Can the Bengals offensive line withstand the playoff punishment?
The Cincinnati Bengals Super Wild Card win over the Baltimore Ravens came at a heavy price, with left tackle Jonah Williams week to week.
Just one year after making it all the way to the Super Bowl, the key ingredient identified by the Cincinnati Bengals front office that was needed to get them over the hump was the offensive line.
Making big strides in that direction during the off season, Joe Burrow has had a season relatively free from the onslaught that he has faced ever since being drafted first overall in 2020.
But as the season wore on, that Bengals front five has taken a battering, with La’el Collins tearing his ACL and MCL on Christmas Eve, then losing Alex Cappa to an ankle injury that sees him getting around in a mobility scooter.
Now the Bengals have gone from the frying pan into the fire, with left tackle Jonah Williams dislocating his kneecap during Cincinnati’s 24-17 win over the Ravens on Sunday.
That leaves the front dangerously exposed and Joe Burrow in a perilous predicament.
When Williams went down in the second quarter, he was replaced by ex-Clemson tackle Jackson Carman. The problem was that the Bengals have spent a season trying to convert Carman into a guard.
The Bengals have been here before. When they made it to the Super Bowl last season, it was despite not having decent protection in front of Joe Burrow.
The incredible numbers that he puts up, week after week, are even more impressive when you take into account the fact that Burrow is the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL. And while he has been taken down 41 times this season, that is a considerable improvement on 2021, when he was corralled 51 times in the regular season. That total stretched to an eye-popping 77 through the playoffs and Super Bowl.
When asked how he would asses his battered offensive line, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor responded, “Fighting. I’d assess them as, they’re fighting and giving us a chance.”
While it looks as if the starting front for Cincy will be Cordell Volson, Ted Karras, Max Scharping, Hakeem Adeniji and Jackson Carman, the word is that Jonah Williams will be assessed week by week and we could see him suited up, ready to lend a hand.
As the Bengals will have to head up to Buffalo to face the Bills in the Divisional Round, they will need all the help they can get. Their pass rush would be tough to deal with, even if all of their line were healthy. Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tyler Boyd can make magic happen, but it all starts with at least some pass protection.
We may all be fretting, but Burrow doesn’t seem to be, his faith in his line unwavering. “Max Scharping stepped up today, Hakeem Adeniji stepped up today. Jackson Carman stepped up and got in there after Jonah went down.”
The magic that surrounds the Bengals may be enough to get them through, yet again. But my word, it would be nice if they didn’t make an already steep hill to climb even steeper.