Bengals must build on foundation started by staff changes
There are many ways to illustrate how the Cincinnati Bengals struggled along the offensive and defensive lines last season. Perhaps the simplest and most jarring is the fact that the Cincinnati defense only got 17 sacks last year. The offense allowed 48.
Translation: The Bengals got pushed around on both sides of the line of scrimmage last year. It has become cliché and boring to talk about, but if a team is not performing well on both lines, no team is going to win many games. Cincinnati has won six total over the last two seasons. However, there is good news.
The organization recognizes the problem
This might sound simple, but the Bengals have been almost comically unaware of their problems in the past. Marvin Lewis hung around for several years after his message became stale. No one with the power to do so would pull the plug on Lewis. So, he just kept coaching until he was finally let go after the 2018 season.
The problem in the trenches is being handled differently though. Despite Zac Taylor’s best coach speak saying he believed in the players and coaches he had during another disappointing season, Offensive line coach Jim Turner and defensive line coach Nick Eason were let go at the season’s end.
Perhaps Joe Burrow’s major knee injury was the last straw. New hires, offensive line coach Frank Pollack and defensive line coach Marion Hobby were well received. Pollack had a previous stint coaching the Bengals offensive line in 2018. Both new hires should help bring a much-needed dose of toughness to Cincinnati.
Coaching changes are a great start to fixing the team’s biggest problem. But…
The Bengals changes cannot stop there
When a unit is as bad as the Bengals offensive and defensive lines were in 2020, it is partly a personnel problem and partly a coaching problem. A healthy D.J. Reader and Jonah Williams will help part of that equation on both sides of the ball, Cincinnati needs new faces in the trenches too.
The answer for the Bengals might be spending big free agent money on a former All-Pro guard like Joe Thuney and/or adding a top tackle prospect from a deep draft class to protect the quarterback.
Following up signing Thuney with drafting Pittsburgh defensive end Patrick Jones II to harass opposing quarterbacks would be a fantastic offseason for Cincinnati. Sticking to anything close to the status quo in terms of offensive and defensive line personnel all but guarantees more disappointing results for the Bengals in 2021.