2022 Bengals: Glendale or Bust?

Rudy's Curve

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By more popular demand than I ever would've anticipated, the Bengals thread is back - although given their success this year without one maybe I shouldn't do this. Zac Taylor was just signed to an extension through 2026. His play calling can be maddening at times (he ran when he should've thrown in OT against the 49ers and threw when he should've run in the second half Sunday), but he's completely changed the culture in the locker room while convincing ownership to spend in free agency and finally has the results to show for it. No other team would've hired him or kept him around after 6-25-1 (and I certainly wanted him gone), but the Bengals' trademark patience has been rewarded.

After an up-and-down rookie season that ended with him writhing in pain, Joe Burrow lived up to his status as a #1 overall pick, leading the league in completion percentage and yards per attempt with a completely repaired left knee. He was able to make a ton of plays off-script (and god knows he had to with this OL) and the knee looks to be completely fine now. He sprained his MCL in his other knee Sunday, but there's plenty of time to rehab that. Of course, it certainly helps to have Ja'Marr Chase as the two picked up right where they left off at LSU. After some overblown issues in camp and the preseason with trouble catching the ball, he set the league on fire and put up the best rookie receiving season since Randy Moss in 1998. I'm pretty sure they made the right choice regarding him vs. Penei Sewell. Tee Higgins had an inconsistent first half of the year as he battled a shoulder injury which caused him to miss two games, but came on bigtime down the stretch (55-954-6 in his last 10 games including playoffs and catching a nice 69% of his targets in that span) and was a top-five receiver by DYAR while Tyler Boyd was as reliable as ever in the slot despite taking a back seat to Chase and Higgins. All four are under contract through at least 2023 and Boyd is the oldest one at 28. It goes without saying, but this is going to be an elite passing attack for years. TE CJ Uzomah had his best season coming off a torn Achilles and heads to free agency at 29. I'm skeptical of giving almost anyone a big third contract (Geno Atkins' and Carlos Dunlap's third deals were disasters and they were much better players) but given he's an unquestioned locker room leader, I'd be fine with a two-year deal.

As anyone who watched this team for a second could figure out, the giant elephant in the room is the offensive line. A year after Burrow's season ended prematurely from bad protection, he took another 70 sacks in 20 games. Given that they led more often than not and weren't playing catch-up all the time, that's really hard to do. I was really hoping the coaching switch from Jim Turner (probably the worst position coach in the league) to Frank Pollack would pay huge dividends and it did to some extent in the run game, but protection remains a glaring issue. It's incredible a franchise that developed four very good to great tackles in 15 years (Willie Anderson, Levi Jones, Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith) has had such a tough time finding them the last few years. 2019 first-round LT Jonah Williams had a decent season, but his limited athleticism caps his ceiling and I could see a move to G/RT if they find a starting LT at #31, which is quite possible given the plethora of options that should be available. LG Quinton Spain was also solid, although he'll be 31 by next season and a repeat performance may be unlikely. After that is where it starts to get ugly. C Trey Hopkins is quite the success story having made 67 starts and getting a nice extension after going undrafted and proving himself as an above-average player, but he tore his ACL the last game of last season and looked terrible this year. Given he'll be 30 by camp, he's a pretty clear cut candidate. The RG position was even worse, as neither 2020 sixth-rounder Hakeem Adeniji (predictably) nor 2021 second-rounder Jackson Carman (highly disappointingly) could handle the spot. Carman was a five-star recruit who started two years at LT for Clemson, but came in with maturity issues which manifested themselves as he showed up to camp out of shape and never got on track. He's also from the area, so going back home might've been the last thing he needed. They're stuck with him though and need to hope he can learn from his struggles and a full NFL offseason can help him get back to the player he was in college. Given they'll likely need four new starters, it would really be nice if he could be one of them and play up to his potential. RT Riley Reiff did a decent job but was lost for the season late in the year with an ankle injury. Replacement Isaiah Prince was, well, Isaiah Prince. I could see them bringing Reiff back on another one-year deal, but the injury and his age (33) means they should definitely also be looking for an upgrade. Given they've really started spending in free agency the last two years, they need to bring in at least one quality starter (Brandon Scherff?) through there and probably two.

