The Cincinnati Bengals have a lot of young talent at the skill positions and made a number of moves on the offensive line last year. Still, they managed to make some nice additions to the offensive side of the ball in 2023, and one name stands out above the rest.
The Bengals’ disciplined approach to free agency paid off in a big way (pun intended) as not overpaying for early signings put them in a position to land the best offensive tackle in free agency, Orlando Brown Jr.
Let’s take a look at what Brown brings to the Bengals’ offensive line.
Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat is extremely fast and playing a wide technique. This tends to make life hard for an offensive tackle, but it’s no problem for Brown on this play.
Brown shows quick feet as he gets wide and cuts off Sweat’s path to the quarterback. Sweat is able to swat Brown’s hands away and starts to push the pocket, but Brown anchor’s down and stops Sweat’s progress.
The Bengals have been susceptible to the power rush in recent years, but with Brown in town, that will no longer be a problem on the left side.
Brown will provide excellent protection for Joe Burrow, but he will also open up a lot of holes for Joe Mixon.
In this clip, he gets some serious push on the down block against none other than Javon Hargrave (97). The Chiefs run the ball right behind him for a nice gain.
Despite what the Chiefs’ “fans” who have instantly turned on him will tell you, Brown is a phenomenal talent. I honestly didn’t think he would be very good in Kansas City, thinking that the Ravens' offense was just a perfect fit for him. He proved me wrong. His talent transcends scheme, as he showed by having equal success in two very different systems.
Brown isn’t the only former Oklahoma tackle who the Bengals signed this offseason. Cody Ford also joins the club in 2023. Ford was a second-round pick in 2019 who just hasn’t quite found his footing in the NFL yet, but the talent is there. Let’s take a closer look.
Cody Ford just manhandling a 305 pounder with one arm on his first snap as a Cardinal pic.twitter.com/evH0xHdPPI— Mac (@azsportsfien) August 27, 2022
Ford is the left guard on this play, wearing number 72 for the Cardinals. It is a zone run. Ford gives a hand to the defensive tackle but is looking to work up to the second level. The center should be taking over the blocker, but he never gets there. Feeling this, Ford comes back, and pancakes the defender, allowing the running back to pick up a positive gain.
This is a really good example of the kind of physical blocker Ford can be.
Eyes on the RT— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) March 12, 2019
Cody Ford is an elite finisher. His attitude, sense of urgency, and physicality all bring a special presence to the field. Just a few examples: pic.twitter.com/bS1Vbchidn
Yes, I realize that looking at Ford’s college tape is taking a pretty long trip in the way-back-machine, but watch these clips and tell me you don’t see the kind of player the Bengals are looking for.
Ford does not have an off switch. He goes full speed throughout every play.
He has the potential to earn a starting role, but even if he doesn’t, his tackle/guard versatility makes him a valuable depth player, who is sure to play meaningful snaps at some point in the season.
While the importance of the Brown signing is obvious, the Ford signing could play a major role in the team’s success this season.
Irv Smith Jr.
I don’t know if I saw a Bengals’ mock draft this year that didn’t have them taking a tight end, and yet as the 2023 draft closed, they had not selected a tight end.
This after losing 2022 starter Hayden Hurst in free agency. Fortunately, they added Irv Smith Jr. on a one-year deal. Tight ends have faired pretty well playing with Joe Burrow in recent years, so how will Smith perform in 2023?
My favorite part about Irv Smith Jr. so far is how much he over-exaggerates his plants at the top of the route. Helps a lot with separating vs. man coverage. pic.twitter.com/fGzvUSDHPK— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) October 23, 2019
As you can see from these two clips. Smith is an excellent route-runner. He’s not just a big-bodied mismatch in coverage. He has the quickness to get open on mid-range routes and turn it up field for a big gain.
Lining up Irv Smith inline (6'2", 240 lbs) next to Orlando Brown Jr (6'8", 340lbs) feels like a great way to run the football in the RZ. pic.twitter.com/JD0wprHVYj— Andrew Russell (@Andrew_Russell7) March 28, 2023
Smith is also wildly underrated as a blocker. He may not be 264 pounds, but he will fight you.
This clip is an excellent example. Smith (84) is lined up on the left side of the line of scrimmage. He and the left tackle should be combo-blocking the end man on the line of scrimmage (55) to the de facto linebacker (39). The offensive tackle takes his sweet time getting there and is never really in a good body position. Smith essentially blocks both players on this touchdown run.
Smith is an excellent player who fits the mold that the Bengals look for in tight ends. He is an athletic pass catcher and a gritty blocker. His problem has been staying healthy. Zac Taylor is excellent with load management, so hopefully, Smith can stay healthy this offseason.
Fans asked for an upgrade to the backup quarterback position, and they got it this year with Trevor Siemian.
In this clip, Siemian ducks underneath the pass rush, but keeps his eyes downfield zipping the ball in for a touchdown.
Siemian has played a lot of football and had some nice moments. He has started 30 games in his career and was the primary starter for the Denver Broncos for two seasons. Prior to starting for the Broncos, Siemian was Peyton Manning’s backup. Siemian, Manning, and Bengals’ offensive coordinator Brian Callahan won a Super Bowl together that season.
While this is a clear upgrade at the backup position, it is impossible to have a backup who won’t be a massive dropoff from Burrow, so let’s hope we only see Siemian on the sideline holding a clipboard and wearing one of Ted Karras’s hats.
The Bengals didn’t spend an exorbitant amount of money, but they made some nice additions on offense this offseason. It will be exciting to see what Brown, Ford and Smith can bring to this offense. As for Siemian, let’s hope we only see him take a knee.