Entering the 2020 offseason, one of the positions at the top of Bengals’ fans wish lists for needs to address was offensive line. While we watched the team make a flurry of moves, they didn’t make many wholesale changes along the offensive line.
The biggest acquisitions were free agent guard Xavier Su’a-Filo coming over from the Cowboys and sixth-round pick Hakeem Adeniji. Neither really rivaled the moves the team had taken the past few seasons when they brought in Cordy Glenn via a trade and spent two first round picks on the position. However, only one of those payers is really leading the way for optimism from Bengals’ offensive line coach Jim Turner. That player is offensive tackle Jonah Williams.
“You don’t have to go far to see how character can help our team. Bringing him in here makes a difference for us that way at left tackle. He’s what you want when it comes to character,” Turner told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “Will he be a great player? We project he’ll be a heck of a player or we wouldn’t have brought him in here in the first round. If you watch how he performs and how dedicated he is and how smart he is. All the pieces fit.”
Williams missed all of his rookie season with an injury before he was ever able to take a snap in a game. He should still be able to provide some much needed security at a position that was not playing up to NFL standards with Cordy Glenn out most of the season with a concussion.
Still, it has to be hard to get all of these guys on the same page during an offseason where everyone is so far apart. The offensive line’s chemistry is one of its most important qualities, and the fact there will be at least two new faces starting along the offensive line doesn’t bode well for early success, but Turner is doing all he can to make sure these guys will be ready to go whenever the season does start. One thing he thinks will help is this being his second season to teach these guys.
“The majority of what we’re doing right now is watching the tape and installing. The same thing we’d be doing in the building. The great plus compared to last year is you have videos of most of these players playing last season. When you go into the tape to install plays, Mike Jordan is watching himself. Trey Hopkins is watching himself; Bobby Hart is watching himself. When you’re the guy on the tape, you’re a little more interested. You can critique them as you go through the different techniques and watch that human being right there do the exact thing you’re trying to coach or not what you’re trying to coach and straighten him out.”
This will be the first time since Paul Alexander was coaching the offensive line that the team will have the same offensive line coach returning from the prior season. The major reason for Turner’s returned was how they turned things around in the second half of the season.
The Bengals went from having one of the worst rushing attacks in the league to really unleashing Joe Mixon down the stretch. Pass protection was also better all around. Everyone’s pass blocking saw a noticeable improvement down the stretch, so it should come as no surprise that this team feels fairly good about where it stands with the competition. Many fans had understandably tuned out by this point in the season, but Cincinnati had a very serviceable offensive line in the later half of the season.
You can easily make the argument that more could’ve been done to address the offensive line. That argument ignores the fact that there were plenty of other holes that the team did end up filling like linebacker as well as improvements to the league’s worst defense from 2019. This rebuild was never going to be done after a single offseason.
The Bengals do have enough injection of new faces and young players to believe they can build on a strong end to 2019. As long as expectations are reasonable, and they still look at it as a work in progress there really isn’t anything wrong with what they’re doing. They just have to hope some of these young players play closer to their potential in 2020.
If they don’t, it could be a long season again for this unit.