After three absolutely horrendous years, the first under Marvin Lewis and the last two under Taylor, the defense was finally a respectable unit again as their big spending sprees from the last two offseasons paid off in spades. I questioned the Trey Hendrickson signing as it seemed he just had a big contract year on a team always playing with the lead and wanted them to bring Carl Lawson back instead, but he was a monster with 17.5 sacks including the playoffs and a commensurate amount of pressure. It seems like this is who he is now and should have a couple more years like this having just turned 27. After going down early last season, DJ Reader (their big splash in 2020) was worth every penny and might be the best run defender in the league. He almost single-handedly won the Titans game as he blew up a ton of plays and kept Henry from getting going at all before following it up with another great game in the Super Bowl. Sam Hubbard has developed into a very good player opposite Hendrickson and should be a solid bet for similar production going forward, while Larry Ogunjobi made good on a one-year, prove-it deal at DT before injuring his foot in the WC game. They also acquired BJ Hill from the Giants before the season for lost cause Billy Price and he provided excellent rotational play with 5.5 sacks from the interior. Both Ogunjobi and Hill are headed to free agency and I'd hope they can at least get one back. The pass rush should also get a boost from third-rounder Joseph Ossai, who was injured during the preseason and never played a snap.

The Bengals finally seem to have found a solid linebacker unit after years and years of mid-round busts and failed veteran stopgaps. Logan Wilson with his knack for turnovers and Germaine Pratt with his instincts both took big steps forward while Markus Bailey is a solid third LB. They also get back Akeem Davis-Gaither who can be a weapon against speedier offenses, as he played a great game against the Ravens before going down a couple weeks later. Hopefully the loss of Al Golden who took the Notre Dame DC job won't be felt too much, as they'll probably have to go outside the organization for his replacement.

The secondary was another area that was reconstructed the last two years and the results were excellent. Trae Waynes continued to not be able to get on the field (and wasn't any good when he was) and will assuredly be cut, but almost every other move paid off. They let William Jackson go to Washington and replaced him for the same cost with Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton, as Awuzie played at a shutdown level while Hilton fortified the slot. Both are still well in their primes and can hopefully replicate those seasons. Opposite Awuzie, they picked up Eli Apple off the scrap heap and developed him into a solid starter. It'll be interesting to see what they do with him in free agency, as he may have priced himself out of what they want to pay and his perpetual Twitter beefs with everyone under the sun are kind of the opposite of the culture they're building. At safety, Vonn Bell can get lost in coverage at times but still had a good year overall and is their leader on defense. The big offseason question lies with Jessie Bates. The Bengals almost always extend the guys they want to going into the final year of their rookie deals, but Bates hired super-agent David Mulugheta and the two sides were unable to come to an agreement. After playing at an elite level in 2019-20, Bates had an uncharacteristically bad first half of the year before turning it on in the second half and was spectacular in the playoffs. I would hope they franchise him and then can work out an extension, as he'd get a ton of money on the open market having still just turned 25 in a few days.

After having weak-legged kickers seemingly forever, the Bengals struck gold with Evan McPherson who's probably the closest thing to Justin Tucker. I'd like them to go in a different direction at punter, as Kevin Huber didn't have a great year, topped it off with a rough postseason and he'll be 37 next year. That'll be much easier said than done though, as he's a lifelong Cincinnatian and has been with ST Coach Darrin Simmons (who goes back to Marvin Lewis' first year) his entire career. The ageless Clark Harris is still a perfect long snapper (no unplayable snaps in his 13-year Bengals career) and should do this as long as he wants.

Obviously the end really sucked, but this was as good a season as anyone could've asked for and the franchise is in very good hands for the first time in a while. Mike Brown has taken a back seat as his daughter Katie Blackburn runs the day-to-day operations and they've finally participated in free agency. Now comes the test of whether they can sustain success as they play a first-place schedule (Chiefs, Titans, Cowboys) while picking 31st every round. They play the AFC East which will be tough, although they get the NFC South too which they could sweep looking at it right now. It may be tough to win the division again as the Ravens should be healthier and get to play a last-place schedule with much more draft capital, but the Bengals should be in the playoffs again and have a real shot at getting back to the Super Bowl.
 
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tims4wins

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Phenomenal write-up, and very happy to see this thread resurrected. I don't have much to add other than they are risking Burrow's health unless they upgrade that OL.
 

steveluck7

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...His play calling can be maddening at times (he ran when he should've thrown in OT against the 49ers and threw when he should've run in the second half Sunday)...
Awesome analysis. I didn't really "get" the way so many, especially locally, were pulling for the Rams. A team of hired guns vs a team that built through the draft and has 2 of the most exciting players in Burrow and Chase seems like a no-brainer as far as an "impartial" rooting interest goes. I get it, as predominantly Patriots fans, the specter of another serious opponent in the AFC is tough but the Bengals are "here" regardless of a win or loss on Sunday. I, for one will be following them, and this thread more closely next season!

