Gamora: Did you get Ja’Marr Chase?
Gamora: What did it cost?
Thanos: Our offensive line.
I’m sure this Avengers meme has been remade over and over again, but it feels especially apt for the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense going into the season.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bengals took wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase over offensive lineman Penei Sewell with their fifth pick.
Three months later, where are the Bengals now? They’ve got Chase along with a dazzling set of wide receivers, but they’re still without an adequate offensive line to protect Joe Burrow.
Signing another offensive tackle before the offseason ends must be Zac Taylor’s number one priority. As in, stop gushing over Chase’s “high IQ” and go scour the market for a quality offensive tackle before it’s too late.
Their current O-line has already started dropping like flies with Riley Reiff sitting out due to minor injuries and Trey Hopkins still recovering from his torn ACL. Veterans Xavier Su’a-Filo and Quinton Spain are aging faster than Steve Rogers in that Avengers movie. And so far in training camp, rookie Jackson Carman couldn’t stop a dinghy in a muddy riverbank.
If that’s what the starters look like, the bench only gets uglier. (We’re overreacting a bit. They do have Jonah Williams.)
Suffice to say, the Bengals could use some offensive line insurance, and thankfully there are still some ripe options on the market.
Cincinnati Bengals must bolster O-line to avoid nightmarish repeat of last year
Mitchell Schwartz was released as part of the Chiefs’ overhaul this offseason, and his story is all too familiar for injured vets.
Heading into 2020, Schwartz was one of the best right tackles in the league. In 2019 he played 1,046 snaps in Kansas City’s quest for a championship and didn’t allow a single sack. He featured in the offensive line that led the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl LIV, but last season, he missed ten games due to a back injury and was subsequently booted off the team.
Schwartz’s greatest asset is his experience playing for a championship-winning team, and Cincinnati could use a player who smells like victory. Of course, they’d be taking the chance that the 32-year-old Schwartz would recover in time for the season and stay healthy enough to be a dependable starter.
At this point, though, beggars can’t be choosers.
A more out-of-reach offensive tackle lies in Russell Okung, who has been searching this offseason for a lucrative contract and a guaranteed starting job. By pulling some very threadbare strings Cincinnati can give him both, but it’s question of whether Okung wants to play for, well, the Bengals.
For one thing, Okung is a left tackle. Cincinnati already have Williams on that side, so they would have to convince Okung to move to the right. Okung played only 13 games the past two seasons combined due to injury, and his second of two Pro Bowls came in 2017, so it’s fair to say he’s in decline. Yet Okung does have 11 years of pro experience (131 starts) and might feel slighted by losing his position to a rookie.
Whether it’s Schwartz, Okung, or someone else, the Bengals have to sign (not consider, sign) a proven offensive tackle to patch up their line this offseason.
This training camp displayed the sorry state of the O-line, and that was without serious injuries.
Taylor and the front office are playing with fire by banking on their current lineup to play in 17 games this year. If they don’t find another offensive tackle soon, mark these words, they will get burned.