I'm starting to take the position that the offensive line problems are being overstated. When I watched the last two games a second time, I noticed that on several occasions, if a play failed, the line had little, or nothing to do with it. Of course the line has their share of failures -- if every offensive line in the NFL was perfect, first downs and touchdowns would be at record highs. And the Bengals offensive line isn't near perfection.
However, protection isn't contributed 100% to the offensive line. Running backs that block on passing downs, have to find the blitz, get into position and make the block. Not only do Quarterbacks have to release the ball quickly, but they have to discover the blitz, adjust the call and hit the hot route if a blocking scheme is about to be exposed. If there's anything that requires a team effort of all eleven guys, it's the passing game. Yet, I believe the offensive line is becoming unfairly demonized. Recently, while still calling them out, I've tried to show when failures weren't theirs. Furthermore, too much expectation turned into a belief that this offensive line was suddenly the next coming of the 2005 version, where it was often considered one of the league's best.
Calls of Andre Smith getting signed became loud, took on a new urgency.
Not only do I believe that signing Smith wouldn't create this bubble of perfect protection on the line, righting the ship for every failure, but I believe he could also become a liability early. Consider that he's still a rookie, hasn't had the experience to adjust to the transformation from the college game to the NFL and quite frankly, where would he improve where Anthony Collins fails? The liability factor could be placed into an overreaction to demands that Smith goes into the game, while Collins himself has not proven this preseason to be a major issue, and Smith himself just isn't ready.
Does all this mean the offensive line isn't to blame at all? No, of course not. But you have to acknowledge all of the parts that equal total protection.
"It wasn’t up to par. It wasn’t our standard," Williams said. "I thought we did a good job opening up some holes … but I thought that we could have – I thought we secured the pocket good, but I thought we could have kept it even cleaner."
Marvin Lewis praises the line, while deflecting issues to other players.
"I think we had some holes and the protection was pretty good from their standpoint. The breakdowns we had in protection were mostly in other areas," Lewis said. "They blitzed a lot. Normally, we would have a game plan together and go over their heads, but we’re not doing that in preseason. In preseason, you’ve got to stand in there sometimes and take your lumps."
"I definitely think things are going better," Whitworth said. "The backs are running good and the line is blocking better. It’s just the little things that have to get better. The mistakes are killing us."
And Bobbie Williams echoed our thoughts -- that the offensive line is light years ahead of where they were last year.
"Actually I think we came in this year better than what we did last year as an offensive line up to this point," Williams said. "Weird as it may seem, and I don’t know how those numbers will play out, but I’m feeling really good about the line that we do have."