As to the quoted piece. This may be more appropriate for the SB thread but your analysis is interesting. To me, they got too conservative when they had a shot to put the Rams away on Sunday
 

Rudy's Curve

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As to the quoted piece. This may be more appropriate for the SB thread but your analysis is interesting. To me, they got too conservative when they had a shot to put the Rams away on Sunday
In the five drives after the interception following the touchdown, they ran 25 plays for 49 net yards. There were 16 dropbacks, eight runs and one designed Burrow run on 4th and 1 so I don't think they were being conservative. This was despite:

- Leading the entire time (obviously the game wasn't over, but they weren't forced to play catch-up)
- An OL that's much better in run blocking than protection
- The best DT ever and another HOF pass rusher on the other side

Hindsight is 20-10, etc., but it's hard not to feel like they should've leaned more on the run given all those things while Mixon was averaging 4.8 a pop and Burrow was taking a beating.
 

Humphrey

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I wish #83's drop didn't happen. That first down and maybe two more and the Rams were in deep doo doo; even if Cinci didn't score again.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Phenomenal write-up, and very happy to see this thread resurrected. I don't have much to add other than they are risking Burrow's health unless they upgrade that OL.
I think they realize how important it is. I'm not saying they couldn't have done it in the last couple offseasons, but they put all their money into improving the defense and all their high draft capital into the skill guys, both of which obviously worked (and the high pick they used to try to upgrade the OL failed so far). When you have a roster with that many holes, it's going to take many years before every unit is up to par. There are no more excuses though - they have a ton of money to spend there and it's a deep class at tackle. Spain and Reiff could be brought back, but they're just Band-Aids. They need a bona-fide upper echelon starter and another quality starter in FA/trade plus 1-2 more in the draft and Carman to become one.
 

Rudy's Curve

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I wish #83's drop didn't happen. That first down and maybe two more and the Rams were in deep doo doo; even if Cinci didn't score again.
I just watched it again because I hate myself and maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think it would've been a first down.
 

Mystic Merlin

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I just watched it again because I hate myself and maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think it would've been a first down.
He was probably getting tackled a yard short, yeah. Taylor probably goes for that, but with the Rams DL that was obviously not a super high percentage proposition anyways.
 

Rudy's Curve

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He was probably getting tackled a yard short, yeah. Taylor probably goes for that, but with the Rams DL that was obviously not a super high percentage proposition anyways.
He's not going for it up four with under six minutes left when they had already gotten stuffed there and his defense had pitched a near-shutout in the second half. Not a shot in hell.
 

Mystic Merlin

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He's not going for it up four with under six minutes left when they had already gotten stuffed there and his defense had pitched a near-shutout in the second half. Not a shot in hell.
You may be correct. My overarching point is I agree that the Boyd drop was being overblown in terms of importance. I saw someone in the game thread compare it to the Welker drop in SB46, which is absurd given that drop would have definitively been a first down in FG range with around 4 minutes left with the Giants having just one TO left. If Welker catches that, the Pats probably run the clock out with one more first down. By contrast, the Boyd catch would’ve likely been short and come with about 6:30 left with the Rams having three TO.
 

Rudy's Curve

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You may be correct. My overarching point is I agree that the Boyd drop was being overblown in terms of importance. I saw someone in the game thread compare it to the Welker drop in SB46, which is absurd given that drop would have definitively been a first down in FG range with around 4 minutes left with the Giants having just one TO left. If Welker catches that, the Pats probably run the clock out with one more first down. By contrast, the Boyd catch would’ve likely been short and come with about 6:30 left with the Rams having three TO.
Yeah, they're not comparable. Obviously the Boyd drop sucked, but they're still punting. The game was lost when they ran 25 plays for 49 yards in the middle five drives of the second half. They had first down at the 18 on the drive after the pick (and a first down), went backwards two yards and never sniffed FG range after.
 

mauf

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@Rudy's Curve thanks for the excellent OP. Been thinking about you during the playoff run, as I believe you’re the only Bengals fan I know.

You don’t lead the league in sacks allowed without both QB and O-Line issues. Burrow was still just a 2nd-year QB; he’ll learn when he should give up on the play a split-second sooner and throw the ball away. The line was a known weakness coming into the year that was made worse by injuries. I’m sure they will add talent on the line; the piece I can’t assess is whether the line issues could partly be a coaching problem. At the NFL level, it seems that O-Line play can be “coached up” more than the play of other position groups. I don’t think Cincy will lead the league in sacks again, but they need to have a multi-pronged strategy to address the issue, as opposed to just throwing money at free-agent linemen.
 

