Has the Bengals offensive line regressed?
That was a question asked last season after the line got off to a slow start. However, the unit would rebound and finish as one of the better offensive lines again in 2015. It still wasn’t quite as good as some of the units we saw in previous years, and it looks like the regression has continued this year.
Through for games, Cincinnati has allowed the second-most sacks (13), and has the third-worst yards per rush average (3.1) of any team. Those are usually too good indicators as to how well the offensive line is winning in the trenches, and those two stats show just how much this unit is struggling.
That’s why it should not be surprising that Pro Football Focus ranked the Bengals’ offensive line as the 17th-best unit heading into Week 5.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (4)
Starters: LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Clint Boling, C Russell Bodine, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Cedric Ogbuehi
Coming into the season, the Bengals had two question marks along the line in C Russell Bodine and RT Cedric Ogbuehi. So far, both of those players have performed below-average, combining to surrender 20 total pressures. Andrew Whitworth at LT remains one of the league’s better tackles, and has allowed only three pressures in 168 pass-blocking snaps. The guard pairing has been solid, but perhaps a little below what we have come to expect from them so far.
The two biggest culprits of this ranking are center Russell Bodine and right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. Bodine is PFF’s 26th-ranked center out of 34 eligible players. There’s no sense in beating a dead horse here. He’s bad, but the Bengals keep playing him. It is what it is.
Ogbuehi ranks as PFF’s 64th-best tackle out of 77 eligible players (he actually ranks ahead of Andre Smith at 71). Yes, Ogbuehi has been a liability on the right side through four games, but that should be expected in his first year as a starter.
With as little as he’s been on a football field in full pads since coming to the NFL, his struggles could be more due to inexperience than ability. Ogbuehi missed most of his rookie year while recovering from a torn ACL, and then missed much of training camp and three weeks of the preseason games this year before returning in Week 1.
NFL teams rarely have fully-padded, full-contact practices once the regular season begins to avoid wearing and tearing players‘ bodies down faster. Ogbuehi has missed most of those for two straight years now due to various injuries, and as little has he played in 2015, he might as well be a rookie.
That’s why there’s optimism that he’ll improve as the season wears on and become a solid right tackle. The ability is there. Now it’s just a matter of learning how to harness it at the NFL level.
Overall, saying the Bengals have the NFL’s 17th-best offensive line is probably underselling them. The good news is three of the NFL’s best teams are the Patriots (24), Vikings (30), and Seahawks (32), and their offensive lines all rank below the Bengals’.
Having a great offensive line is nice boost, but it’s by no means a killer if your offensive line is average, which is what Cincinnati’s has been through four games.