The Cincinnati Bengals offensive line is officially going through a slump, in my book.
After handing them sub 70 grades in four of the last five games (not including Tampa, which I’d expect also falls in that range), I’ve been hoping to see them bounce back, and they have not.
The unit struggled last week against a formidable pass rush, but surprisingly also struggled against a weaker interior defensive line. This week against Tampa Bay, we saw much of the same. La’el Collins seems to be regressing at this point and struggles with most outside pressure.
It also doesn’t help that his neighbor, Alex Cappa, seems to be going through his own issues. He is having a hard time handling both speed and power in pass protection.
The Bengals were only able to muster 45 yards out of 18 (non-QB) rushing attempts. While I’m sure there will be a conversation had about Perine’s 3.4 yards per carry vs Mixon’s 1.9, it’s hard to get any production in the run game when there isn’t anywhere to go.
It looked like the backs were running into clogged lanes when they weren’t getting hit in the backfield. Run blocking has been an issue with the front five all season, but I expected more against a Bucs interior that was missing Vita Vea.
Burrow was sacked twice (not including the massive 26 yard sack that was negated by a defensive penalty) on Sunday. While he only went down a couple of times, credit has to be given to Burrow’s ability to get the ball out quick. He had the fastest time to throw of the Week 15 with an average of 2.3 seconds (per Next Gen Stats).
Getting back to the quick game (and sticking with it) has been an obvious improvement for this offense and takes a significant amount of pressure off of the front five. Once again, not a week to write home about, but not a terrible week of protection for this unit.
Rough rep from Collins and Volson gets beat late, BUT Burrow has room to move/escape… pic.twitter.com/FhMGC898Iu— Parker Blake (@ParkerBlake60) December 19, 2022
My biggest questions/concerns about the Bengals’ run game against Tampa Bay aren’t even focused on the offensive line. I am curious about why the game plan was to attack the outside edges of the Bucs’ defense, especially with Vea inactive. The runs inside looked much more effective, not to mention that’s the area of the run game that has proven to be better with this offensive line.
I’m glad they’re back to running a decent amount of RPOs in order to take some heat off of Burrow and take advantage of easy opportunities. Overall, I’m still optimistic about this Bengals rushing attack, but keep it in between the tackles...
THE RUNNING LANE pic.twitter.com/toOklDQzoW— Parker Blake (@ParkerBlake60) December 19, 2022
Overall, not an impressive game from the offensive line. However, this team is winning through adversity with mediocre line play. I’m excited to see what can happen when this unit gets back in a groove like they were through the middle of the season.
It’s good to be at a point where I can be let down by this group, as weird as it sounds. The first sign of a raised expectation is disappointment. A year ago, this would’ve been a more than impressive performance from the Bengals’ OL.
Make sure to check out my full broadcast rewatch thread on Twitter for more clips and breakdowns vs the Bucs!