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Amazon’s “All or Nothing” with the Cowboys provides hope for the Bengals in 2018

The Amazon series documented the Cowboys’ fall following the loss of All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith due to injury.

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

For those unfamiliar with “All or Nothing”, it is a series on Amazon in their streaming video services. It provides a similar behind the scenes look as the “Hard Knocks” series on HBO. The primary difference is that Hard Knocks focuses on one team’s training camp, while “All or Nothing” takes a broader look during one team’s entire season.

Season one highlighted the Arizona Cardinals 2015 season, which saw them go 13-3, reaching the NFC Championship. Season two followed the 2016 Rams and their move from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Along with “Hard Knocks”, “All or Nothing” made sure to give air time to head coach Jeff Fisher’s infamous “I’m not #%&@ going to go 7-9 or 8-8”, which, of course, was an accurate prediction. The Rams went 4-12.

Season three, released at the end of April on Amazon, captured the Cowboys’ 2017 season which saw them drop from 13-3 to 9-7. The primary focus of the season was the drama of Ezekiel Elliott’s on-and-off suspension, and the opulence of the Cowboys’ stadium and facilities.

About midway through the series, All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith got injured in a Week 9 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. In that game, the Cowboys held the Chiefs to one total sack, and held their top pass rusher Justin Houston to zero sacks. Up to that point, the Cowboys were averaging almost 30 points a game, and in contention for the playoffs, sitting at 5-3.

In the following two games, with Smith out due to injury, the Cowboys gave up 12 total sacks. They gave up eight sacks to the Falcons in Week 10 and followed that up with 4 more sacks surrendered to the Eagles in Week 11. “All or Nothing” highlighted six of those sacks in the game against the Falcons, which were all recorded by Adrian Clayborn, abusing Smith’s backup, Chaz Green.

It was very difficult to watch this episode and not think of the 2017 Cincinnati Bengals. The way Green was routinely beat by a decent, but certainly not great pass rusher in Clayborn brought back memories of Bengals left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi looking just as inept throughout the duration of the 2017 season as he was beat play after play, week after week. On a side note, those six sacks that Green gave up to Clayborn accounted for 20 percent of his career total sacks, over an 81 game career!

The loss of a great left tackle, and subsequent replacement by an inferior substitute totally wrecked the Cowboys’ offense. (If that reminds you of what happened with the Bengals losing Andrew Whitworth and replacing him with Ogbuehi, it should). In that first game without Smith, the Cowboys only generated 233 total yards of offense and a measly seven points. In their second game without Smith they had an equally inept week offensively with 9 points and only 225 total yards. Those games were a huge drop for a team who was averaging over 28 points and 370 yards before losing their left tackle. (The loss of Elliott also played a part, but the Cowboys did return to form averaging 330 yards per game for the remainder of Elliott’s suspension, once Smith returned to the lineup.)

When Smith returned in Week 12, the Cowboys only allowed two sacks to the Chargers, including zero to Josey Bosa. And the Cowboys followed that up by allowing just one sack to the Redskins, and zero to their top pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan. After losing both games without Smith at left tackle, his return helped the Cowboys make a late season push for the playoffs.

That two week span in Week 10 and Week 11 was essentially a microcosm of the Bengals entire 2017 season, struggling on offense by replacing a great left tackle with a grossly inferior player.

Seeing how the Cowboys responded with Smith’s return to the lineup over the final third of the season should give the Bengals hope going forward. In 2018 the Bengals will be making a huge upgrade at left tackle from Ogbuehi to Cordy Glenn, just like how the Cowboys made a huge upgrade from Green to Smith, when Smith returned from injury.

The Cowboys showed viewers during a two game span what the Bengals learned during an entire season: the difference between a great left tackle and an awful one is the difference between a good offense and a bad offense, or on-the-field success and on-the-field failure.

There is a reason why both Whitworth and Smith are among the top paid offensive linemen in the NFL. The Bengals clearly made an awful decision to let Whitworth walk for more money, and replace him with a cheaper, less effective option. The Bengals seem to have learned from their mistake, by adding Glenn (and his pricey contract) at left tackle to fill the void left by Whitworth’s departure. There is certainly reason to hope that fixing the left tackle spot can provide the Bengals with a similar boost that it gave the Cowboys.