The Cincinnati Bengals are heading into year two with quarterback Joe Burrow, the former number one overall pick. Last season was not at all what anyone was hoping for as Burrow went down late in the campaign with a leg injury that abruptly ended his season. Burrow is looking for a return to form in week one versus the Minnesota Vikings, but he has to be hoping some things have changed about the team since last season. The Bengals weren’t good and they had the resources to improve in the offseason.

On offense, Burrow has all the weapons a young quarterback could ask for. Joe Mixon at running back alongside the trio of Tyler Boyd, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins is a solid group of young weapons. The defense is a big questions mark with guys like Carl Lawson and Geno Atkins no longer around but it should be around 20th in the league. The biggest question surrounding the Bengals is once again the offensive line as a whole.

Bengals X-Factor: The offensive line

Is it fair to lump an entire position group into one X factor? Maybe not, but this group has been built up and brought in together to protect Joe Burrow. The Bengals offensive line was one of the worst last season. In the 11 games Burrow played in, he took the second-most sacks and the fifth most quarterback hits among all quarterbacks in the league. Burrow isn’t exactly a statue back there either and he had receivers to throw to so the offensive line as a whole was just awful. They had a chance to rebuild it in the offseason and them playing well could determine how far this Bengals team can go.

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The best lineman on the team is left tackle Jonah Williams. He’s solid when it comes to pass blocking but is among the worst at run blocking. On the opposite side of him, the Bengals signed former Vikings tackle Riley Reiff to play right tackle. Reiff isn’t anything special but he provides stability on a line with very little of that. The interior consists of Jackson Carman, a second round pick in the recent NFL Draft, Trey Hopkins back at center, and then a three way battle at left guard.

Ja’Marr Chase, who I mentioned earlier as part of the wide receiver trio, was taken by the Bengals over top offensive tackle prospect Penei Sewell in the recent NFL Draft. Leading up to draft day the question was always about whether the Bengals would address a clear need with Sewell or bring in Chase, the top receiver Joe Burrow played with back at LSU. Ultimately they chose the wide receiver and opted to patch together the line with Riley Reiff and Jackson Carman, the second-round pick. The Detroit Lions ended up taking Sewell who looks to be their franchise left tackle and the type of player everyone craves.

Usually, an X factor for a team would be just one player like Joe Burrow, but this offensive line is so crucial to the success of Burrow and the team. They’re protecting a quarterback who just went down with a season-ending leg injury as Joe Mixon, a solid running back that just needs some help up front. The Bengals trusted the guys on the roster enough to draft Chase over Sewell so it’s time for the line to show they’re not a bottom five group.