CINCINNATI – One main objective for the winless Cincinnati Bengals is pretty clear following their 0-2 start to the season.
After quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked 13 times total in the first two games, center Ted Karras said the team must make its franchise cornerstone more comfortable in the pocket.
“That’s our biggest goal here moving forward – helping our guy have confidence in us, earning his trust,” Karras said Monday. “I feel like it’s something we haven’t done yet.”
Burrow was sacked six times in a 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday; he was sacked seven times in a season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the 13 total sacks to start the season are tied for the most over that stretch in the past 20 years.
Against Dallas, Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said the Cowboys provided a lot of stunts and twists on which a second pass-rusher was the one who ended up getting a sack or a pressure.
“He looked comfortable moving,” Callahan said of Burrow. “He’s seeing it well. When you end up in those spots where making one guy miss and here comes a second one, that gets a little hard.”
Karras, whom the team signed as its new center this offseason after he spent last season with the New England Patriots, said blocking well and giving Burrow clean pockets is the best way to make him feel comfortable. But Karras echoed Callahan’s point and said that whenever there’s late pressure during a play, it can rattle a quarterback.
“We want him to feel that those hits aren’t gonna come,” Karras said.
Cincinnati’s sack issue comes on the heels of a Super Bowl run in which protecting Burrow was a major issue. The Bengals surrendered 19 sacks in four playoff games in 2021. The Los Angeles Rams, who beat Cincinnati in the Super Bowl, allowed just seven sacks.
Cincinnati has four new starters on the offensive line, with left tackle Jonah Williams the lone holdover from last season. Bengals right tackle La’el Collins, who was previously with the Cowboys before signing with Cincinnati this offseason, said it’s up to the offensive linemen to find chemistry with each other.
“This is our first time playing together, these first two weeks,” Collins said. “I think we will be fine. We will get on the same page and just start doing what we do, and that’s coming out and setting the tone. Lock in on it and own it.”
Not all of Cincinnati’s sack problems fall squarely on the players on the line of scrimmage. Burrow took the blame for several of them in Week 1 against the Steelers.
Callahan chalked the recent struggles up to several factors, ranging from poor communication to good opponents. But that doesn’t mitigate where things stand for the Bengals after two games.
“For us to get where we want to get, ultimately it has to be much better than it has been kind of all the way around,” Callahan said.