If the Cincinnati Bengals want to advance to the AFC Championship game for a second-straight season, they are going to need their offensive line to hold up against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, despite being down three starters.
At right guard, Max Scharping started in place of Alex Cappa, who was out with an ankle injury in the Bengals’ Wild Card win against the Ravens.
The 26-year-old is a former second-round draft pick of the Houston Texans and was picked up off waivers by the Bengals just before the start of the regular season. He played only 23 snaps this season before starting last Sunday.
At right tackle, Hakeem Adeniji, who started for the Bengals during last season’s postseason run, is now the starter with La’el Collins out for the year with a torn ACL.
“That’s really no different than game to game in terms of matchups and who is across from us. You don’t feel any different about it because that’s something you’re always taking into account,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said of Scharping and Adeniji per Bengals.com. “Anytime we’re calling a play on a hash or preparing for a guy that’s an interior guy or an exterior guy, we always try to factor that into to give our guys the best opportunity.
“And finding help where we can when it makes sense sometimes it’s more beneficial to get four to five guys out on the route instead of helping. That’s part of what we got to deal with starting today and formulating those plans.”
Starting left tackle Jonah Williams is likely out after suffering a dislocated kneecap against the Ravens. If he cannot go Sunday, it’s very likely rookie second-round pick Jackson Carman will start in his place.
“(Carman) has been working at tackle over the course of the season. Frank [Pollack] does a good job of repping all of those guys trying to get them all ready,” Taylor said. “You can never predict which side you’re going to be on and that’s just part of life being a backup offensive lineman. And so he’s done a good job of embracing that and being ready for his opportunity.
“I thought he did a nice job. Especially being thrust into there. He’s got to practice both sides during the week. He’s practiced a lot of guard this year as well. So I thought given the opportunity he had against a tough defensive line, I thought he handled it really well.”
The Bengals’ offensive line depth will be tested by a Buffalo pass rush that ranked 15th in the NFL during the regular season, logging 40 sacks and finishing with the league’s fourth-best run defense.
Against the Dolphins last week, the Bills’ stingy front held Miami to just 42 rushing yards, an average of 2.1 yards per carry, and got to quarterback Skylar Thompson for four sacks.