A 57-yard touchdown to John Ross from Andy Dalton was the offense’s first play, and the first of many big throws from the Bengals passing game.
A different story, however, persists from the other phase of the offense.
For the third week in a row, the offensive line failed to generate any movement in the running game, and the starting backs suffered greatly from it once again. Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard combined for 10 carries and amassed the same number of yards.
One yard per rush, for two very talented ballcarriers.
While the offensive line didn’t surrender any sacks, and Dalton was rarely under pressure, the Bills front seven had no trouble clogging up running lanes for Mixon and Bernard. Mixon had the offense’s only two rushes before Dalton threw two touchdowns in the first quarter, and both went for negative yards.
There’s no mystery as to why the first-team hasn’t found success on the ground yet. The offensive line has shown to lack the explosiveness to effectively run outside zone, and they’ve been beaten too early on the front side of power runs for cutbacks to lead to positive yardage.
Offensive guard Alex Redmond, who was rotating in with Trey Hopkins at right guard the last two weeks, got the start at right guard yesterday and didn’t look like much of an upgrade. The lack of continuity on the right side of the offensive line clearly has disjointed the group as a whole, as missed blocks and assignments have been prevalent and are just as big of issues as just losing reps against more talented opponents.
To top off these issues, left tackle Cordy Glenn left the game at the beginning of the second quarter due to a shoulder injury.
And Cedric Ogbuehi, despite some occasional quality reps, continued to lack consistency and didn’t do the run game any real favors.
Like it has been this preseason, Mark Walton struggled just as much as Mixon and Bernard and finished with -2 yards on two carries. It’s hard to imagine he has a lot of confidence in the group of blockers that have continuously failed in front of him. But once again, the backs behind Walton have had much better luck.
Behind the second-string offensive line, running backs Tra Carson and Brian Hill continued their impressive preseason’s and each finished with 24 yards on four carries. The difference between the Bengals facing first-team and second-team defensive lines is staggeringly obvious, and the reserves have clearly benefited off of it.
The second unit will be out on the field first on Thursday as the starters won’t play against the Colts. But the offensive line expected to face the Colts a week-and-a-half afterward can’t feel good about the performance in the running game this preseason.
Thankfully Glenn’s injury isn’t too serious, because they need all the help they have to fix this issue, as there is no doubt it will carry over to the real games if things stay the same.