33 times did the Cincinnati Bengals drop back to pass Friday night against the Washington Football Team, and just like last week in Tampa Bay, the offensive line put up a goose egg in the sacks allowed column.
Whether it was the starting five or the five that replaced them in the second quarter, Frank Pollack’s unit held strong when Brandon Allen and even Kyle Shurmur dropped back behind them.
Washington let their starting defensive line, one that features four first-round picks, in the game for one-and-a-half quarters to begin the game. They eventually were facing off against Cincinnati’s second-team protection unit for a couple of drives.
The Bengals held their starting four to zero pressures, per Pro Football Focus.
It was arguably the biggest matchup of the game; the same pass-rushing bunch that ended Joe Burrow’s rookie season prematurely against an offensive line that has yet to declare starters at each guard spot. If one side was going to be the dominant one, you’d have thought the side with more talent and continuity was going to end up dominating. Not this time.
Continuity has not been a theme for the Bengals’ o-line. They changed up the guard rotation and had Xavier Su’a-Filo starting at right guard with Michael Jordan coming off the bench at left guard this week, the opposite of their plan against Tampa Bay.
The move back to left guard seemed to fit Jordan as he posted the team’s highest pass-blocking grade per PFF (83.9). Su’a-Filo ended right behind him (79.1) as neither player allowed a single pressure. Even Billy Price ended up with a clean performance in pass protection (76.4).
To say it was a perfect performance for the o-line room is not at all accurate. Run blocking was a struggle against Washington’s starters. It was a primary reason why the offense stalled for the first half. Talent disparity was definitely on display in this regard.
Yet as the game went on, even that improved dramatically. Jackson Carman and Fred Johnson formed an imposing duo at right guard and right tackle after the first period. Carman himself looked noticeably better in his second preseason performance.
Perfection is not normally found in the preseason, and this was no exception, but the Bengals’ o-line more than held their own against a unit that is accustomed to doing what they please. And all of this was without rookie standout D’Ante Smith, who was the team’s best pass-blocker in the preseason opener.
Pollack and the Bengals are throwing a lot at the group. To say they’re handling it well under the lights is an understatement.