With the season-ending injury to Joe Burrow last year, much of the talk around the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason as been about the offensive line.
What are they going to do about the offensive line?
How are they going to protect Burrow?
Although many were excited about the Bengals selecting Ja’Marr Chase in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, others were outraged. “How can you do that to Joe Burrow?” many asked. “This is criminal!” exclaimed others.
Of course, there has been talk for weeks that the Bengals would take Chase in Round 1, but many thought that they would double-down on the offensive line on Day 2.
Sure enough, the Bengals drafted an offensive lineman in Round 2, but in Round 3, they went another direction.
While the offensive line gets all the talk, the fact is that the Bengals needed help in the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage. In Round 3 they made a move to improve the defensive line by adding Texas Longhorns defensive end Joseph Ossai.
What Ossai brings to the Bengals
When Ossai immigrated to the United States at age 10, he did not know what football was. He told reporters that he thought rugby was football. He learned quickly and was one of the most dominant players in Texas high school football and a four-star recruit in his senior year.
In 2019, he played linebacker for Texas before moving to his true position, defensive end, this past year.
Add those two things together, and you’ll find that Ossai has a lot of room to grow.
He is an incredible athlete. He’s long, lean, and fast off the ball. There has been a lot of talk about getting offensive linemen for the Bengals’ new offensive line coach Frank Pollack to develop, but Ossai has potential to develop into an excellent defensive lineman, with a little help from new defensive line coach Marion Hobby.
When he met the Cincinnati media, Ossai described his play style as “fearless and relentless.” His film supports this. He never stops. Never. Regardless of what happens on a play, Ossai does not stop running until the whistle blows. This is something that every coach values, and the Bengals’ staff has specifically emphasized.
It’s particularly important in the modern NFL where quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes make big plays by using their legs to keep the play alive. The defense has to keep playing.
Ossai’s motor will create just as many play-making opportunities as his athletic ability and could be the difference between a win and a loss for the Bengals this fall.
Joseph Ossai. The newest Cincinnati Bengal. pic.twitter.com/H4kTY9HKw9— Blake Jewell (@BlakeJewellNFL) May 1, 2021
Why the Bengals picked Ossai
The best defenses have a lot of depth on the defensive line. The Bengals made a big play in free agency, adding Trey Hendrickson to replace Carl Lawson at defensive end, but Lawson isn’t the only defensive end they needed to replace. Carlos Dunlap’s position needed to be filled as well.
Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson will be the starters this fall, but Ossai will likely come in on in passing situations. This will allow Hubbard to move inside, where his pass rush skills are more dangerous.
This is a key role that would make Ossai a very important part of the Bengals defense in 2021.
Zac Taylor: “You look at that third end spot like a starter.” Taylor expects Ossai to come in and compete for a lot of playing time right away.— Marisa Contipelli (@BengalsMarisa) May 1, 2021
Ossai’s experience at linebacker makes him even more valuable to the Bengals defense. They love versatile players like Akeem Davis-Gaither and Vonn Bell, who can fill a lot of different roles within a defensive scheme.
Of course, the best example of this is Hubbard. As mentioned above, in addition to playing defensive end, Hubbard plays defensive tackle on passing downs. He is also essentially a linebacker in their 3-4 defensive package.
Ossai’s could have a similar role in the 3-4 defensive front. He could also be used as a linebacker in substitution packages. This would allow him to use his speed and pass rush skills as a blitzing linebacker.
Ossai was a great pickup in Round 3, with the potential to massively outperform his draft position and make an early impact for the Bengals defense.