Bengals Film Room: Signs of progress for the offensive line

The more things change, the more they stay the same. So if you reverse them, that must also be correct, right?

After another heavy turnover offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line stayed the course through the first quarter of the season. The group was not finalized, or fully healthy, until the last week of August. Three separate free agents had to adjust to a new pattern and environment, and one rookie was thrown into the fray like a baby bird abandoned from its mother’s nest.

We should have known it was going to be ugly to begin with.

It wasn’t just communication errors. In fact, individual losses were behind the vast majority of pressures and dismissals in the first two weeks of the season. Left tackle Jonah Williams, left guard Cordell Volson and right tackle La’el Collins combined to allow 30 pressures and seven sacks in the team’s 0-2 start. Defenses didn’t blitz or send an abundance of exotic pressure glares, pass rushers simply won early and often.

Over the past year, whether through injury or poor performance, the Bengals’ offensive line has undergone early changes. A new starter here, an emergency replacement there, and no sense of continuity would be found. Most, if not all, of the changes were warranted. There isn’t much choice in the matter when the original starter gets hurt or is simply so bad.

You can cite every year going back to 2017 for clear examples of this. The Week 1 o line of those seasons wouldn’t last until Week 4. 2016 was close, but an injury to left guard Clint Boling in Week 4 took him out of the running. 2015 was supposed to be the last real time, right? No. Even this group didn’t have 100% attendance in the first four weeks.

The 2022 Bengals offensive line is the first line o in Cincinnati to have all five starters play 100% of offense snaps in the first four weeks since 2012. Dennis Roland was still running as an eligible receiver at the time.

The more things stay the same, the more they change? Maybe the change is the performance.

These last two games have given hope to this o-line as a whole. If you follow the notes of Pro Football Focus, there is still a lot to do. Williams boasts the highest pass blocking rating in the group with just 69.7 on their two-game winning streak, and his pass blocking efficiency of 96.0 over the same span ranks 63rd out of 88 qualifying tackles. Collins also finds himself on the ground too often, and Volson’s inexperience still bothers him a bit, but the overall progress has become evident.

As far as pressure is concerned, there have only been 22 authorizations against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. The number was 52 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. Joe Burrow’s Average Pitch Time Actually increase 2.55 to 2.57 comparing the two playgroups, so it’s not just Burrow getting the ball out faster.

A week ago, the unit gave Burrow what he claimed was the most time he had in his pocket since he was in the NFL. Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season probably takes the cake, but the guy has been sacked 473 times in three years, so we’ll take him at his word.

So what plays had Burrow in mind when he praised his protection before a national audience? These stood out on film:

Dora W. Clawson