Browns, Bengals offensive lines on different spectrums

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Credit: Larry French

The Browns’ and Bengals’ offensive lines couldn’t be much different.

One is arguably the league’s best on paper, the other is a work in progress. One is the result of a spending spree, the other was victimized by free agency.

Pro Football Focus ranked the NFL's offensive lines heading into the 2017 season. The Browns came in second, while the Bengals sank to 31st.

Philadelphia beat Cleveland out for the top spot, but optimism is high for the Browns unit.

“The offseason free agent spending spree could pay off huge dividends in Cleveland,” PFF said. “J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler both bring well above-average grades from a season ago at center and guard, respectively. The only question mark comes at right tackle where Shon Coleman looked at least competent in his 62 snaps as a rookie.”

Coleman is competing with Cameron Erving for the right tackle job, but the rest of the offensive line is set. Joe Thomas is PFF’s second most efficient pass blocker since 2012. Keitler and Joel Bitonio might be the best guard duo in the league.

Quarterback is an uncertainty, but whoever’s back there should receive plenty of protection.

Cincinnati became a perineal playoff contender behind its usually strong offensive line. But losing Andrew Whitworth and Zeitler is hard to overcome, at least in one offseason.

PFF isn’t impressed by the Bengals’ new look line. Only Seattle was rated worse.

“No line can lose two Pro Bowl-caliber players and expect to still perform at a high level,” PFF said. “This is especially true for the Bengals who look completely at a loss to fill the shoes of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler. The loss may be felt the most at tackle where the drafted replacements – Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi – have looked lost anytime they’ve seen the field.”

If the Bengals return to the playoffs in 2017, the offensive line must outperform that expectation. That starts and ends with Fisher and Ogbuehi. If it fails, letting two elite lineman walk for nothing will be justifiably criticized.

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