The Cincinnati Bengals Can Return to the Super Bowl Next Season... If They Overhaul the Offensive Line

The Cincinnati Bengals Can Return to the Super Bowl Next Season... If They Overhaul the Offensive Line

Willie Lutz
2 years ago
3 min read
Joe Burrow gets a pass away after being pressured by Aaron Donald late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LVI, this would be incomplete, clinching the Super Bowl for the Rams.

Joe Burrow’s throw on 4th-and-1 from the Los Angeles Rams’ 49 yard line bounced off of Samaje Perine’s hands and fell harmlessly to the turf. Ja’Marr Chase, who was streaking to the end zone after cooking Jalen Ramsey, was never an option for the pressure-smothered Burrow. Tyler Boyd fell to the ground on the sideline. The Rams had 39 seconds and a kneel down separating them from Super Bowl immortality. 

That’s how thin the margins are in the NFL… or perhaps how thin the lines are between winning and losing. On Sunday, that thin line was the group protecting Burrow as opposed to the one protecting Matthew Stafford. 

The sacks didn’t come early for the Bengals offense, but once the Rams got rolling, they came in buckets. In the loss, Burrow absorbed seven sacks. Six of those sacks came in the second half. Frankly, it’s hard to discount what Rams defensive coordinator Rahem Morris opened up in the second half; a bag of stunts and line moves that threw the Cincinnati offensive line into a state of disarray. 

However, none of that matters anymore and the Bengals can’t adjust to that now, considering they’re back in Cincinnati licking their wounds after a heartbreaking loss. 

With that all said, there’s no reason the Bengals can’t be back in the exact same spot in 2023, only this time, as the ones standing on the podium hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. 

What needs to improve? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s their horrendous offensive line. Let’s take a glance at the state of each of the five positions. 

Left Tackle

 For the first time in his three-year career, Jonah Williams started every game at left tackle (minus the Week 18 restathon in Cleveland). With that said, he leaves something to be desired. Williams earned a 69.5 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, which ranked 44th out of 88 eligible tackles. Do the Bengals really want to have their star quarterback’s blindside protected by a middle-of-the-pack starting tackle? That’s a fair question, although Williams is still 24-years-old and showing strides each season. 

Left Guard

This will be interesting for the Bengals in the off-season. Sure, they’ve gotten solid play from veteran Quinton Spain… but it could certainly be a better position for this team. This is a glaring spot for upgrade, even though Spain became a fan favorite this season. 


Trey Hopkins was their guy and has been a staple of the Bengals locker room for half a decade. Is he serviceable? Yes. Can the Bengals do better? Absolutely. 

Right Guard

 Ehem. Well, where to start? Calling this position a dumpster fire might be an insult to ignited trash containers around the world. Xavier Su’a-Filo was the first “solution”, but that floundered quickly. Then, the 2021 second-round pick Jackson Carman proved to be way too inexperienced to hold his own. Finally, the team settled on second-year swing-blocker Hakeem Adeniji at the position, only for him to give up six sacks and 32 pressures in 12 games.

Right Tackle

This was actually a fine position for most of the season, but when Riley Reiff went out late in the season, Isaiah Prince proved to be an uninspiring backup. 


Well, the Bengals should try to get better at every position on the line. Look no further than the Kansas City Chiefs, who had a similar nightmarish day from their front five in last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Now, it’s probably not realistic to expect a money-conscious Cincinnati Bengals team to upgrade everywhere… but multiple upgrades are needed. This team is too talented to sink from line play. This organization has invested too much in Joe Burrow to allow him to play Frogger against opposing defenses. 

Obviously, there will be a time to put names and faces to these upgrades; there’s a whole lot of off-season for that content. For now, it’s a time to reflect on two separate concepts: 1) the Bengals had a massively successful season 2) their line play has been bad for six straight seasons. 

Certainly, Bengals’ Director of Player Personnel (and de facto GM) Duke Tobin is living with that reality. This spring and summer, it’s up to him and his front office team to find the right solutions. 

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