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Contrary To Popular Belief: Bengals Offer Decent Pass Protection

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As much as we've noted how many times the Cincinnati Bengals have used an extra blocker -- primarily Dennis Roland tight end during running downs -- the Bengals don't use nearly as many extra blockers on passing downs as one may think. That includes the reverent one Reggie Kelly, often helping to protect Carson Palmer through the years as an H-back blocker, mostly in shotgun formations. Upwards to 19 teams averaged more pass blockers during passing downs than the Cincinnati Bengals, who averaged 5.52 blockers per pass play. And no, that doesn't include four offensive linemen and Andre Smith accounting for 1.52 blockers in 2010.

According to Football Outsiders, the Bengals offensive line was the seventh-best pass protection unit with an adjusted sack rate of 5.1% last season; an improvement from an adjustment sack rate of 5.6% in 2009 (ranked 10th). This includes guys like Andrew Whitworth and Bobbie Williams who were ranked in the top-two respectively at their own positions in the NFL. as the second-best offensive tackle and best guard, in the entire league, during pass plays according to Pro Football Focus. On the other hand, the worst pass blockers on the team according to the same source is Dennis Roland, Nate Livings, Andre Smith, Kyle Cook and Kelly.

The following is a PFF chart of where the five best and worst graded pass blockers ranked on the team and league (if applies).

Player PFF Grade Team-Rank League-Rank*
Andrew Whitworth 13.6 1st 2nd
Bobbie Williams 13.0 2nd 1st
Anthony Collins 4.8 3rd --
Brian Leonard 2.6 4th --
Evan Mathis 1.1 5th --
Reggie Kelly -1.6 23rd --
Kyle Cook -3.3 24th 21st
Andre Smith -10.9 25th --
Nate Livings -11.1 26th 78th
Dennis Roland -12.9 27th 64th
* Based on position; no ranking if player did not participate in 25% or more of the offensive snaps.

The expected starters in 2011 includes Andrew Whitworth at left tackle, Nate Livings at left guard, Kyle Cook at center, Bobbie Williams at right guard and Andre Smith at right tackle. This could change in a heartbeat. Livings and Cook are free agents (though not unrestricted) and Smith actually starting the season at right tackle is total conjecture on our part. Clint Boling will probably make enough noise to warrant the argument for his promotion over Livings (an argument I desperately hope to make).

Much like the Bengals defense, the offensive line will have to step up in a big way this year. Rookie quarterback, rookie wide receiver surrounded by Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and Jordan Shipley doesn't promote much experience. Then there's the whole new playbook, offensive coordinator thing.