The Cincinnati Bengals offensive lines as a whole have looked improved during the preseason, as far as pass protection goes. There have still been notable issues on the inside of the line at times though, and a carousel of faces have been playing different positions with different units.
At this point, you’d like to see the starting offensive line at least have some sort of lineup intended for Week 1 so that chemistry can build sooner rather than later, but that doesn’t appear to be the case right now.
“It’s a competition. It’s going to continue to evolve each game, each practice,” head coach Zac Taylor told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I don’t even look at who’s going out there with the starters necessarily. We evaluate all their play inside. What’s the benefit for us going forward. I thought there were some good things we did in the run game. It’s not going to be easy against that front. That’s why it’s important to keep that drive going. We get some momentum and then get some runs on [Washington’s defensive front]. We had some opportunities in that run game, we just didn’t get enough of them.”
It currently seems that veteran guards Quinton Spain and Xavier Su’a-Filo have the edge in this competition as they started the last game against Washington. However, it is hard to say they walked away from that game leaving no doubt that their spots couldn’t be in jeopardy. Michael Jordan and Jackson Carman had good outings against Washington’s backups. D’Ante Smith didn’t even get a chance to play as he was dealing with a dehydration issue.
Competition is great for building a football team. Having guys constantly have to defend their starting spots keeps players from growing too comfortable. The flip side to that sword is if the plan is to rotate guys in and out from game to game that this line probably will have a harder time getting their chemistry down together. That isn’t to say it won’t work. That is just a risk when at best the offensive line is probably just above average with their best guys in.
It is hard to say at this point how the Bengals will approach their final preseason game. The first team offense has run roughly four drives together without Joe Burrow. They will have a bye before starting their 2021 campaign against the Vikings in Week 1, but Cincinnati and Taylor have remained fairly conservative on playing their starters in these games. It would be great to get the Week 1 offensive line unit a few drives together for Burrow’s sake at least. Health of the offensive line could also be weighed into that as well.
It seems the coaching staff is still looking for consistency from Carman. It is clear that staff wants Carman to earn this job, and we will probably see him earn that job at some point. He is still learning right guard after playing left tackle his entire college career.
Between guys like Su’a-Filo, Spain, Jordan, Carman and Smith the Bengals have a quality line to fill in between Jonah Williams, Trey Hopkins (who has been said to return Week 1 from his ACL injury) and Riley Reiff. It will be interesting to see how Cincinnati fills in their offensive line mad lib to protect Burrow with those names. At least they are looking for the best guys for the job.