Calling Frank Pollack Cincinnati’s most prized offseason acquisition isn’t without merit.
After helping develop and coaching an insanely talented offensive line in Dallas, Pollack joined a Bengals squad starving for effective production in the trenches. In a few short months, he’s effectively changing the culture, teaching alternative techniques, and implementing his own cult personality on his offensive line.
The results are now starting to show.
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap sees a big difference, telling Fox 19 that Pollack is “making (the offensive lineman) into fighters.” Running back Joe Mixon added that Pollack has “changed the culture (and) the way they block around here. The attitude, strength-wise, they’re way more physical than last year.” Giovani Bernard agreed, saying earlier this spring:
“Seeing Frank in the meeting room, you knew once he stepped up there it was a change. That’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a different feel. You can understand that they want to change the mentality of the offensive line as well as the running backs….He’s just the opposite of Paul. A little bit more vocal. I’m not saying that Paul was never vocal. (Pollack) is just a more in-your-face kind of guy.”
Cincinnati got a closer look when the team wore full pads on Monday.
“They beat us up today a little bit,” SAM linebacker Nick Vigil told the mothership. “They seem more aggressive. They seem like they’re coming off a little more. It’s a little different mentality. It’s good to see, but we have to match that.”
It’s also not surprising that the line’s progression is one of our biggest curiosities.
Pollack replaced Paul Alexander on Jan. 11 and the culture shift began almost immediately.
“We’re not here playing chess, I know that,” Pollack said in May. “The last time I checked its football and you have to kick the guy’s ass who’s across from you. Nothing’s changed. I don’t care what we do with the rules... at the end of the day it’s a physical, violent game and you have to be mentally tough. I can get a lot of drunk fraternity guys to start fights, but that’s not football, that’s mentally weak.”
Aren’t you fired up?
“It’s a lot different,” Trey Hopkins said in May, comparing Pollack to Alexander. “There’s not much standing around. It’s, ‘Let’s get out there, get to work and when we’re in the classroom we’ll talk about it.’ It’s about the physical reps and your mind has to be right … He’ll make a point to the group and it’s on to the next rep.”
Cincinnati’s offensive line contributed to an offense that averaged 85.4 yards rushing per game (31st in the NFL), allowing 40 quarterback sacks and 158 total pressures on 562 passing plays — they impressively only allowed 10 QB hits (that didn’t result in a quarterback sack), which ranked best in the NFL. Regardless, change was needed.
“The Bengals had 10 different offensive linemen play at least 80 snaps and all 10 of them gave up at least one sack,” writes Zoltan Buday from Pro Football Focus, ranking the 2017 offensive line as 28th best in the NFL. “However, Cincinnati’s struggles were not limited only to pass protection. The Bengals averaged just 3.17 yards (and 0.93 yards before contact) on outside zone runs, which was the fifth-lowest in the NFL and the third-lowest among teams that used this concept at least 100 times.”
Cincinnati upgraded the left tackle position in March, acquiring Cordy Glenn via a trade with Buffalo. The cost was relatively cheap, swapping first-round picks and a pair of late-round selections. Health, not talent, is the biggest knock on Glenn, who has missed 15 regular season games over the last two seasons with foot and ankle issues.
There’s some familiarity, writes our own Patrick Judis.
Prior to being drafted by the Bills though, Glenn played at Georgia. It was there he played guard next Clint Boling (who actually played left tackle) and was the roommate of none other than A.J. Green. Glenn’s previous chemistry with Boling should make the left side of the offensive line formidable once more.
Cincinnati further enhanced the offensive line by using their first-round pick on Ohio State center Billy Price, who replaced Russell Bodine. “With PFF data, it’s clear Bodine had a rough year by allowing the 12th-most pressures (18) and the sixth-most hurries among centers (16),” writes Ben Cooper with Pro Football Focus. “His run-block grade of 46.8 ranked 24th of 34 qualifying centers.”
Clint Boling, easily the team’s best offensive lineman, remains at left guard while a handful of players are battling to earn starting gigs at right guard and right tackle.
Even after enhancing the talent pool on the offensive line, it’s difficult to argue against Pollack being the team’s most important investment this offseason. In addition to coaching the Dallas Cowboys, Pollack was Oakland’s offensive line coach for one season (2012) where the Raiders couldn’t run the ball but quarterback sacks were among the league’s fewest. Pollack was also an assistant offensive line coach in Houston (‘07-11).
“He’s a very aggressive, physical person,” Lewis said. “He’s an excellent teacher, He’s very detailed. Every single step, every single movement has been broken down piece, piece, piece, piece, piece, piece.”
We’re going to find out very soon if all the hype ends up justified.