Frank Pollack seems like homerun hire for Bengals

HOUSTON, TX - CIRCA 2010: In this photo provided by the NFL, Frank Pollack of the Houston Texans poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - CIRCA 2010: In this photo provided by the NFL, Frank Pollack of the Houston Texans poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) /

Cincinnati’s biggest offseason move may have come on Thursday when it hired Frank Pollack as its offensive line coach.

The Bengals biggest need on their No. 32 ranked offense is on the offensive front. Over the last two seasons, Andy Dalton has been sacked 80 times and the Bengals have averaged less than four yards per carry.

The offensive line’s woes can be traced back to misses in the NFL draft and free agency. Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, the team’s first two picks in ’15, have not developed into starting NFL tackles after three seasons.

Both are still under contract going into 2018. But, who better to shape the two’s careers in the right direction than Pollack?

Success in Big-D

Pollack, who has coached 11 seasons in the NFL, had three straight top-10 rushing units with the Dallas Cowboys. Meanwhile, the Bengals are coming off their worst rushing season in franchise history.

Pollack had plenty of talent on his offensive units. The Cowboys’ O-line had four first-rounders – Tyron Smith, Jonathan Cooper, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin – last season, helping spring holes for Ezekiel Elliott, one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars.

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After eight seasons as an assistant offensive line coach with the Texans, Raiders and Cowboys, Pollack got a promotion and dumped the assistant label, taking over in Dallas when Bill Callahan left for Washington.

The Cowboys had three consecutive top-10 rushing attacks under Pollack. His offensive line spearheaded the resurgence of Darren McFadden in 2015, turning the former college All-American into a 1,000-yard rusher.

Then, Pollack’s big uglies helped rookies Dak Prescott and Elliott take the league by storm. Elliott led the league in rushing in ’16 by over 300 yards. Prescott was sacked just 25 times, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. The wide-open rushing lanes and clean pockets resulted in the No. 5 offense, an OROY award for Prescott and a first-round bye for the Cowboys.

The Bengals saw Pollack’s offensive line dominate in 2016 at Jerry World. Elliott gashed Cincinnati for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Prescott had two scores and a 117.9 passer rating in a 28-14 Cowboys victory.

What he’s working with

The Bengals have three offensive linemen – Andre Smith, Russell Bodine and Eric Winston – set to be free agents in March.

Bodine has been the Bengals starting center since he was drafted in 2014. However, he’s consistently been found on PFF‘s lowest-graded centers.

Pollack will look to get some productivity from Ogbuehi and Fisher, who both are trying to avoid bust labels.

Pollack takes over an offensive line that has more questions than answer. Bodine is expected to leave in free agency. Trey Hopkins did not impress last season after winning the starting right guard spot in training camp.

That leaves only Clint Boling on the offensive line. The Bengals saw their best results when Boling shifted to left tackle over the last two weeks.

Against Detroit, Boling played tackle while guards Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman got significant snaps for the first time in their careers.

The result was a dominating rushing attack, led by Giovani Bernard’s 116 yards in Cincinnati’s 26-17 victory that bounced the Lions from playoff contention. Redmond earned an 84.2 grade by Pro Football Focus, the highest offensive grade in the game.

Draft help

Pollack will likely be coaching another first-round pick in 2018. The Bengals are expected to address the offensive line with the 12th overall pick in April.

Todd McShay’s first mock draft had Cincinnati taking a tackle in the first round. This was back in December when Cincinnati held the 10th overall pick. Here’s McShay’s selection:

Connor Williams, OT, Texas

"The Bengals have had a disappointing season, and the offensive line is a big reason for that. Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher (out for the season with an irregular heartbeat) haven’t played up to their draft potential, and Cincinnati is in the bottom third in sacks allowed (33) after giving up 41 last season. Guard Quenton Nelson could help here, but Williams is the best offensive lineman and is a better value proposition at No. 10."

It will all start up front for the Bengals in ’18. From his resume as a Super Bowl champion offensive lineman with the 49ers in 1994 to coaching the NFL’s best offensive line in recent seasons in Dallas, Pollack seems like the right man for the job in Cincinnati.