The Cincinnati Bengals know the No. 1 priority this offseason is adding protection for Joe Burrow.
The star quarterback was sacked 70 times this season, including playoffs, third-most since the 1970 NFL merger. In four postseason games, he was sacked an NFL-record 19 times, including seven times in Super Bowl LVI.
During a rally to honor the Bengals' AFC Championship run on Wednesday, owner Mike Brown indicated aiding Burrow is critical moving forward.
"Joe is a smart player, and that shines through," Brown said, per the team's official website. "He's accurate, he's tough as nails. We want to do some things to help him."
Last year approaching the draft, the debate was whether the Bengals should help out Burrow by drafting receiver Ja'Marr Chase or offensive tackle Penei Sewell. Cincy opted for the dynamic wideout, who went out and set a rookie receiving record. Without Chase, the Bengals wouldn't have been in a Super Bowl. But now, the need to upgrade the O-line is the biggest priority.
After inking his new contract extension, coach Zac Taylor admitted the blocking must improve, but he went out of his way not to toss the offensive line under the bus for all the sacks on Burrow.
"We just have to be better as a unit," Taylor said. "I think that we'll just look to improve the team any way that we can and not specific to one necessary group. The offensive line helped us get to the Super Bowl. They gave us opportunities to go win the Super Bowl. Everything always falls on them statistically, but that's not always the case. There are play calls that could be better to help put them in a better position. There is a lot that plays into all that. They were an offensive line that helped us get to the Super Bowl and gave us opportunities to win, and I think they should be commended for that."
Burrow's ability to throw under pressure and deftly evade pressure allowed the Bengals' offense to function despite the blocking deficiencies. But the glaring issues reared their head in the second half of the Super Bowl as Rams star Aaron Donald took over the game, repeatedly discombobulating Burrow and the offense.
The Bengals have young talent that should keep them as contenders for years, but building up the offensive line remains the Achilles heel heading into the 2022 offseason.
"I think we have the core of a top team, we'll add to it, and I think we can make it better," Brown said.