There might be good reason to be concerned about the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line performance against the Dallas Cowboys. I'm one the subscribes to the school that it's way too early to judge and that the Bengals looked like they had only practiced for a week before playing in this game. But how did the offensive line do? More specifically, how did the offensive line perform while the first team unit was on the field?
It wasn't all that bad. It really wasn't. For instance the one time that Palmer was sacked, the quarterback had over four seconds to get rid of the football. Once that fifth second ticked, the Bengals quarterback had his "oh crap I've been in the pocket forever so I must run away" instinct go off. Once he moved up in the pocket and rolled out right, Stephen Bowen, a defensive tackle, had completed an end-around stunt from his defensive tackle spot and collided with Palmer just as he rolled out. The coverage sack was HARDLY the fault of the offensive line, unless we're giving them the unbelievable expectation that they should block their guys for at least eight seconds.
Then again, the offensive line can take credit for a nasty three-man hit on Palmer. On 3rd-and-14 during the Bengals first possession of the game, Palmer lined up in shotgun with Terrell Owens and Jermaine Gresham on the left and Jordan Shipley and Chad Ochocinco on the right. This play was doomed from the beginning. Defensive tackle Stephen Bowen took an inside step against Andrew Whitworth. Clearly beaten, there really was no hope for Whitworth, who was likely hoping that Palmer would release the football quickly. He barely did, but the pressure from Bowen forced a bad throw to Owens. Bengals punt. Truth is, Palmer was badly sandwiched. Along with Bowen, Jay Ratliff took an outside stunt, going from defensive tackle position, looping around the defensive end. He would go untouched until nailing Palmer's chest cavity. Anthony Spencer pushed Dennis Roland into Palmer, which concluded a three-man quarterback hit by the Dallas Cowboys. Both tackles struggled protecting Palmer, who had to be pealed off the turf.
Kyle Cook was average, at best. But one block he struggled against, could have led to a large Cedric Benson run during the Bengals first possession. After a penalty that negated a five-yard Owens' reception, the Bengals lined up first-and-15 at their own 39-yard line. In duel tight end, single back formation, Benson took the handoff and ran left. Kyle Cook's man had taken an aggressive slant directly into the point of attack. The lane blocked, Benson had to stop dead in his tracks and cutback. Note: If that block is made, Benson could have had a big gain with Whitworth and Livings sealing the inside and Reggie Kelly blocking DeMarcus Ware outside for a sizeable lane. Benson cut inside as his only means for a positive gain. Too many unblocked defenders in the cutback lanes prevented Benson from gaining more than a yard.
And when the Bengals did move the ball through the air, the passes were either three-step drops or generally quick passes. Bengals line up 2nd-and-4 at their own 37-yard line during their first offensive possession in a four wide receiver, single back formation. Palmer takes a three-step drop, with four Cowboys rushing, and quickly flings it towards the nearest sidelines with Terrell Owens running a quick out route. Pass caught. Bengals get a first down on Owens' first reception as a Bengal. On the first play of the Bengals second possession, Cincinnati lined up in I-formation with Gresham at tight end. After a three-step drop, Palmer unleashed a quick pass to Owens, who ran to the first down marker and turned around, picking up 11 yards and the first down. On second-and-7 at their own 24-yard line, Bengals lined up in off-set I, strong side to the right. Palmer takes a three-step drop, looks for Chad Ochocinco running a quick slant from the left. Linebacker Leon Williams knocked the pass down at the line of scrimmage.
Save for the save where the offensive line gave Palmer good protection, they did allow Palmer to complete another five-step drop with relatively decent protection. On 2nd-and-14 at their own 40-yard line, Palmer took a snap with duel tight ends, Gresham motioning into the slot on the right. After a five-step drop, Palmer looked right and threw it to Owens, who ran a ten-yard up and out route. After slipping on his break, Owens wasn't able to recover quickly enough to grab the pass.
For the most part, the Bengals offensive line with Carson Palmer wasn't bad. On the first offensive play of the game, Palmer handed the football to Cedric Benson, running it behind Andrew Whitworth and Nate Livings; both of whom completely collapsed that side of the line allowing Benson to pick up six yards. But generally speaking, the performance wasn't good either. It was as if the offensive line hadn't practice for much more than a week. And clearly, it shows, the Bengals hadn't had much full contact during that week of practice, while guys like Whitworth struggled on a pass rush and Cook couldn't hold up a defensive lineman from blocking the point of attack.
It's clear that there's work to be done. And with the regular season being over a month away, at least they have the time to get it done.