These past few weeks, the consensus suggests that Bengals fans have been given plenty to smile about in 2011.
While instant success might not be on the cards, a changing of the guard so to speak gives hope for the future.
While there is significant enthusiasm in Cincinnati following the drafting of Dalton and Green with hopes pinned on them being the saviors of Cincinnati, others (myself included) have been quick to say that neither will be able to bring victories without Cedric Benson to carry some of the weight.
It's important to remember however that all of these players mean 'diddly-poo' (to quote Jim Mora Sr.) without an offensive line to give them time to work, and despite taking Clint Boling in the fourth round, serious questions remain about this group of guys.
The Bengals were eighth overall during the regular season in sacks given up with 28, which isn't particularly bad, but they charted a more apt 16th overall in QB Hits taken with 73. Now, I'm sure most would agree that the sack count deserved to be higher and the relatively low amount of sacks given up in comparison to the rest of the league is not a true reflection of their performance.
One only has to look at Carson Palmer's equal career high interceptions in 2010 to understand why the sack count might be so low. Palmer spent a lot of time in 2010 throwing desperation passes under pressure after the offensive line gave out, unsurprisingly leading to an increase in pick's. I have to admit I was shocked to see that we were only eighth in sack's given up; now I understand why that statistic doesn't tell the real story.
Never during the 2010 season do I recall seeing Carson Palmer with ample time in the pocket to throw the ball, and so Palmer's interceptions are as much a poor reflection on the offense as they are of Palmer.
This leads us to today, and not much has changed. The Bengals addressed what they perceived were bigger needs in the draft, and after hearing that the Falcons dangled their Cleveland deal in front of the Bengals, I really wish they had taken it, but alas we can't turn back the clock.
The Bengals waited until the fourth round and the 101st pick to take Guard Clint Boling of Georgia, a man who ESPN's Scouts Inc had as their 50th best player overall, quite the steal in the fourth round. While I was happy with this pick and I fully expect Boling to compete for a starting job it by no means solves the Bengals problems.
With little talent on the free-agent market, the Bengals will be putting all of their faith in someone stepping up, not the most promising of situations considering the vast majority of players that failed to do so last year.
Let's break down the issues:
- Andre Smith is recovering from his second straight offseason foot surgery, add the lockout to that equation and we can assume he's not going to be bursting out of the gate when things get going. While you're at it, don't forget his lackluster numbers in 2010, giving up three sacks, three QB hits and 14 QB pressures.
- Anthony Collins' failure to get in the starting line-up despite having better numbers than Andre Smith AND his replacement Dennis Roland. In the nine games, Collins has started the past two years, the Bengals have rushed for an average of 110 yards and are 7'2" Geoff Hobson (Bengals.com)
- Nate Livings, in general. Here's hoping that Clint Boling's versatility lands him that spot, as the only other option is Otis Hudson who has done so very little that even pro-football-reference.com can't give me any stats on him!
- Bobbie Williams is 34 now and reaching the twilight of his career.
- Andrew Whitworth is the only sure-thing on the offensive line.
It's a shame that despite better overall play, Anthony Collins has little chance of replacing Andre Smith in the line-up, due to the Bengals heavy investment in Smith and because Bengals management don't want another embarrassing bust to their name.
With an aging Bobbie Williams, an Andre Smith that has failed miserably thus far to do anything to justify his first round status and a lot riding on Clint Boling to start right away, the Bengals offensive line is one issue that will not be going away any time soon.
With a lack of talent on the free-agent market, it could be another year before the rickety-bridge becomes more sturdy and I wish Andy Dalton the best of luck!