Rudy's Curve

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@Rudy's Curve thanks for the excellent OP. Been thinking about you during the playoff run, as I believe you’re the only Bengals fan I know.

You don’t lead the league in sacks allowed without both QB and O-Line issues. Burrow was still just a 2nd-year QB; he’ll learn when he should give up on the play a split-second sooner and throw the ball away. The line was a known weakness coming into the year that was made worse by injuries. I’m sure they will add talent on the line; the piece I can’t assess is whether the line issues could partly be a coaching problem. At the NFL level, it seems that O-Line play can be “coached up” more than the play of other position groups. I don’t think Cincy will lead the league in sacks again, but they need to have a multi-pronged strategy to address the issue, as opposed to just throwing money at free-agent linemen.
I appreciate the support. It was a hell of a season, but it's unfortunately a really empty taste and will be until they finally win it all.

Some of the sacks, particularly in the Titans game, were on Burrow. Hopefully he can get a little better at that, but if that's the cost of doing business with him then so be it. The problem is that the line has sucked for five years since they let Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler walk after 2016. They've had three coaches in that period - Paul Alexander (2017, had been there forever and developed all the guys I referenced above), Frank Pollack (2018), Jim Turner (2019-20) and Pollack again this year (Taylor originally picked Turner over him - whoops - and he went to the Jets before everyone got fired there). Turner made everything he touched worse, but it's definitely more of a talent issue than a coaching one. As excellent Bengals follow Joe Goodberry notes, they've been drafting small linemen who are poor athletes for years and none of them have panned out. That's probably not a coincidence.
 

mauf

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I appreciate the support. It was a hell of a season, but it's unfortunately a really empty taste and will be until they finally win it all.

Some of the sacks, particularly in the Titans game, were on Burrow. Hopefully he can get a little better at that, but if that's the cost of doing business with him then so be it. The problem is that the line has sucked for five years since they let Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler walk after 2016. They've had three coaches in that period - Paul Alexander (2017, had been there forever and developed all the guys I referenced above), Frank Pollack (2018), Jim Turner (2019-20) and Pollack again this year (Taylor originally picked Turner over him - whoops - and he went to the Jets before everyone got fired there). Turner made everything he touched worse, but it's definitely more of a talent issue than a coaching one. As excellent Bengals follow Joe Goodberry notes, they've been drafting small linemen who are poor athletes for years and none of them have panned out. That's probably not a coincidence.
They’ve drafted four O-linemen in the first round in the past ten drafts. Two of them panned out — Jonah Williams is probably their best lineman now, and they (wisely) chose not to pay Kevin Zietler. That’s not a huge underinvestment, nor is it a terrible hit rate. So I conclude the problem is either coaching, or not being able to find passable complementary/depth guys.

If the problem is not finding enough talent, throwing money at the problem should solve it. If it’s coaching, then of course it won’t. Time will tell.

Edit: My 16-year old son thinks replacing Isaiah Prince with a competent RT will go a long way.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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They’ve drafted four O-linemen in the first round in the past ten drafts. Two of them panned out — Jonah Williams is probably their best lineman now, and they (wisely) chose not to pay Kevin Zietler. That’s not a huge underinvestment, nor is it a terrible hit rate. So I conclude the problem is either coaching, or not being able to find passable complementary/depth guys.

If the problem is not finding enough talent, throwing money at the problem should solve it. If it’s coaching, then of course it won’t. Time will tell.
I'm not sure where you got four from - they've drafted 12 since 2015 alone. Since Zeitler in 2012, Williams is the only one that's been a quality player and he's a decent but not great tackle that required the #11 pick. It's not like any of them went on to do much elsewhere though nor have they used insufficient capital on them - in addition to Williams, their first two picks in 2015 were tackles and their first rounder in 2018 was a center. They simply haven't drafted good enough players. Turner was a joke, but Alexander was a very good coach that developed a bunch of really good players and Mixon led the AFC in rushing Pollack's first year here with a line that had Cordy Glenn (a complete dog), Billy Price, Alex Redmond and Bobby Hart. Now, the coaches here have a large say in the draft process (probably more than any other organization) so some of that is certainly on them but it's definitely more of a talent issue.
 

tims4wins

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@mauf said four in the first round... not total. Your point about them drafting 12 since 2015 reinforces the overall point that it's not an insufficient investment issue, but a return on investment issue (due to either poor drafting, or coaching / development, or whatever reason(s).
 

