Imagine being in your first year of college, and every time you struggle understanding something, your TA gives you wrong information in discussion or office hours. Oh, and imagine the TA has a terrible personality as well. All of a sudden, you’re failing your course, you’ve lost your sense of self worth, and you feel like a fraud.
That was basically the situation for guys like Billy Price from 2019-2020. Jim Turner was simply not a good teacher. It’s not even clear if he knows enough about offensive line technique himself. Sports Illustrated’s Elise Jessie told us back in November of last year that:
“Technique is not addressed in [offensive line] meetings [under Turner]. Accountability is not there. They want to protect Joe Burrow. They want to get better. They want to play at their height. But they’re not getting the coaching needed in order to do that and correct the mistakes... and practicing to make sure they understood the mistake they made...” You can watch the full interview below:
And Turner isn’t exactly a charmer either. Jessie reported that he “utilizes abusive language” and called former Ohio State Buckeye Isaiah Prince a “thug” during a Zoom meeting. That, of course, is just from the last two years. His track record before coming to Cincinnati is... ugly, to say the least.
Because of both his lack of coaching ability and non-existent people skills, Bengals players started retiring or mysteriously disappearing left and right soon after Turner was hired. And the ones who stayed saw their play decline.
This offseason, the Bengals brought back a man who was really making progress with the line in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Not only was he a quality guard for the San Francisco 49ers himself, but he is excellent at communicating what he knows.
Now he must get to work and fix what Turner broke.
Pollack told Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson that he’s ready to clean things up and develop the team’s young linemen. “I can’t wait to get them out on the grass and teaching guys different techniques that may be they haven’t been exposed to the last two years,” Pollack said.
That might seem like an indirect shot at Turner. But it’s well-deserved.
As we wrote earlier, Price’s pass blocking grade, according to Pro Football Focus, was a decent 66.0 under Pollack. It dropped to the 20’s both years under Turner. Quenton Spain’s pass blocking grades were in the 70’s ever year of his career before playing for Turner. It then immediately dropped to 44.8 last year.
So what can Pollack do to fix all that? Here’s what he said about his players:
Billy Price (center/guard), fourth year: “I’ve got confidence in Billy. He should have confidence in himself and he’ll continue to grow and get better and develop as a player. Billy’s a strong player. He’s still a young player developing. He’ll be changing some things as far as those techniques of what we’re going to ask him to do. He’s shown he can bump out and play guard if needed, but I think ultimately he’s a guy that is a center-guard type of guy and can play in this league. He’s proven that.”
Jonah Williams (tackle), third year: “Really, last year was his rookie year. It’s always a learning curve for every rookie. I’m real excited about teaching him some new things that he can add to his tool box. He’s a smart player. He’s very technique aware. He takes pride in being a technician. He’s got great feet, great balance. He can use his hands independently. He’s got a lot of tools to work with. His better day are ahead. Nothing but up for Jonah Williams.”
Jackson Carman (guard/tackle), rookie: “He’s a guy that we identified early and really liked. Intelligent player. Obviously he competed at a high level at Clemson. He knows what a winning program looks like. He’s good-sized, athletic, he can move. I expect those traits to develop. We like him at guard to start to compete and he’s got the potential to swing out to tackle if and when we need it. That may be the case. He’s a pretty good position flex, but right now let’s start him out at guard.”
D’Ante Smith (tackle), rookie: “He has outstanding length, 35-inch plus arms. He shows great play demeanor on the field. He likes to finish. He brings that good, nasty disposition. He competed at the Senior Bowl mainly at guard, but he’s more of a tackle. He showed his position flex. A real bright kid with a good football IQ.”
Trey Hill (center/guard), rookie: “He played center at Georgia but he’s big enough to play guard. He had great production in the SEC, by far the No. 1 college conference.”
The guards (Spain, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Michael Jordan, and Hakeem Adeniji): “They all bring something unique to the table. And they’re quality guys who I get to develop and make better and see where we are to give us the best five.”
Interestingly, the run game may not look much different under head coach Zac Taylor than it did under Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in 2018. “Everybody runs the same stuff,” Pollack said. “Everybody runs the wide zone scheme, the tight zone scheme, the perimeter runs. Everybody runs gap schemes. Everybody runs traps and draws. Everyone.”
But we can definitely expect to see more “urgency” from the offensive line, something running back Giovani Bernard noticed when running behind Pollack’s line in 2018. “When they pick up speed or it goes a little bit faster, it forces the running backs to go a little bit faster as well. So we’re all just playing with a little more urgency,” he said at the time.
While the signing of tackle Riley Reiff, the drafting of Carman, and the return of Spain will help tremendously, the biggest boost to the o-line is probably Pollack, a respectful teacher who actually has the right answers.
You can also listen to our analysis of Carman and more on iTunes or using the player below: