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Bengals, Chargers should build offensive lines through both free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) is sacked by Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) and defensive tackle Denico Autry (96) in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive line play — and pass protection specifically — has been in the national spotlight over the past week thanks to the performance put forth by the makeshift Kansas City Chiefs offensive line in Super Bowl 55. Some additional fuel was thrown onto that particular fire with reports that Russell Wilson has grown increasingly frustrated by the state of his offensive lines throughout his career.

While we at PFF have often been proponents of the quarterback being the driver in his own pressure rate, any argument that offensive line play doesn’t matter is a straw man’s argument. Just take a look at the bottom half of the league in team pass-blocking grade this past season. 

Team pass-blocking grade for 2020 season
Team Pass-blocking grade Playoffs?
17. Las Vegas Raiders 67.2 No
18. Carolina Panthers 66.9 No
19. Jacksonville Jaguars 64.6 No
20. Seattle Seahawks 64.4 Yes
21. Miami Dolphins 63.4 No
22. Denver Broncos 62.2 No
23. Atlanta Falcons 62.2 No
24. San Francisco 49ers 60.2 No
25. Chicago Bears 59.4 Yes
26. Dallas Cowboys 59.0 No
27. Cincinnati Bengals 58.3 No
28. Tennessee Titans 57.9 Yes
29. Minnesota Vikings 55.5 No
30. Los Angeles Chargers 54.5 No
31. New York Jets 53.3 No
32. New York Giants 50.6 No

Only three of the 14 playoff teams find themselves on this list — the Seahawks, Bears and Titans — and none of those teams advanced past the wild-card round. That means that 11 of the top-16 teams in PFF pass-blocking grade made the postseason, underlining the importance of the offensive line working in harmony with the quarterback getting the ball out on time and receivers creating separation early to ensure clean pockets. 

That table also shows how far teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers still have to go. Strangely, both teams seemed reluctant to add to their offensive lines during the 2020 offseason. 

The Bengals were getting back the injured Jonah Williams at tackle and added Hakeem Adeniji out of Kansas in the sixth round of last year’s draft, but that was really it when it came to big moves. Meanwhile, Los Angeles brought in right tackle Bryan Bulaga and swapped left tackle Russell Okung for right guard Trai Turner, but they didn’t draft a single offensive lineman in the 2020 NFL Draft. Bulaga and Turner disappointed in injury-plagued seasons. 

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Those two franchises can’t be as passive in attacking needs along the offensive line in the 2021 offseason, especially now that they have young franchise quarterbacks whom they need to put an emphasis on protecting. The Bengals and Chargers should look to add pieces in both free agency and the draft, bringing in a mix of youth and veteran talent up front. Here’s the blueprint.

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