The Cincinnati Bengals Need to Fix Joe Burrow’s Sack Issue ASAP
The Cincinnati Bengals’ primary point of focus this offseason was improving the offensive line to better protect Joe Burrow. That lack of protection ultimately prevented them from lifting the Lombardi Trophy back in February.
So, the Bengals signed multiple veteran linemen with credible resumes that, on paper, should blend together well to form one of the best units in the league.
Cincinnati expected change, but it’s more of the same. We’re two games into the 2022 season, and the same issues exist. That’s undeniably bad news for the Bengals.
Joe Burrow deserves as much blame for the sacks as the offensive line
Joe Burrow is, yet again, leading the NFL in sacks taken. He was sacked 70 times across the regular season and playoffs in 2021 and has already been taken down a league-high 13 times through two games this season. The blame for this should be equally split between Burrow and the offensive line.
Consider a sack highlighted by Matt Minch on Twitter. The play in question happens right before halftime when the Bengals really could’ve used a score against the Dallas Cowboys. By the time Burrow gets to the end of his drop, each offensive lineman is at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage, leaving him no room to make a throw. This play ends similarly to the Bengals’ final play in the Super Bowl, where, by the time Ja’Marr Chase gets open downfield, Burrow is getting swarmed.
It’s apparent that the protection needs to be better, but so does Burrow’s pocket presence. He invites more pressure by stepping into a congested area, and he’s not nimble enough to scramble out of it like Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen. It’s possible that his history of absorbing so many sacks is causing him to tense up, but the signal-caller has to learn to trust his lineman up front.
While this is just one example, it perfectly depicts all the issues with the Bengals’ pass protection: the offensive line is getting pushed back too far, and Burrow tries to evade or step up in the pocket, resulting in more pressure before ultimately being taken down for a loss.
It’d be easy to point the finger toward the offensive line since they’re the ones that are supposed to be protecting Burrow, but the front office massively overhauled the unit this offseason.
Left tackle Jonah Williams is the only remaining piece up front from the offensive line a year ago. The Bengals signed Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’El Collins. Cincinnati also drafted Cordell Volson in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Despite all the upgrades, Burrow is still being pressured on 24.5% of his dropbacks. The Bengals have faced off against two of the best pass-rush units in the league the first two weeks, but there’s still no excuse for him to be taken down at least six times in both games.
It’s now or never to fix this issue. All the pieces are there, and it’s time to put them together.
Cincinnati’s offense must be more efficient in the first half and avoid falling behind
Burrow and the Bengals opened the season with a pick-six against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. After a 59-yard field goal, the ensuing drives went like this: fumble, interception, interception, field goal. Cincinnati trailed 17-6 at halftime.
The Cowboys game was just as bad. After a field goal to start the game, Cincinnati punted three straight times and fell behind by two touchdowns through two quarters of play.
In two games, the Bengals have trailed by double digits at halftime twice. They’ve allowed 34 points while only scoring nine, which is bizarre given the talent level at the Bengals’ skill positions. They have two 1,000-yard receivers in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, while also boasting a 1,000-yard rusher in Joe Mixon.
On the bright side, the Bengals have been this close to winning, as both losses have come on the final play of the game, with the opposition kicking a last-second field goal. But it would have never come to this if the Bengals offense could be more efficient right out of the gates.
In any other year, Cincinnati starting 0-2 wouldn’t bat an eye, but they went to the Super Bowl last season. Now, there’s a massive target on their back because of it, and every other team has the Bengals circled on the calendar.
Cincinnati has two games in five days coming up. They face off against the New York Jets in the Meadowlands on Sunday. And although the Jets have struggled the past few years, they’re coming off a 13-point, come-from-behind victory against the Cleveland Browns. The Jets also defeated the Bengals the last time these two met, 34-31.
Then, they face off against the blazing hot Miami Dolphins, who currently boast one of the deadliest offensive attacks in the NFL.
The Jets game may not reach make-or-break territory just yet, but the matchup against the Dolphins certainly will be. If the Bengals can’t find a way to keep Joe Burrow on his feet, things will only get uglier.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference