What a difference one offseason makes.
After the Bengals have saddled up one of the best offensive lines in football in recent years, underachievement and reliance on newbies has come back to bite them in 2016. Twas painfully apparent in Week 5 against the Cowboys when an unheralded front seven made the Bengals’ big five look silly.
With four quarterback sacks and many other pressures allowed, the play of the Bengals’ offensive line continues to stagger those who watch the team on a weekly basis. Their performance on Sunday afternoon put the team’s total at a shocking (and unacceptable) 17 sacks allowed through five games this year. Comparatively, Dalton was sacked 20 times total in 13 games played in 2015.
Aside from guilt being associated to every starter for various infractions, the lacking ability to pass protect or run block with any consistency goes beyond the players themselves. Scheme, receivers not getting open, poor protection and Dalton failing to see the receivers when they are available have all led to the sixth-year quarterback’s skittish behavior in the pocket.
Whether it was second-year right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi allowing multiple pressures, Kevin Zeitler committing fouls or Andrew Whitworth getting called for holding, it seemed like everyone on the offensive line was guilty of something on Sunday afternoon. After stellar protection and creative schemes under Hue Jackson were prevalent last year leading to an MVP-like campaign by Dalton, the line has regressed.
As sort of a tongue-in-cheek joke, I tweeted something for a drinking game equating to the insane amount of times Dalton got jittery and had to bail out of the pocket. Unfortunately, it was a joke that could also be taken literally because Dalton rarely could set his feet against a Dallas defense ranked 18th overall and 19th against the pass going into Sunday.
Center Russell Bodine had familiar issues on Sunday by being overpowered because of his poor technique, but Ogbuehi isn’t showing he’s the next great tackle in a line of many for the Bengals either. Zeitler is looking for a big contract extension, but he has put forth the worst season of his five-year career so far and Whitworth doesn’t seem like the Pro Bowler we’ve come to love.
Is Ken Zampese drawing up blueprints for success?:
I criticized the new Bengals’ offensive coordinator after his Week 1 debut and it really hasn’t gotten much better since. The Bengals were finally more effective in the red zone on Sunday, but both touchdowns were scored in garbage time, when the team was down 28 and then 21 points.
Jackson’s offensive creativity as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator kept defenses on their heels, as did the chemistry built over a few years between Dalton, Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. But vacancies have contributed to issues on the offense. A lack of respect for the deep threats that come with Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd, which came with Jones, and the new Bengals receivers’ inability to get open with frequency have led to coverage sacks.
It’s gotten to the point where a dink-and-dunk offense with Giovani Bernard as the primary weapon is the best approach Zampese can come up with when in the familiar 2016 scenario of playing from behind. Yes, it’s on the players, but coaches have to put their units in the best positions to be successful. After five weeks, it’s safe to say the Bengals’ first-year play-caller is not doing that.