The Cincinnati Bengals came close to winning the first title in franchise history last season. There were lessons to be learned from their 23-20 loss in Super Bowl LVI, first among them was the need to protect quarterback Joe Burrow. It looks like the Bengals have finally decided to do just that.
Burrow was sacked an insane 70 times last season if you include the playoffs. That was more than anyone in the NFL by a country mile -- Ryan Tannehill was next with 48. Burrow was sacked seven times in the Super Bowl alone, and was hurried constantly. The Bengals never really gave him a chance.
So far this offseason, Cincinnati has worked hard to address its biggest weakness. The Bengals signed New England Patriots center/guard Ted Karras and Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Alex Cappa, and on Sunday they added Dallas Cowboys tackle La'el Collins. That would represent a complete overhaul of one of the league's worst offensive lines.
The right side of Cincy's line was a disaster in 2021. According to Pro Football Focus' grades, Jackson Carman (56.3), Isaiah Prince (58.0), Hakeem Adeniji (48.3) were all awful, while center Trey Hopkins also received an abysmal rating of 51.4. Cappa (74.2), Karras (72.8) and Collins (82.0) were all really good in 2021, and should be huge improvements.
Burrow was phenomenal in 2021 while under near constant pressure. Despite sitting out the final week of the season, he finished sixth in the NFL in passing yards (4,611), first in completion percentage (70.4), first in yards per attempt (8.9) and second in passer rating (108.3), while throwing for 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and posting a QBR of 54.3. Imagine what he could have done with even an average offensive line.
The Bengals have gotten much better over the past few weeks and they're coming off winning the AFC. That's a scary thought for the rest of the conference. An upright and comfortable Burrow throwing to Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and the newly-acquired Hayden Hurst? Watch out.
It took two years, but the Bengals have finally decided to protect the guy they're building their franchise around. Better late than never.