Rudy's Curve

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Yeah, that's my bad. I thought it originally said four overall but maybe I was just seeing things.
 

mauf

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Yeah, that's my bad. I thought it originally said four overall but maybe I was just seeing things.
No, it was my bad. I went back and edited — meant to say four first rounders, but that’s not what it initially said. Sorry.

I was focusing on the first rounders because it seems to me that elite linemen are drafted early, more so than other positions. They haven’t done badly in the first round. My only quibble would be that if you aren’t willing to pay to keep an interior O-lineman who works out (Zietler), maybe you shouldn’t use a first-round pick on one.

But yeah, they haven’t filled out the roster with serviceable guys, so you’ve got vulnerabilities in the line to start the season, and you’re one injury from starting a sub-replacement level scrub like Prince.
 

Rudy's Curve

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No, it was my bad. I went back and edited — meant to say four first rounders, but that’s not what it initially said. Sorry.

I was focusing on the first rounders because it seems to me that elite linemen are drafted early, more so than other positions. They haven’t done badly in the first round. My only quibble would be that if you aren’t willing to pay to keep an interior O-lineman who works out (Zietler), maybe you shouldn’t use a first-round pick on one.

But yeah, they haven’t filled out the roster with serviceable guys, so you’ve got vulnerabilities in the line to start the season, and you’re one injury from starting a sub-replacement level scrub like Prince.
I don't think they've even done well in the first round, though. Zeitler was certainly a hit, Williams has probably performed as expected for a #11 pick (plus he's missed almost 50% of his career to injury) and Ogbuehi and Price were complete busts. I would have hoped for more out of that group as a whole.
 

j-man

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i think the begals are lineing to be the team of the 2020's IF 1 m brown will pay burrow after 2024

the AFC has like 4 teams that are 1A 1B 1C 1D

1A KC they will be in cap hell how long does kelce as a eiete TE is KC built like the 2012-2020 seahawks with only 1 ring to show for it
1B Buff can they get better o-line and CB play and homefield
1C Ciny with 57 mil in cap space the next 2 years is ciny time to shine
1D Denver if they get rodgers rumours are denver new coach is pushing for it getting rodgers wouild likely push den from 7-8 wins to 11-12 wins
 

Rudy's Curve

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The Bengals have had a fairly active first week of free agency, as they brought in Bucs RG Alex Cappa immediately after the negotiation window opened and Pats LG Ted Karras shortly after. Cappa represents a massive upgrade over the likely league-worst play they got out of that spot last year, while Karras should be a big improvement at C over Trey Hopkins who was just cut. They've been linked to JC Tretter who was released by the Browns, but that's generally not the pool they swim in with older players still looking for decent money and I would imagine they want to get one of last year's picks (Jackson Carman, D'Ante Smith or Trey Hill) to be the LG - Karras would move there if they signed Tretter. If you can't produce a starting guard in year two from three picks (including a second rounder and a fourth), well then you've got a problem. They also may not be in on Tretter because their money is hopefully going to La'el Collins, who is in for a visit today and dinner tonight which will include Burrow trying to seal the deal. I don't know what happened with Collins last year (paging @Greg29fan and @TFisNEXT), but he's had long stretches of dominance and should still be in his prime turning 29 before the season. Going from a right side of the line in the Super Bowl of Hopkins, Hakeem Adeniji and Isaiah Prince to Karras, Cappa and Collins is an enormous upgrade and keeps them right in the thick of the AFC arms race. It would also open up all their options at 31 and not force any rookies to be immediate starters going against a bunch of really good pass rushers.

Elsewhere, they lost TE CJ Uzomah to the Jets after not matching their 3/24 offer. Uzomah was a big locker room presence (certainly the most visible one) and a good blocker, but he's getting a decent-sized third contract and set a career high last year with 493 yards. It just didn't make sense for them to devote that kind of money to an older TE in a three-WR offense. They replaced him with former first-rounder Hayden Hurst, who should be a decent stopgap for a year while they hopefully find the long-term solution in the middle rounds. They also brought back Eli Apple for a year. Apple is certainly a lightning rod as he talks endless amounts of shit on Twitter for a guy that hasn't done a whole lot, but he provided them with quality CB2 play after being picked up off the scrap heap. He should definitely have to fight for his job though and a first-round CB is squarely in play.

As expected, they franchised Jessie Bates. That was always going to be the outcome, as they have the cap space to absorb the tender and you can't let him walk for nothing. Now comes the question of whether they can lock him up long-term. Marcus Williams' deal with the Ravens provides a decent template as they're pretty similar players (Bates is probably a little better) and a few months apart in age. It's big money for a supposed non-premium position, but Bates is still very young having just turned 25 and it seems a rangy, ball-hawking FS is pretty important in today's NFL.
 
