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Comparing Bengals offensive lines over the last decade

The 2017 offensive line has struggled, but are they the worst?

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens

The production from the 2017 Cincinnati Bengals offense is one of the worst in the NFL. They are currently ranked near the bottom of the league, and even dead last, in many offensive categories.

While there is plenty of blame to be spread around, a significant chunk of the blame for the offensive struggles have gone to the offensive line. And this is not without merit, as quarterback Andy Dalton is being sacked on over eight percent of the team’s passing plays, compared to less than seven percent last year, and under five percent in 2015.

Anybody who watches the 2017 Bengals will quickly notice the line’s struggles. It’s pretty difficult not to notice. But how bad are they, really? Let’s take a look and see how the Bengals 2017 offensive line compares to their other offensive lines over the past decade.

To make an easy comparison, I looked at a couple of statistics to get a basic measurement for the offensive line’s pass blocking and run blocking productivity for any given season. I looked at quarterback sack percentage as a representation of how well the line is providing pass protection for the quarterback.

And I used the running back’s yards per carry average as a representation of how well the line is providing run blocking for the team’s running backs. These aren’t perfect measurements, but give us a basic idea of how the line did in any one season.

This table shows the sack percentages and yards per carry averages for each season. It also shows who played each of the offensive line positions in that season, to see how various players may have affected how well the line performed.

Bengals offensive lines per season

Year QB Sack % RB Rush YPC LT LG C RG RT
Year QB Sack % RB Rush YPC LT LG C RG RT
2007 2.90% 3.6 Jones Whitworth Ghiaciuc/Stepanovich Williams Andrews/Anderson
2014 4.20% 4.6 Whitworth Boling Bodine Zeitler/Pollak Smith/Newhouse/Winston
2010 4.20% 3.7 Whitworth Livings Cook Williams Roland/Smith
2011 4.40% 3.8 Whitworth Livings Cook Williams/McGlynn/Boling Smith
2015 4.90% 4 Whitworth Boling Bodine Zeitler Smith/Winston
2009 5.30% 4.2 Whitworth Livings/Mathis Cook Williams Roland/Collins
2013 4.70% 3.7 Whitworth/Collins Boling Cook Zeitler/Pollak Smith
2016 6.80% 3.9 Whitworth Boling/Johnson Bodine Zeitler Ogbuehi/Fisher/Winston
2006 6.50% 3.8 Whitworth/Jones Steinbach Ghiaciuc/Braham Williams Anderson
2012 8.00% 3.9 Whitworth Boling Robinson/Faine Zeitler Smith
2017 8.40% 3.2 Ogbuehi Boling Bodine Hopkins/Johnson Smith/Fisher
2008 9.00% 3.2 Jones/Collins Whitworth/Livings Ghiaciuc Williams Andrews

To provide a year by year visual, I created the chart below. I converted the sack percentages and yards per carry averages into a scale, normalized at 100.

Ever since a very productive season in 2014, ranked first in yards per carry, and second in pass protection, the offensive line has been in a steady decline.

As bad as the offensive line has been in 2017, the unit performed even worse in 2008. Both 2008 and 2017 produced equally anemic 3.2 yards per carry averages, but 2008 had a worse sack percentage, at 9 percent.

It should be pointed out that in 2008 the Bengals were breaking in Ryan Fitzpatrick as a starting quarterback for the final 12 games, so his 9.3 percent sack rate obviously had an impact. But Carson Palmer played in the first four games,and was getting sacked 7.9 percent of the time, and got hit so frequently that he got injured. So we can’t just excuse the 2008 line’s struggles as the fault of Fitzpatrick.

Only three times in the past 12 years have the Bengals been able to generate running back production of at least four yards per carry.

Because of injuries, and lack of performance, the Bengals have struggled to keep the same offensive line together for an entire season. In every year that I looked at, the team had to use a backup in the starting lineup for at least one of the five line positions. On average, the Bengals used about seven starters on the offensive line over the course of a season.

As mentioned previously, the 2008 and 2017 offensive lines were the two worst, finishing last in both sack rate and running back yards per carry average. One thing to note is that those two offensive lines that did not include Andrew Whitworth at left tackle.

The 2007 line was the only other line that didn’t have Whitworth at left tackle, but had him at left guard, and had Levin Jones at left tackle, in Jones last good season as a left tackle. The key point here seems to be that a bad left tackle can really sink your offensive production running and passing.

Another takeaway is that Kyle Cook, who is generally regarded as the best center to play for the Bengals over the past decade, played in four of the twelve lines in the study. Those four lines were all in the top seven, and none of the bottom five lines had Kyle Cook. Center seems to be an important position, as the lines with the best center were among the best ones.


Which Bengals offensive line was the worst?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    2006: 6.5% sacks, 3.8 ypc
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    2012: 8.0% sacks, 3.9 ypc
    (1 vote)
  • 79%
    2017: 8.4% sacks, 3.2 ypc
    (246 votes)
  • 18%
    2008: 9.0% sacks, 3.2 ypc
    (58 votes)
  • 1%
    (4 votes)
309 votes total Vote Now