If you're active-ish on Bengals Twitter or Bengals Facebook, you know there has been a lot of offensive line hate. The most common narrative I see is that the Bengals clearly didn't do enough to address the line and spent all that money for nothing, followed closely by the idea that the Bengals should have played the line in the preseason.
I'm here to dispel any fears and point to good looks we can continue forward.
O-Line PFF Grades
Here's how our boys in the trenches did
Player PFF Rating/Pressures(Sacks)/True Pass PFF Rating/TPS Pressures(Sacks)
Williams 63.6/ 7(2) / 76.1/ 3(2)
Volson 44.3 / 7(2) / 74.2/ 2(0)
Karras 76.5/ 0(0) / 76.5 / 0(0)
Cappa 72.7/ 3(0) / 78.0 / 2(0)
Collins 57.7/ 10) / 49.3 / 1(0)
For those who are unfamiliar with PFF, a "True Pass Set" is:
- Without Play Action
- Without a screen
- Without a rollouts
- Time to Throw between 2 and 4 seconds
- More than a 3 man rush
Usually what this means is a bad offensive line will have a lower score in TPS than regular grades. PA, screens and rollouts are all concepts of beating a pass rush when your line is losing in the trenches. What's weird about this game is that our line performed a lot better outside of those situations than in them.
This should give you hope, a "True Pass Set" is the bread and butter of a Zac Taylor offense. This offense is built around Burrow looking at what the defense has, going through his reads, then making the best choice around the 2-3 second mark.
Our Line in Comparison
Of the games played until now (so excepting Broncos/Seahawks) our line was rated 17th in pass blocking at a 69.4. Directly above is are the Chargers at 71.0 and below us are the Colts at 64.7. Both teams are known for having a well-constructed offensive line.
Let's say we had the ability to transport the results of this game into last season's regular season and post-season. We know what the line was there, how did this performance compare? Of the 21 total games that were played that counted, this game would rate Fourth in terms of overall offense performance.
- @ Denver Broncos - 73.5
- Jacksonville Jaguars - 71.9
- @ Las Vegas Raiders - 70.8
- Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 - 69.4
This is a team that consists of 4 entirely new starters. One rookie whose biggest game prior to the NFL was North Dakota State against South Dakota State, Ted Karras, A RT coming off a season filled with injury who played in 11-11s at practice for two weeks, and a man with great hair. Despite all these things, they had the 4th best Bengals performance since our team was reported on outside of Cincinnati again.
Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. This team is only going to get better as they get more live snaps together, and this is one of the best defensive lines in football. Think about Cordell Volson, he went from lining up against Aaron Donald in practice last week to lining up against Cam Heyward this week. His baptism by fire has had mistakes, but he has already shown more promise than Carman has since he got here.
The Line was not the Reason why Joe Burrow did Poorly
I love Joe Burrow. I have no doubt that this game was a fluke and a result of limited camp time due to surgery, as well as knocking off the off-season rust. That said, let's dive into some stats revolving around the most important position.
Kept Clean 43 Att, 29 Completions 291 Passing Yards, 1 TD and 3 picks Rating of 65.9
Under Pressure 10 Attg, 4 completions, 47 passing yards, 1 TD 1 int Rating of 29.8
Burrow really struggled under pressure today; most people would say that is the entire purpose of pressure. However his biggest mistakes (the interceptions) came when he was not under pressure. The opening pick 6 was a bad read on his half and a great baiting play by All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick. The second interception had the ball behind Tyler Boyd, just a bad throw. The third interception was TJ Watt just being TJ Watt. None of these throws were made under pressure. All of them were Burrow making a poor choice based off what he saw, or making a poor throw. Additionally, Burrow was sacked a total of 7 times, but only 4 were credited to the line, 3 of them were the results of Joe Burrow either holding the ball too long or getting himself into a bad situation.
Playing Joe Burrow/the Offensive Line in the Preseason this Season would not have Helped
Another common thing I see tossed around today is that the Bengals OL should have taken some snaps in the preseason to get used to each other. My question for that is: why? Let's go lineman by lineman.
Collins - Was hurt most of camp, only played two weeks in 11/11s. Would not have been ready to go for a preseason game. Additional risk of potentially aggravating his injury.
Cappa - Played perfectly fine that game - 21st OG and no real issues
Karras - Played outstandingly - 5th rated pass blocking center so far.
Volson - Did play 2/3 of the preseason games. That's how he won the job.
Williams - Could have done better for sure, but I don't see a reason why one tackle needs to take preseason snaps if he's already the starter. The risk from injury is not worth it.
You can argue that Jonah Williams could use more experience, but if he went out there in preseason game 3 and broke an ankle and missed this game, everyone would be hailing it as a horrible decision. Ultimately, I agree with the decision to not send the line out for preseason snaps.
Joe Burrow - Joe Burrow had surgery and was entering practice around Game 3 underweight. Asking him to go out in those conditions just to see what the Rams 3rd string defense looks like is not only the wrong choice, it's frankly dangerous for him in that condition. Similar to Williams, if Joe Burrow goes out there against practice squad corners and gets a Zach Wilson level injury, it's utter pandemonium here in Cincinnati. Yesterday he was rusty, I get that, but it was bound to happen anyway. He'll bounce back. He'll be better.
I guarantee if you ask anyone on that offensive line how they felt about the game, they'll tell you they could have done better. There is no doubt that mistakes were made. However, acting like this line is going to be the same as it was last year is an exaggeration. This line is markedly improved, and you can see that in how they played in this game compared to our other games. Joe Burrow is a stubborn, physical quarterback. On plays, he's going to do everything he can to buy time until the last second possible to make something happen. This means he's going to go out and probably get hit a lot. It's scary for us, but it's how he plays the game. If you watch the film, you'll see that the issue a lot of the time wasn't the offensive line getting cheesed, but Burrow holding the ball too long or trying to make something happen that wasn't there. These kinks will get ironed out as the season goes on and are by no means a cause for alarm.