Watching Joe Burrow slinging a wet ball against Cleveland’s bloodthirsty defense in Week 1 was akin to noticing a shark fin circling towards a helpless swimmer. Kevin Stefanski hired blitzing connoisseur Jim Schwartz this offseason to install a pressure scheme to activate his lethargic defense an he couldn’t have asked for better conditions for its debut. Since entering the league in 2020, Burrow has been sacked the second-most times among all NFL quarterbacks, behind only Russell Wilson.
That trend didn’t end today.
The Bengals had no solutions for impeding the forward momentum of the Browns pass rushers towards Burrow. On the opening play from scrimmage, Cleveland’s new acquisition Za’darius Smith got a clean lick on Burrow. Earlier in Burrow’s career, he would have held onto the ball too long and taken a sack, but Smith clearly threw off Burrow’s timing, resulting in an incompletion. That was a sign of what was to come.
Myles Garrett is the great white at the center of Cleveland’s school of sharks and the constant rain forced Garrett and company to take an amphibious approach to Burrow in the opener. Great white sharks suffocate without forward motion forcing a strong current flowing toward their mouths. Garrett’s shark teeth were gnawing at both ends of the Bengals toothless offensive line. The Bengals have struggled protecting their $275 million man since he was drafted and not much has changed four years in.
The Bengals first possession of the season ended with Burrow getting sacked by Obo Okorokwo. By the final whistle, Burrow completed 14-of-31 attempts for only 82 yards,failed to engineer a touchdown drive and was hurried countless times during a flat performance in Cleveland’s 24-3 win.
Cincy left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is one of the league’s most polarizing pass blockers. Brown has been maligned by the Ravens and Chiefs franchises for his work protecting Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, leading the NFL in pressures allowed in 2022. The massive left tackle was awarded 64 million in the offseason to escort Garrett through the shortcut to Burrow’s personal space.
However, Jonah Williams is arguably worse. Last season, Williams led all tackles in sacks surrendered and didn’t skip a beat in the Bengals home opener.
This week, when I was in the process of determining who was deserving of being named one of the worst tackles in the NFL, the first name to come to mind was Williams.
In a fight-or-flight 4th and 4 situation in the Bengals own territory with 10 and a half minutes remaining, Williams flapped around like a fish out of water lined up opposite Garrett. Williams reacted so comically slow to Garrett’s lightning quick get-off around the edge that he couldn’t get a hand on his assignment until he was choking on the Browns defensive end’s tail smoke. Even with a running back in the backfield to chip block for Burrow, Garrett gobbled up Burrow as he attempted to escape the pocket.
Burrow has been here before. The Bengals are 1-4 in their last five season openers and Burrow has been sacked 124 times since entering the league. Typically, the Bengals recover, but they’re playing with fire by allowing Burrow to eat so much dirt. 2023 appears to be more of the same.
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