For all the credit we’ve been giving the Bengals’ new offensive line coach Frank Pollack this past offseason, perhaps that praise should’ve been more equally distributed towards offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.
Why? Because quarterback Andy Dalton is producing at a consistent level behind an offensive line that still has problems.
In a year when passing efficiency has spiked through the roof league-wide, Dalton’s 94.9 passer rating and 7.2 adjusted yards per attempt aren’t exactly earth-shattering numbers. It’s been the stability from Dalton has been the driving force behind the team’s 4-2 record entering the back-half of October.
His touchdown percentage of 6.1% has also kept the Bengals in the top 10 in points scored, and aside from a four-interception game against the Panthers, he’s taken care of the ball with three interceptions in his five other games.
And it’s not just been Dalton, running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are each in the top 10 in rushing success out of the 51 running backs with at least 30 carries.
So with all this stable success on the offensive side of the ball, it’s remarkable it’s all happening behind an offensive line that has continued to struggle. How bad have they been as a unit? Pro Football Focus actually ranked them 29th in the league through six weeks:
29. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals complete reluctance to play former fifth-round pick Christian Westerman baffles me more and more by the day. The current starter at right guard, Alex Redmond, has limped out to a 52.6 overall grade so far this season while Westerman – the second highest-graded guard in the NFL this preseason – remains on the bench.
Redmond has been the weak link on the offensive line despite being adequate in the run game, but that dichotomy was predictable coming into this year. He’s taken Pollack’s aggressive methods in pass protection to heart, but he’s not been effective on a consistent basis. His struggles have been a contributing factor to Dalton being sacked the same number of times (12) as this time last year while also being under pressure even more.
Of course Westerman is mentioned as the obvious solution, but he’s just not going to play unless he’s forced into the role via injury. Reality sucks sometimes.
Aside from Redmond, right tackle Bobby Hart has had slightly less downs and more ups in comparison, but his play has also been far from perfect. He’s been charged with the most sacks allowed on the offensive line, but he’s been serviceable since his bout with former Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt against the Colts in Week 1.
The biggest surprise has been left tackle Cordy Glenn’s inconsistencies in pass protection. His pass blocking has leveled out after allowing several pressures against the Panthers and Falcons in Week 3 and 4 respectively, but his play has been relatively underwhelming compared to the expectation.
On the other side of the spectrum, left guard Clint Boling has continued to be the glue that solidifies the group. Despite playing next to a rookie center in Billy Price for a game-and-a-half and then a veteran who has never played center in a regular season game in Trey Hopkins for the next four-and-a-half games, Boling has been a rock, like he’s always been.
The injury to that has sidelined Price shook up the group, but at the start, Hopkins filled his spot admirably. In his last two games however, he’s been less than stellar. Both players have been upgrades over former center Russell Bodine, but the team may want to sacrifice the upgrade Hopkins has been in the run game to get back the pass protector Price is at the position when he comes back.
As a unit, there are still so many questions, and that’s why they are so lowly regarded compared to the rest of the league. It makes the offense’s production that much more impressive, and you have to wonder how much better they can be with a line that isn’t so volatile. Hopefully when Price gets back, things will start to even out, but the weak spots on the right side can’t be ignored, and they will continue to hinder their potential until they don’t.