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TFisNEXT

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Collins failed a drug test last year and his reaction to it was bizarre but it seems to be water under the bridge now.

He is a very solid tackle who also can play guard if you really need him to (Dallas had him playing guard when they first signed him). His best year was probably 2019 when he was downright dominant at times but his hip injury in 2020 knocked him off that level of play and he hasn’t quite gotten back to it. But still, as long as he doesn’t have any more incidents, then he will absolutely be an upgrade on CIN’s offensive line.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Collins failed a drug test last year and his reaction to it was bizarre but it seems to be water under the bridge now.

He is a very solid tackle who also can play guard if you really need him to (Dallas had him playing guard when they first signed him). His best year was probably 2019 when he was downright dominant at times but his hip injury in 2020 knocked him off that level of play and he hasn’t quite gotten back to it. But still, as long as he doesn’t have any more incidents, then he will absolutely be an upgrade on CIN’s offensive line.
Much appreciate the feedback. It looks like he barely played the week he came back from the suspension and also a few weeks later on Thanksgiving. Were those performance-related issues?
 

Ale Xander

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Sorry for the content-less post but this is the only team in the division I can tolerate.
I hope you guys win the division ad infinitum.
 

E5 Yaz

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This completes a huge OL overhaul. If he can return to form and Jackson Carman can shake off a rough rookie year and play to his draft pedigree, this is an above-average OL which is all they need with the skill talent.
So, how do they line up across the front?
 

Rudy's Curve

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So, how do they line up across the front?
LT - Jonah Williams - not a star, but perfectly adequate
LG - Quinton Spain started there and had a good year. They could bring him back, but he'll be 31 in camp and may not be able to replicate that. I would have to imagine they give Jackson Carman every chance to win this job. He was a second-rounder last year but struggled mightily with weight/maturity/adjusting on the fly to learning RG from playing LT in college. If he can learn how to be a pro, this should be his. If they're punting on him and really like someone at 31, I could see that too.
C - Ted Karras
RG - Alex Cappa
RT - La'el Collins

It's not the Hogs, but it's a solid, above-average unit and an enormous upgrade on what they trotted out last year.
 
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SMU_Sox

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Honestly Tyler Linderbaum could slide to 31 given his position and if he does move Karras to LG and all of a sudden you have average to + starters across the line. He’s a total scheme fit for outside zone and one of the better run blockers coming out I’ve seen. Everything turns out and they get Linderbaum you’d be looking at + starters at every position on the line minus Karras is average at LG. That would make an incredible overhaul.

Another name to watch for center for the Bengals is Cam Jurgens out of Nebraska. Now he’s a day 3 guy (probably) but he has the movement skills you want for an outside zone center. He just needs to add some functional strength.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Honestly Tyler Linderbaum could slide to 31 given his position and if he does move Karras to LG and all of a sudden you have average to + starters across the line. He’s a total scheme fit for outside zone and one of the better run blockers coming out I’ve seen. Everything turns out and they get Linderbaum you’d be looking at + starters at every position on the line minus Karras is average at LG. That would make an incredible overhaul.

Another name to watch for center for the Bengals is Cam Jurgens out of Nebraska. Now he’s a day 3 guy (probably) but he has the movement skills you want for an outside zone center. He just needs to add some functional strength.
How much does Linderbaum's arm length worry you? There's only one OL (Austin Blythe) with under 31.5-inch arms and 800+ snaps in a season the last five years. I really have no clue how much I'm supposed to weigh it, so I'll certainly defer to you. Also for what it's worth, Taylor explicitly said Karras is their center. Maybe he just meant at that moment as it was a question regarding bringing Trey Hopkins back or maybe they're serious. I could definitely see them taking a G if a supposed slam dunk option is there, but the Bucs will probably be taking one and maybe the Pats too. I'm more inclined to believe they're going to give Carman a chance to get his shit together, as punting on a second-rounder in a year is a pretty awful look.

I'm also curious as to your evaluation of Jonah Williams if you've watched him enough as a pro. He certainly wasn't the weak link on that line and I thought he run-blocked pretty well, but he was beaten in protection more often than I would've liked for a mid to high-first round pick. It seems he's an excellent technician but can only do so much given his limited athleticism.
 

