The Cincinnati Bengals made it to the Super Bowl last year with one of the worst pass-protecting offensive lines in the league, but they wasted no time addressing their biggest weakness this offseason.
With three new starters up front and the hope that Jackson Carman turns out to be a better guard on the left, the Bengals are counting on the overhaul helping the offense keep pace with the ever-improving competition in the AFC.
Cincinnati signed right tackle La’el Collins, right guard Alex Cappa and center Ted Karras in free agency and return left tackle Jonah Williams, while the 2021 battle at right guard now moves to the left side with Carman as the leading candidate during the team’s offseason workout program.
Let’s take a look at the past performances of the Bengals’ current offensive linemen, and how they are expected to stack up in 2022 with help from some analysis and data from Pro Football Focus.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN ON THE ROSTER
Projected starters: LT Jonah Williams, LG Jackson Carman, C Ted Karras, RG Alex Cappa, RT La’el Collins
Reserves: Hakeem Adeniji, Trey Hill, Isaiah Prince, Cordell Volson, D’Ante Smith
Others in the mix: Ben Brown, Devin Cochran, Lamont Gaillard, Desmond Noel
WILLIAMS BY THE NUMBERS
2021 stats: Blocked for the league’s third-leading rusher as Joe Mixon ran for 1,205 yards and was part of the league’s seventh-best passing offense, but allowed eight sacks and finished with four penalties.
PFF grades for 2021: Williams ranked 32nd of 83 qualifying tackles with an offense grade of 74.5 last year. He was 45th of 80 tackles in pass block grade (67.5) and 19th of 79 tackles in run black grade (75.6).
PFF ranking for 2022: Williams was listed as an honorable mention in PFF’s position ranking for 2022 recognizing the top 32 offensive tackles.
CARMAN BY THE NUMBERS
2021 stats: Blocked for the league’s third-leading rusher as Joe Mixon ran for 1,205 yards and was part of the league’s seventh-best passing offense, but started just six of 17 games he played and had five penalties.
PFF grades for 2021: Carman ranked 67th of 82 guards with a 54.2 offense grade. He was 72nd of 80 guards in pass block grade (45.9) and 42nd of 80 guards in run block grade (64.1).
Not ranked for 2022
KARRAS BY THE NUMBERS
2021 stats: Blocked for the league’s eighth best rushing offense and the 14th best passing offense in New England last year; had two penalties and allowed three sacks in 13 starts (17 games)
PFF grades for 2021: Karras ranked 16th of 82 guards with a 72.4 offense grade. He was seventh of 80 guards in pass block grade (76.5) and 30th of 80 guards in run block grade (67.3).
Not ranked for 2022: Karras was not among the 16 centers ranked by PFF.
CAPPA BY THE NUMBERS
2021 stats: Blocked for the league’s best passing offense last year in Tampa Bay, but the rush offense ranked just 26th; allowed five sacks and had just one penalty in 17 starts
PFF grades for 2021: Cappa ranked 18th of 82 guards with a 71.3 offense grade. He was 31st of 80 guards in pass block grade (67.5) and 27th of 80 guards in run block grade (69.0).
PFF ranking for 2022: Cappa was listed among the “Tier 4: Solid Starters” guards, at No. 6 among that group — with 11 players ranked in the three tiers ahead of them.
COLLINS BY THE NUMBERS
2021 stats: Blocked for the league’s third-best passing offense and ninth-best rush offense in Dallas last year; had eight penalties and allowed two sacks in 10 starts (12 games)
PFF grades for 2021: Collins ranked 15th of 83 qualifying tackles with an offense grade of 80.2 last year. He was 29th of 80 tackles in pass block grade (74.3) and third of 79 tackles in run black grade (89.7).
PFF ranking for 2022: Collins was ranked among the “Tier 4: Very Good Starters” group of offensive tackles, at No. 13 overall.
According to PFF, the Bengals offensive line went from being one of the worst last year to among the best in 2022 – ranked among the “Tier 2: High Floor” offensive line units and the eighth best overall.
“This is the most improved offensive line in the NFL, at least on paper,” wrote Michael Renner. “Ted Karras (72.4 grade in 2021), Alex Cappa (71.3) and La’el Collins (80.2) all represent significant upgrades over the Bengals’ 2021 starters at those respective positions. Add to that the fact that Jonah Williams and Jackson Carman are both high draft picks on rookie deals who could develop in 2022, and it’s easy to see why hopes are high in Cincinnati.”
Collins was the biggest pickup this offseason, though the interior line had more issues last year. PFF analyst Ben Linsey sees him as the key to improving the overall offense in 2022.
“The former Cowboys right tackle certainly offers a higher floor in pass protection than the Riley Reiff-Isaiah Prince combination that Cincinnati had at their disposal last season, but Collins is going to add the most of his value in the run game,” Linsey wrote. “His last two seasons in 2019 and 2021 both resulted in PFF run-blocking grades above 89.0.”
This is the fourth in a series of pieces breaking down each position group for the Bengals. Next up: Defensive line.