While it’s been a very productive offseason for the Bengals, their offensive line is still a major question mark heading into next season.
Despite sporting on the league’s worst o-line units in 2019, the team has done very little to upgrade any starting spot. That’s why it’s no shock to see them ranked 31st overall in Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings for the 2020 season.
Only two teams had a worse offensive line than the Bengals last season. The good news is the return of 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams, whose lost season due to injury led to Cordy Glenn, John Jerry, Andre Smith and Fred Johnson all playing at least 130 snaps at left tackle in 2019.
Williams was a polished college player who finished with the nation’s third-best overall grade (89.2) in 2018. Even in his first year of action, he should bring some stability to a position that has had issues since the departure of Andrew Whitworth after the 2016 season.
The rest of the line has plenty of question marks, including right tackle Bobby Hart, who did take a step forward in pass protection last season but has still been well below average in his four seasons as a starter (109th out of 151 qualifiers on true pass sets). Hart has also ranked as a bottom-10 run-blocker in each of his last two seasons.
At left guard, both Michael Jordan and Billy Price graded in the 40s and ranked among the bottom six guards last season, and they’ll both be in the mix to start again. Xavier Su’a-Filo joins the three-way competition after posting his highest grade since 2016, a 60.1 mark that came on only 307 snaps. Jordan, Price and Su’a-Filo will battle for the two starting guard spots in what looks like one of the worst situations in the league unless two of the three improve quite a bit.
Trey Hopkins earned a career-high 62.4 grade at center last year, but even that still ranked just 24th among players at the position. Even with Williams’ return, the Bengals have only marginally improved up front this offseason.
Only the Dolphins had a worse unit in this ranking.
While it’s easy to take shots at the Bengals for not doing more to upgrade their offensive trenches, they did end 2019 on a high note and now get former top-10 pick Jonah Williams to take over at left tackle, a position that has crippled the team since Andrew Whitworth left in the 2017 offseason.
And it’s easy to forget this unit actually had a strong finish to the season. After allowing a combined 19(!) sacks over the first for regular-season games, the offensive line allowed just eight over the final five games.
On the ground, Cincinnati averaged 4.0+ yards per rush just once over the first seven games, then hit that mark six times over the final nine games. Joe
Joe Mixon didn’t hit 100+ rushing yards in a game until Week 9, then hit it three times over the final four games.
So yeah, this unit should be better than the 31st-best o-line, though it’s still easily one of the team’s biggest concerns heading into the 2020 season, whenever that may begin.