The Bengals made offers but the end results are evident.
Something has to be done to stabilize the offensive line. Will keeping two players in place help the cause? Just think Anthony Munoz, Joe Walter, and Max Montoya. Maybe dropping a few names will get the point across.
Time To Step Ya Game Up Mr. Brown
Whitworth wants to remain in Bengals stripes. He’s been an important part of the process for Dalton. How integral has Whitworth been? Per Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Big Whit needs only 16 games to reach 185 played. Remember that guy named Munoz we talked about? Yeah, he’s fifth all-time on the Bengals’ list.
Brown isn’t a stupid owner. He know’s that this season is a pivotal year for the Bengals. With $43 million in cap space, each move has to be made with laser precision. This could either be the year Cincinnati makes it all happen or it can be the beginning of a horrid nightmare. Whitworth and Zeitler should definitely stay in Cincinnati. Whit has mentioned he’s willing to test the waters if talks break down. That is an ultimatum, like it or not.
This is the year that fans find out. The new season will prove if the Bengals are truly dedicated to putting a winning product on the field.