SMU_Sox

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How much does Linderbaum's arm length worry you? There's only one OL (Austin Blythe) with under 31.5-inch arms and 800+ snaps in a season the last five years. I really have no clue how much I'm supposed to weigh it, so I'll certainly defer to you. Also for what it's worth, Taylor explicitly said Karras is their center. Maybe he just meant at that moment as it was a question regarding bringing Trey Hopkins back or maybe they're serious. I could definitely see them taking a G if a supposed slam dunk option is there, but the Bucs will probably be taking one and maybe the Pats too. I'm more inclined to believe they're going to give Carman a chance to get his shit together, as punting on a second-rounder in a year is a pretty awful look.

I'm also curious as to your evaluation of Jonah Williams if you've watched him enough as a pro. He certainly wasn't the weak link on that line and I thought he run-blocked pretty well, but he was beaten in protection more often than I would've liked for a mid to high-first round pick. It seems he's an excellent technician but can only do so much given his limited athleticism.
Apologies but I’ve only watched Williams live and I don’t want to draw conclusions on that. I’d say though based on that he looked above average to good.

OC and OG are pretty loaded this year. I’m going to wind up with 15-20 guys I think are starters and another 10+ who flash starting traits and even more guys with starting upside. So it’s loaded. There are plenty of wide zone options day 2 and 3. Day 2 I love Dylan Parham for example and he can play most positions on the offensive line but he’s best in the interior. I’d take Parham day 2 every day over Linderbaum at 31.
As for Tyler Linderbaum I am lower on him than consensus. He’s 32nd on my board right now and I can bet at least 1-2 RBs bump him (I have QBs, TEs, and RBs to do). I have a potential quality starter grade on him, a 7.5 on my scale which is typically a 2nd round kind of grade. I have a lot of concerns with his size and how he will hold up in the NFL. If he hits and can overcome his arm length he still has some ceiling limitations. You’d be betting on him and going against the grain. Sometimes it works like with Dovante Smith, the slim reaper. Others times though you aren’t nearly as lucky. I tend to shy away from smaller height, weight, arm-length extreme outliers so I share your hesitation with him.
 

Rudy's Curve

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The Bengals went BPA in selecting Michigan S Daxton Hill. It's hard to find a huge role for him at the moment (although DC Lou Anarumo mentioned chasing Jackson and Watson around four times a year), but he'll play in some sub-packages as a third safety and slot corner and can give them outside CB depth in a pinch. He'll clearly be a starter in 2023 as both Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell are FAs. Bell will be 28 and while I'd love to lock Bates up, it just doesn't seem like it's going to happen. The Bengals' philosophy and Bates' agent David Mulugheta's don't mix very well, plus it's questionable whether they want to pay that money after drafting Hill and with Burrow, Tee Higgins and Logan Wilson all up for extensions next year (along with Chase after 2023).

Corner and another DT that can push the pocket (the re-signed BJ Hill and Larry Ogunjobi both played a bunch) remain the biggest priorities. You can also never have enough edge guys, especially in this class, although they're counting on last year's third rounder Joseph Ossai who got hurt after a big preseason debut and missed the year to provide a sizable impact. Another interior OL was a need anyways, and now it really may be one with the news that came out yesterday regarding Jackson Carman. They could also be looking TE as early as the third round as Hayden Hurst is on a one-year deal.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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I'm curious what @SMU_Sox thinks of the Bengals' draft. The theme was definitely speed in the secondary, as Dax Hill, second-round CB Cam Taylor-Britt and fifth-round S Tycen Anderson (the latter two whom they traded up for) can all really run. Taylor-Britt will be in a camp battle with Eli Apple to start opposite Chidobe Awuzie and should see a bunch of snaps regardless. Third-round DL Zachary Carter should be able to play all over the line and help fill the snaps at 3T from Larry Ogunjobi's departure. Fourth-rounder Cordell Volson played tackle at North Dakota State but will move to guard - it's not unfathomable he wins the LG job if he can pick it up quickly. Anderson should be an immediate fixture on special teams and gives them more insurance next year as both safeties are free agents. Seventh-round DE Jeffrey Gunter seems much more intriguing than your average player taken there, as he was productive at Coastal Carolina and tested very well.

