CINCINNATI — Back in July at the Bengals preseason media luncheon, someone asked Mike Brown what he was going to be watching when camp opened.
“I like to watch the players when they practice pass protection,” he said. “I want to see if they can.”
Brown rarely speaks to the media other than at the preseason luncheon, so we don’t know what he concluded coming out of camp. But we do know after Sunday’s 29-14 embarrassment in Pittsburgh, that they — the offensive line — can’t, can’t pass protect, can’t run block well enough to take the pressure off the passing game.
Andy Dalton was getting lit up on social media Sunday night. Words aren’t going to sting him much after the beating he took from the Steelers. Dalton was sacked four times and hit half a dozen more.
Every offense linemen on the Bengals roster, except guard Clint Boling, are rated as poor by Pro Football Focus. Boling rates average. The rotation at tackles didn’t work Sunday. PFF rated Andre Smith as 50th best tackle in the NFL, Jake Fisher 55th and Cedric Ogbuehi 59th. Andrew Whitwroth, by the way, is rated the fifth best in the NFL.
The problem is not fixable at this juncture. You don’t trade for left tackles or get them off the waiver wire.
It’s a shame because the Bengals have a really good defense. Dalton is good when he gets time. The receiver corps is solid. And Joe Mixon would be dangerous behind a decent line.
If the Steelers and the Bengals traded offensive lines Sunday, the Bengals undoubtedly win the game.
The Bengals have a winnable game next week — the woeful Colts come to town — and there are plenty of other teams on the schedule who the Bengals can beat.
But a good team, like the Steelers? That doesn’t look likely with this line.
Brown is going to have to come to terms with the fact that the guys the Bengals drafted just aren’t good enough. They’ll have to draft more offensive linemen or address the position in free agency.
Dusty takes the fall
It was a little shocking to see Dusty Baker get fired in Washington, especially after Mike Rizzo told reporters that Baker was coming back not that long ago.
This could be the end of the line for Baker. I bias because Dusty was my favorite manager ever to deal with, but the game is worse off without him. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nationals are as well. Dusty is really good at handling big stars with big egos.
After that eighth inning in Game 5 against the Cubs, Dusty’s got to think he’s a little cursed in the postseason. The Cubs won by scoring four runs off Max Scherzer. The key to the rally was a dropped third strike, passed ball.
That one hurt
That was a gut-wrenching loss for UC Saturday. An overtime victory would have been a huge morale boost.
An overtime loss keyed by the opponent’s fourth-and-26 conversion is more than just a downer.
I think Luke Fickell will get it right eventually. But you have to wonder how long it’s going to take.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the powerhouse Division I teams to make it through a season undefeated. St. Xavier, Elder and Moeller all played the big Catholic powers from Cleveland, St. Ignatius and St. Edward.
St. X lost to St. Ignatius 28-14 Saturday, a week after Moeller knocked off Ignatius. Elder has three losses to St. X, St. Ignatius and St. Edwards, who at one time were rated No, 1, 2 and 3 in the state.
St. X proved last year that getting hot at the end is key in the playoffs when they won state after losing five games in the regular season. I’d still rate the Bombers as the team to beat this year.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.