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Offensive Player Rankings, Week 3: Fixing Bengals’ passing game

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It was gloomy REAL gloomy is the start of the 2022 season for the Cincinnati Bengals offense.

Last season, the offensive line was seen as one of the few weak spots in the offensive line that helped propel Cincinnati to the Super Bowl. Corrections made to this block during the off-season created anticipation. But Joe Burrow and company failed, with the offense failing to find any rhythm and settling in the bottom half of the NFL in terms of footage while the team went 0-2 this season.

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And there is one aspect of the Bengalis struggle that strikes me as uncomfortably plausible.

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In 2021, Burrow was the most fired quarterback (51) in the NFL. And despite a revamped line in front of him, the third-year pro once again struggled to stay upright, again leading the league with 13 sacks in week 2.

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“I think we’ve given up too many bags, absolutely,” Bengals head coach Zach Taylor said after Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys.

That is, to put it mildly, an understatement. It was hard to watch as Burrow, whose debut season was eventually derailed by a torn ACL and knee ligament, repeatedly sank to the ground. And not to one of everyone, but unlike most people on this planet, I do know what Burrow is going through:

According to NFL research, the last quarterback in the NFL to hit 13 sacks in week 2 and start over 10 games is… yours truly, with the Houston Texans in 2002 and 2005. (Let me tell you I just love when these statistics become available.)

This unfortunate perspective gives me some authority to explore ways in which the Bengals could emerge from their offensive decline.

However, before I get into that, I have to say: I think the team did a good job reaching out to the O-line in the offseason, signing free agents Ted Karras, Lael Collins and Alex Kappa. The approach copied the plan used last offseason by the Kansas City Chiefs for a major overhaul. them O-line to better defend a franchise quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) who had just been under endless pressure in a Super Bowl loss. (Sounds familiar?)

Luckily for the Chiefs, their new O-line proved effective enough to see the team finish in the top 10 in blocking passes in Pro Football Focus in 2021. So far, Cincinnati has been unlucky in 2022. The Bengals were ranked 25th in pass blocking last season, and in two weeks this year they barely improved, pushing that ranking up to 23rd.

As is the case with most units on a football team, the offensive line can take some time to build up chemistry. But the Bengals don’t have much time given they are currently in the bottom of the North AFC, with an already lost division (the Steelers) on their ledger.

To fix their offensive problems, the Bengals must start helping Burrow by moving the pocket. The easiest way to do this is with a game action, but this is something Bengals use very rarely. Burrow has only used play action in 13.7 percent of his throwbacks this season, the fifth most in the NFL according to Next Gen Stats. His game action rate was 18.7% last year, the fourth-lowest in the league.

It’s ironic considering he was snatched from the Kyle Shanahan-Sean McVeigh coaching tree, but Taylor’s offense is based on throwback scenarios, with three sets of receivers used to distribute the pitch. Taylor is constantly looking for opportunities to push the ball vertically with the help of three talented forwards (Ja’Marr Chase, Ty Higgins and Tyler Boyd).

Barrow was one of the most effective outfield shots in the NFL last season, ranking first in the league in pass completion percentage, passes per try, and passer rating. This year, however, Burrow is sitting in two lower in each of these categories. Meanwhile, Chase has never hit a deep target on any of the 102 routes he has run this season, after finishing third in receiving yards on 20-plus passes in 2021. 2022 than last season, it looks like he won’t be able to stay clean long enough for the game to progress.

The performance of the O-line limits the circuit in such a way that Burrow remains an easy duck when facing elite defenses such as those in Dallas and Pittsburgh. Burrow was under pressure due to his 21.4% retreat in week 2 against the Cowboys under Mick Parsons and 36.7% in week 1 against the Steelers. And anyone who wants to argue that Barrow is holding the ball too long should consider that his average shot time (2.58 seconds) is the seventh fastest in the league this season.

The Bengals have only been competitive this season because guys like Chase are the elite. The sophomore can win one-on-one against any quarterback, but most of his flashy plays are contested when in fact he should be wide open like Cooper Kupp. Chase’s percentage of targets considered open this season (36.0) is by far the lowest among players in the top 10 in receiving yards according to the NGS; seven of those players were open on 40 percent of their goals or more.

Judging by the numbers, Taylor can do something to make life easier for the striker. Until Taylor does some more QB tactics, I’m afraid that Barrow will continue to fight for the offensive line while still learning to work together and defend him.

Top 15 attacking players

Each week of the 2022 NFL season, former No. 1 overall and NFL Network analyst David Carr will review all hitters and compile his list of the top 15 players. In the first quarter of the season, rankings are based on a combination of:

1) Player achievements in the 2021 season.
2) Weekly performances, taking into account the strength of the opponent.

Rankings will be judged solely by effort this season after Week 4. Ahead of Week 3, here is Carr’s list:

Josh Allen
Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · QB

Allen and the Bills are still leading full steam ahead in 2022 after beating the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. The two-week MVP favorite got it right, throwing for 317 yards and four touchdowns (three to Stephon Diggs) in just three quarters of the game. A bigger test is set to take place next week as the Bills travel to South Beach to take on another unbeatable team.

Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · QB

The Chargers kept the Chiefs on their toes during what seemed to be most of Thursday night’s AFC West tournament, taking a 17-7 lead in the third quarter; to be completely honest, Los Angeles should have had a much bigger advantage. Mahomes deserves a lot of credit for keeping the Chiefs in the game, doing Mahomes’ routine magic in the process, including a 9-yard TD pass to Jerick McKinnon to put the Chiefs on the board in the second quarter. Mahomes’ ability to stay level despite the deficit and get everyone involved – nine players have had at least one reception in both of the Chiefs’ wins this season – are the main reasons the Chiefs have been able to end the late game. Come back. His…


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