Cincinnati Bengals: Pollack charged with improving offensive line’s pass protection, running game

Frank Pollack welcomed the chance to return to the Cincinnati Bengals’ staff two years after he was dismissed with the head coaching change from Marvin Lewis to Zac Taylor.

After spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the New York Jets and experiencing another changing of the guard there, Pollack is back as offensive line coach and adding the role of run game coordinator. The Bengals announced the hire Saturday, and he spoke with local media for the first time Monday.

“(There are) a lot of good parts there to coach up and be around,” Pollack said on a Zoom conference. “I love what Zac had to say in my meeting, and from personal family (standpoint), we really enjoyed our time there, loved the building, loved the ownership, loved the community we were in, the schools my kids were in, so that was all really great. We are excited to be back.”

Pollack, 53, replaces Jim Turner after the Bengals capped a 4-11-1 campaign in which Mixon was the team’s leading rusher with 428 yards despite missing the final 10 games because of a foot injury.

Under Pollack’s direction in 2018, Cincinnati’s offensive line ranked 11th in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed per game (2.3), while also paving the way for Mixon to log career-highs in rushing yards (1,168), average yards per attempt (4.9) and rushing touchdowns (eight).

“We’ve got to get better in both those areas,” Pollack said when asked about his initial assessment of the Bengals’ offensive line and running game in 2020. “This is kind of the time of the year when everyone is doing those little self-assessments and I haven’t had a good chance to dig and drill down too much in that regard but definitely need to get better and improve in some areas. We’ve got a lot of good parts there to work with. I’m excited about moving forward with those guys.”

The first task, though, is making sure quarterback Joe Burrow has the protection he needs, Pollack said.

Cincinnati allowed 48 sacks this season, which ranked as 28th most in the league, and Burrow took 32 of those in 10 games before he tore his ACL and MCL when the pocket collapsed on him after making a throw in the third quarter of a loss at Washington. Burrow is now back in town after undergoing surgery Dec. 2 and doing the early part of his rehab in California.

“That’s Line 1 in every O-line room on all 32 teams,” Pollack said. “You’ve got to protect your quarterback. That’s what everyone is trying to always constantly get better at and striving for. Our meeting was no different than that. We’ve got a good, young quarterback. We’ve got to do everything we can to protect him. That’s Line 1.”

Pollack said it’s too early to comment on how he evaluates the individuals on the offensive line, though he worked with guys like right tackle Bobby Hart and center Trey Hopkins in 2018. He evaluated left tackle Jonah Williams in his draft preparations with the Jets, before the Bengals took him at No. 11 in 2019, and he also had a role in the decision to draft Billy Price in the first round in 2018.

Although Price has struggled to earn consistent playing time in three seasons, Pollack said his job is to “wring every ounce of talent and ability out of all those guys” and Price is no exception to that. The returning coach also hasn’t yet begun evaluations of the current draft class of linemen but looks forward to beginning that process – with the Bengals set to pick at No. 5 and a chance to potentially add an important new piece to the offensive line.

Pollack has much on his plate in terms of getting himself up to speed. He walks into an offensive system much different from what the Bengals were doing in 2018, but he was impressed in his meeting with Taylor and believes he can help.

“He’s got flexibility, and he’s open minded on what we need to do schematically,” Pollack said. “It’s not just wide-zone or some of the areas that might complement our personnel better that we need to spend more time emphasizing on and majoring in, and then just how I fit in that big picture and how I can be part of the solution going forward. And I liked hearing what he had to say about all those.”

Taylor’s father-in-law and mentor, Mike Sherman, was the offensive coordinator in Houston when Pollack first got into the league as an offensive line coach in 2007, so there is “some of that crossover” and familiar terminology, Pollack said.

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