All offseason long, Cincinnati Bengals fans have had to hear about the offensive line and how terrible it was last year. It’s not like that wasn’t the case for a reason, as they played a pivotal role in Joe Burrow getting injured and missing the final six games of his rookie season.
As training camp inches closer, the Bengals have a chance to get their offensive line figured out and make sure they have the best possible unit upfront protecting Burrow in his sophomore season. Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report says this is the biggest looming decision for the Bengals and it’s not hard to see why.
Knox offered this analysis:
"The Bengals added right tackle Riley Reiff in free agency and drafted guard Jackson Carman in the second round. However, solidifying the line will be about more than just plugging in the new additions. Left tackle and 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams has struggled to stay healthy, while center and 2018 first-round pick Billy Price cannot stay in the starting lineup.Players like Quinton Spain, Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins and Xavier Su’a-Filo will also be in the mix.Draft status and salary should be irrelevant for the Bengals here, and identifying the right starting lineup and/or rotation will be critical to the team’s success. More importantly, it could be critical to Burrow’s long-term health."
The Bengals didn’t ignore their need at offensive line this offseason and Knox certainly notes that. He lists the signing of Reiff to play right tackle despite playing left tackle for most of his career and also selecting Clemson left tackle, Jackson Carman, with the intent of moving him to one of the guard positions.
As Knox notes, draft status shouldn’t necessarily come into play here. Price has proven that he isn’t deserving of a starting job and the Bengals have hopefully realized that once and for all. While he mentions Jonah Williams’ injury proneness, Williams has looked decent when he’s on the field, so I’d be fine with him getting another shot at left tackle.
The Bengals have to put the best possible offensive line on the field.
The Our Lads depth chart has the Bengals’ offensive line looking like this (from left tackle to right tackle): Jonah Williams, Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins, Quinton Spain, and Riley Reiff. Jordan showed last year that he’s probably not the best option to start at left guard and while Carman is listed as his backup at left guard, he’s mostly been linked to the right guard gig.
We haven’t seen Carman on the field yet for the Bengals so even though he’s the favorite to win the job, if he doesn’t play well this summer, Cincinnati can’t trot him out there simply because he’s a second-round pick. They learned this the hard way with Price (playing him due to where he was drafted) and can’t do it again.
Williams, Hopkins, and Reiff have their spots essentially locked down barring something unfortunate, but the two guard spots are up for grabs and the Bengals have to be smart about who they slide into those positions. It could be the difference between Burrow having an incredible second season or it ending in disaster once again.