It's early and a total exercise in futility since it assumes full health, but here's a first crack at the 53:

QB (2): Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen
RB (4): Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans, Shermari Jones (CFA)
WR (7): Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Mike Thomas, Stanley Morgan, Trent Taylor, Jaivon Heiligh (CFA)
TE (3): Hayden Hurst, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox
OL (9): Jonah Williams, Jackson Carman, Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, La'el Collins, Isaiah Prince, Cordell Volson, D'Ante Smith, Trey Hill

DL (10): Trey Hendrickson, DJ Reader, BJ Hill, Sam Hubbard, Joseph Ossai, Zachary Carter, Cameron Sample, Khalid Kareem, Tyler Shelvin, Josh Tupou
LB (5): Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, Markus Bailey, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Joe Bachie
CB (5): Chidobe Awuzie, Eli Apple, Mike Hilton, Cam Taylor-Britt, Tre Flowers
S (5): Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell, Dax Hill, Tycen Anderson, Michael Thomas

ST (3): Clark Harris, Drue Chrisman, Evan McPherson

On a scheduling note, if I had to guess I think we'll get an AFC Championship rematch Week 1. The Chiefs will be on the road since the Royals are home and the Bengals will be home as the Reds are on the road, plus it's a great Week 1 storyline. If there's ever a time to get the Chiefs, I think this would be it as they'll still be adjusting to life without Hill and have a rivalry game on a short week right after. Is it September yet?
 
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SMU_Sox

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I think Dax Hill is a stud. He was probably the best slot corner in the draft. He might be able to play FS too. I am not crazy about Cam-Taylor Britt. I know he was a divisive prospect with some guys like Brugler liking him a lot and others who saw a day 3 guy who might be best at FS. He's such a weird fit to me because your secondary play was "smart" and he doesn't always play smart. Some of that though is because he is a QB convert who is still learning route recognition. His issue is that he can't anticipate breaks or what the route is so he is often reactive and out of position. If that gets better though he has the athleticism and ball-hawking ability to be a quality starting corner. He just has trapdoors and needs more time. Volson was another weird fit for me too. Like last year's pick Jackson Carman I thought they both were best on gap/power.
51301

I thought he was more gap/power because his footwork is sloppy and his lateral agility isn't great but he has some nice power at the POA. He's also more of a linear athlete. Reminded me a little of Chasen Hines honestly. I was not big on Zach Carter but 1) that's pick 95, and 2) I know others like @EL Jeffe liked his game more than I did. He at the very least should be a good IDL pass rusher and that has value. His issue was getting destroyed as a run defender. He has some versatility as you can use him as a IDL vs guards or centers or have him go against OTs in the pass rush.

I think Tycen Anderson is a steal at 166. Personally I think he will eventual develop into a starting or rotational safety and he is going to be an ace STer. He was an excellent special teamer in college. He's really tough against the run and good in the box or as a nickel safety. He needs to get a lot better in coverage but if he does he has starter upside. If he doesn't then you just got a 1-3m dollar a year player on STs with that pick.

Overall best case scenario you could get 2-3 starters and some higher end backups or contributors. Average worst case scenario is probably 1 starter and a bunch of backups or contributors. You should be at least getting a quality starting slot corner in Hill.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Thanks as always for the feedback. I'm not sure how many reps Hill gets at slot corner since they're paying Mike Hilton pretty handsomely for that job. I imagine he'll do a little bit of everything this year and take over at one of the safety spots next year, since there's no chance both Bates and Bell will be back and I'd bet against either of them.

Interesting to hear your thoughts on CTB, as that was the first negative stuff I'd really seen (admittedly, I don't follow it anywhere near as closely) but I suppose there was a reason he was still there at 60. Apple can certainly hold down the fort if he needs a few weeks or even a year if he needs to refine his game, although he's certainly going to need to play some out of the gate.

They're probably counting on a big role for Carter since they have to replace 750 snaps from Ogunjobi. BJ Hill can certainly take up some of those as the starter now, but they're going to need someone else to step forward. Sample and Kareem are kind of tweeners while Shelvin and Tupou are nose tackles, so the opportunity will be there.

I want to think they know what they're doing now on the offensive line. It's just tough since the last really good player they developed was Kevin Zeitler, who was a first-round pick 10 years ago and as pro-ready as they come. Do you think they'll be running more gap/power with the guys they signed (Karras, Cappa, Collins) or are they still going to be a predominant wide zone team? It's going to be quite the indictment if they can't find a passable starter at LG after taking four OL the last two years.

Anderson is giving me bigtime George Iloka vibes. I'm not saying their games are similar as Iloka was a really big safety, but they were both pretty unanimously praised fifth-rounders (one pick apart). Iloka was a special teamer his rookie year and then went on to be a very good starter. Obviously, I'd be thrilled if Anderson can replicate that.

Did you scout Heiligh at all? They don't have a ton of depth at WR and probably can't count on the top three guys only missing two games total to injury again. It'd certainly be nice if they could find a diamond in the rough there.
 
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