CINCINNATI — A primary goal for the winless Cincinnati Bengals is pretty clear after their 0-2 start to the season.
After quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked a total of 13 times in the first two games, center Ted Karras said the team needed to make the cornerstone of its franchise more comfortable in the pocket.
“That’s our biggest goal here moving forward — to help our guy have confidence in us, to gain his confidence,” Karras said on 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 during this span 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 passer was the one who ended up getting fired or pressured.
“He looked comfortable moving,” Callahan said of Burrow. “He sees it. When you get into those places where you miss one guy and here comes a second one, it gets a little difficult.”
Karras, who the team signed as a new center this offseason after spending last season with the New England Patriots, said blocking well and giving Burrow clean pockets is the best way to get him in. easy. But Karras echoed Callahan’s point and said any time there’s late pressure during a game, it can rattle a quarterback.
“We want him to feel like those hits aren’t coming,” Karras said.
Cincinnati’s sack problem follows a Super Bowl run in which protecting Burrow was a major issue. The Bengals gave up 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 only survivor from last season. Bengals right tackle La’el Collins, who was formerly with the Cowboys before signing with Cincinnati this offseason, said it’s up to offensive linemen to find chemistry with each other.
“It’s the first time we’ve played together, these first two weeks,” Collins said. “I think it’s gonna be okay. We’re gonna get on the same page and start doing what we’re doing, and that comes out and sets the tone. Lock it down and own it.”
Not all of Cincinnati’s sack problems fall directly on the players at the line of scrimmage. Burrow took the blame for several of them in Week 1 against the Steelers.
Callahan attributed the recent struggles to several factors, ranging from poor communication to good opponents. But that doesn’t ease the Bengals’ situation after two games.
“For us to get to where we want to get, at the end of the day, it has to be a lot better than it has been all along,” Callahan said.