If the Cincinnati Bengals fought in the Trojan War, they would be quickly wiped out due to their perennial Achilles Heel: their O-line.
The Bengals offensive line that was responsible for that-incident-which-must-not-be-named got a makeover this summer, but they’re *not* that much better than before.
Jonah Williams, Quinton Spain, Trey Hopkins, Xavier Su’a-Filo and Riley Reiff all played with the first group during the early stages of training camp, but the intense grind has since caused some players to be cautiously benched.
Hopkins, who is still recovering from a torn ACL, isn’t lining up at center during team drills. And at training camp on Tuesday, Reiff and backup tackle Fred Johnson sat out due to minor injuries.
As a result, the Bengals’ depleted O-line consisted of the following: Williams at left tackle, Michael Jordan, Billy Price, and rookies Jackson Carman and D’Ante Smith. If you were Joe Burrow, you’d be skittish too.
While Carman got valuable first-team reps at right guard, he still needs time to learn the playbook and get comfortable at his position (he played tackle in college). It’s likely he’ll start the season on the bench behind veterans Xavier Su’a-Filo and Quinton Spain.
As for Smith, well, the Bengals’ top pass rushers were almost too quick to introduce themselves.
Welcome to the pro league, Smith.
Cincinnati Bengals offensive line doesn’t instill confidence ahead of 2021 season
That Smith had to be out there for so many first-team reps means the Bengals may be less prepared for the season than they thought.
Depth at offensive tackle took a hit with Hakeem Adeniji’s torn pectoral that should keep him out for the entire year. Reiff and Johnson shouldn’t be out for too long, but in the meantime, the Bengals defense is making the offense look really, really bad.
Though the defense isn’t exactly sacking Burrow (we must protect Burrow at all cost), he was under constant pressure throughout camp. So far, the offense has been fighting a hopeless, one-sided battle in the trenches that draws serious concern for how the O-line will perform in just ten days in their first preseason game.
Line coach Frank Pollack even pulled the classic sports movie cliché and called upon a few former famous Bengals tackles to inspire the O-line unit: Anthony Munoz and Dave Lapham. Together, Munoz and Lapham made up one of the Bengals’ strongest offensive lines in history that helped get Cincinnati to Super Bowl XVI.
In his wise words to the group on Tuesday, Lapham emphasized the need for unity: “The five components of an offensive line: Four fingers and a thumb. When you play together, it’s a fist.”
Right now, the Bengals’ line looks more like the mangled paw of a stray dog, but as we all know, there’s plenty of room of improvement.
Training camp – and the rest of the season, for that matter – will only get more brutal. The Bengals’ offensive line must dig much deeper than this to give Burrow a fighting chance in 2021.