Bengals considering all options to improve struggling offensive line

Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow (9) is tackled by Philadelphia Eagles' Josh Sweat (94) during the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he was not ready to make a decision on what to do at right guard but the staff will be considering all options.

The Bengals have not been satisfied with tackle Fred Johnson or center/guard Billy Price filling in for Xavier Su’a-Filo, a free agent newcomer this year who suffered an ankle injury in Week 1. Rookie Hakeem Adenji has played limited snaps in different roles and could be one option, and on Monday afternoon, the Bengals signed second-year guard Keaton Sutherland from the practice squad and waived Shaq Calhoun.

Alex Redmond also is on the practice squad and could be considered, Taylor said, and the Bengals are at the top of the waiver wire if they decide to look outside the organization for help. Su’a-Filo is expected to be out at least a couple more games.

“That’s a Wednesday decision,” Taylor said Monday. “Not quite ready yet. We’ll keep thinking through it. Sometimes things aren’t as good as you thought when you watch the tape and things aren’t as bad as you thought when you watch the tape. Certainly, there are some things we’ve got to clean up and we’re not quite ready on Monday to make that declaration.”

The offensive line needs improvement as a whole, but right guard is the most obvious issue because the Bengals pulled Johnson midway through Sunday’s game after giving him a second start, and then Price came in and had a holding penalty and false start at important times in the game. His false start came at the Eagles' 4-yard line on a last drive that ended in a field goal, and the hold came in overtime before the Bengals punted one of their possessions.

Taylor said the offensive line only was responsible for four of the eight sacks that Joe Burrow took Sunday, as the receivers and tight ends also were involved in missed blocks or assignments, but the linemen have made some “mental errors that are unacceptable” and there are some details that could help the running game get going better.

“We’ve got to continue to improve up there,” Taylor said. “We’ve got two guys on the left side up there have played probably a combined 10 games in their NFL career and we’re only going to get better. Those guys are accountable to what they can improve on. It’s never as bad as you think it is, and there’s some things that we’re improving on and we’ll continue to improve on as the season goes.”

Left tackle Jonah Williams missed his entire rookie season last year, and left guard Michael Jordan was benched midway through his rookie campaign in 2019 before winning his spot back. Center Trey Hopkins has been the most consistent player, but Taylor noted that right tackle Bobby Hart’s play has been impacted by the constant changes beside him even dating back to last year.

Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said it is concerning how many times Burrow has gotten hit, though. The Eagles had 18 quarterback hits on him, and he’s been sacked a league-worst 14 times in three games. Cincinnati is trying to find ways to help him besides just blaming the offensive line – and some of it falls on Burrow, too.

“The play is never over for him,” Callahan said. "He does everything he can to keep it alive and some times that leads to hits and sacks, and I don’t think we’re ever going to take that away from him because I think you saw ultimately what that can do when you can get out and break contain and make plays downfield, so, there’s things we can do.

“You can’t help every lineman every play. You do chip from the perimeter. We do plenty screens to varying degrees of success thus far. …We try to do all the things like that where we can move the launch point, move the setup point. We bring guys in to protect. We send all the guys out, let him get the ball out of his hands. There’s been a lot of things we try to do to help him take less hits. And some of those are on him.”

In terms of finding better options up front, Callahan said there’s no calvary coming in to solve the problem. It’s unlikely a Pro Bowl guard will become available in Week 4, so the Bengals are looking at everyone on deck.

Sutherland, a college free agent signee last year, was on the practice squad to start the 2019 season, but Miami signed him and he played three games there with two starts. The Dolphins waived him with final roster cuts, and the Bengals signed him to their practice squad Sept. 8. Now he will get a look on the active roster.

Adenji also is a “realistic” option, Callahan and Taylor said.

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