The Bengals moved quickly to fill their offensive line position bringing in Frank Pollack who was widely seen as the top candidate for the job.
Pollack has several ties to the Bengals and their coaching staff.
He played for Bill Callahan, father of Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, at Northern Arizona. His NFL coaching debut came with the Houston Texans under offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who is Zac Taylor’s father-in-law. Prior to becoming the offensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Pollack was their assistant offensive line coach under Bill Callahan, and, of course, he was also the Bengals’ offensive line coach in 2018. He left prior to the official hiring of Taylor and has coached the New York Jets offensive line for the past two seasons.
Former offensive line coach Jim Turner was not only responsible for the development of the offensive line unit, he also designed the Bengals’ run game. This will be true of Pollack as well. He has the title of run game coordinator in addition to offensive line coach. It will be his job not only to keep Joe Burrow safe, but to fix a running game that was a non-factor in 2020.
Watching film of the Bengals’ offensive line in 2018 and the Jets’ offensive line this past season, my number one thought it was: “This is what Taylor wants his offensive line to be.” Both units ran a lot of outside zones, inside zones, tosses, play-action-passes and boots.
Let’s take a look at what Pollack’s offensive lines have done in the past.
Although you will notice Clint Boling (65) at left guard in these clips, the Bengals’ offensive line overall was not any more talented in 2018 than it is now. In fact, this clip features excellent blocks from a pair of current Bengals, Billy Price (53) and Bobby Hart (68).
Even with similar talent, this unit produced in the run game at a much higher level than the 2020 team, and Joe Mixon led the AFC in rushing that season with 1,168 yards.
In this clip, you see them getting some serious push against a talented Steelers defense and doing a great job of getting to their second-level blocks.
Some nice second level blocks here pic.twitter.com/ME0GIkQ5Mh— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) January 10, 2021
In this clip, Pollack’s unit with the Jets also gets movement and does a great job of getting to their second-level blocks.
This sets up a nice cutback for the running back.
Gonna be nice to have this back next year pic.twitter.com/3GSU4dlI7C— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) January 10, 2021
Do you know who loves cutting back?
What makes him a special runner is his ability to see cutbacks and create huge plays for the offense. That’s exactly what he did to the Steelers in this clip.
The Bengals were missing that component this season even before Mixon got hurt. With Pollack and Mixon back in 2021, there could be a lot more explosive plays in the runs game. Having a running game that is a big-play threat will open up a lot of opportunities for Burrow and the pass game.
The Bengals’ pass protection was average in 2018, which is to say it was better than the past two seasons. Adding Pollack will help, but they still need to add talent at the position to get the protection where it needs to be.
In his 2018 preseason interview with Dan Hoard, Pollack was asked about the top things he looks for in an offensive lineman. He talked about athleticism and nastiness, both of which were demonstrated in the run game clips. He also talked about intelligence.
The Bengals have struggled in recent years to pick up defensive line stunts in pass protection, but in the clip above two current Bengals, at the time under Pollack’s tutelage, do a great job of doing just that.
At right tackle, Hart engages with the defensive end who is stunting inside, then comes off to pick up the looping defensive tackle. At center, Price picks up the other defensive end as he loops inside to the A-gap. This was excellent recognition and execution by both players, which demonstrates not only their own intelligence but that they are being coached to adapt to the defense.
Although the Jets’ offense struggled, Frank Pollack has a strong track record, particularly in the run game. This cannot be the only upgrade the Bengals make to their offensive line in 2021, but it is an excellent start.