It’s widely known that a young or inexperienced quarterback has two best friends: a good running game and a tight end.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning made the first start of his NFL career against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon in Paycor Stadium, and the offense supported him with a running game that yielded a success rate of zero percent.
“That’s life vs. Pittsburgh,” Taylor said after the game. “And you know that’s going to happen. It’s going to be tough sledding when you’re running the ball, we need to get more production out of that. It takes the pressure off the passing game; that’s what they rely on.
“We gotta do a better job just managing the drives as we go and put ourselves in a little bit more advantageous situations. Obviously, if you can put yourself in a situation where you’d call more runs, you’re not in a second-and-10, second-and-long or longer, you get more runs off, and eventually some of those runs start to get you to your gains. And we didn’t get enough to get those runs off.”
Over the last two offseasons, the Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr., Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’el Collins (who was released earlier this year) in free agency, drafted Cordell Volson, and moved Jonah Williams from left tackle to right. And those are just the guys who were starting. They signed and drafted others too.
According to Spotrac, the Bengals spent $44.6 million on their offensive line in 2023, which was the sixth most in the NFL this season.
I mention the line because Taylor went out of his way to take any blame off running back Joe Mixon’s shoulders.
“This has nothing to do with Joe Mixon,” he said. “This is the entirety of the unit coming together. So don’t make this about one person. It’s not like there were missed opportunities there from what I can see, he continues to run hard, and he’s giving us what we needed this season.”
I think it’s fair to go out on a limb and say that it has at least a little to do something with Mixon. While I appreciate what he’s done for the franchise, he looked like he was running through sand with boots on Sunday, and the offensive line didn’t help.
Taylor is wrong about one thing, though. This is about just one person.
And that person is Taylor.
Hopefully, he can figure out how to move the ball on the ground to help Browning out for the rest of the season. If they don’t want to do it for Browning, at least do it for Burrow, because he’ll be back next year, and it would be nice to have a functioning offense surrounding him.