It was no secret to anyone who watched the Bengals last season that the offensive line didn’t help out their running backs... or quarterback... or really much of anything.
Now, Pro Football Focus has come out with their rankings of offensive lines that did the best and worst job of opening up space for their team’s runners. Specifically, they are measuring how many yards running backs got before being contacted by a defender. They even went as far as to measure this stat when a back would run to the left, right or up the middle, and they averaged all the numbers up at the end.
The Bengals’ offensive line ended up creating an average of 1.31 yards before contact last season. That includes 1.19 yards to the left, 1.28 yards up the middle and 1.41 to the right.
No one should be surprised at the fact that the Bengals were in the bottom half in the league for this stat, but what is surprising is that, on average, they were only the 10th worst team in this stat. That means nine other offensive lines were worse.
The Bengals’ last few games likely gave them a little bit of a bump, but you would still expect the Bengals to be ranked much lower.
To put these numbers in perspective, the average for the league was 1.47 yards before contact, which Pro Football Focus notes is down from last seasons average of 1.63 yards. Also, two teams averaged less than one yard created before contact (Miami 0.59 yards and Detroit 0.81 yards). The best mark in the league was the Panthers’ 1.91 yards before contact.
It seems like the entire NFL is regressing as far as offensive lines are concerned. Even the Eagles ranked lower than the Bengals did by only creating an average of 1.24 yards before contact.
It seems like this may not be a requirement in order to being successful in the NFL, but the Bengals could certainly benefit from having a running game that takes pressure of of Andy Dalton.
The one thing that is also obvious from these number is that most teams have a side of the offensive line that seems to just be better to run behind. The Vikings don’t rank much higher than the Bengals on average, but their right side creates 2.14 yards of space before contact. That is incredibly nice to have.
Even the Browns have that. When they run left, the offensive line creates 2.15 yards of space before contact.
Maybe the Bengals’ change in philosophy will help. They have a full offseason to develop Bill Lazor’s offense instead of running Ken Zampese’s, and they brought in Frank Pollack to replace Paul Alexander. It was also clear that after Jeremy Hill was out of the lineup, the offense started to shift gradually towards more of a spread setup. That favors Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, who are both accustomed to running out of the shotgun.
Obviously, the Bengals need to bring in some competition all along the offensive line. Coaching is important, but it doesn’t seem like they can run back last year’s offensive line and seriously have faith in the offensive line becoming more productive.