New Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals rivalry could be brewing

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 21: Quarterback Ken Anderson #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals takes the ball from center Blair Bush #58 as guard Glenn Bujnoch #74 prepares to block defensive lineman Jerry Sherk #72 of the Cleveland Browns at Municipal Stadium on October 21, 1979 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 21: Quarterback Ken Anderson #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals takes the ball from center Blair Bush #58 as guard Glenn Bujnoch #74 prepares to block defensive lineman Jerry Sherk #72 of the Cleveland Browns at Municipal Stadium on October 21, 1979 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Browns
May 25, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver JaÕMarr Chase (1) catches a pass during practice at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports /

Did Cincy flub by drafting Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell?

The national media believes that the Cincinnati Bengals made an inexcusably stupid error by not drafting Penei Sewell with their first-round draft pick, fifth overall. For that reason, the Bengals have been written off this season. The narrative is that the idiot Bengals should know they needed Sewell to protect Franchise Joe Burrow.

However, this writer believes the Bengals knew what they were doing, and the national media is wrong about this, and here’s why.

First, who says you can protect a quarterback with one offensive lineman? That is stupid. The opposite is true. It matters a lot who your fifth-best lineman is, because that is where the pressure is coming from.

When Burrow was injured, the Bengals had two backups in the starting lineup against the top defenders from the Washington Football team. Say what you want about how screwed up that team is as an organization, they are totally bad-ass on the defensive line. They are young, fearless, big, strong, and vicious and it is not a good team to start two backups on the offensive line against. It might not have helped to have one premier tackle on the line.

Second, Penei Sewell is a talent, but he will not even be 21 until 2000. Because he opted out last season due to Covid-19, the media is basing their projections on his on-field performance as a 19-year-old in 2019. The good thing is that he will probably get better for five straight years, figuring that an offensive lineman does not really peak until age 24.

Viewed negatively, however, I’m not sure how much protection Sewell will offer in year one. Yes, he might make the Hall of Fame. No, it may not matter much if Burrow gets injured because he misses a block due to youth or rust from not having played last season.

Third, the narrative is that Sewell blew everyone away at his Pro Day. But did he? Let’s compare him to another offensive lineman, Cameron Erving, formerly of the Browns. Erving is still active and has started 47 games in the NFL in his career.

Also listed are some partial stats for Jedrick Wills, who is a pretty good lineman, but who was also a 21-year-old rookie and a bit uneven in his rookie campaign. Wills was taken 10th overall. Wills did not participate in the 3-cone drill or the bench press. In the events that he did participate in, he was clearly better than Sewell.

.                                      Penei Sewell        Cameron Erving     Jedrick Wills

40-yard dash time:     5.09 seconds        5.15 seconds        5.04 seconds

3-cone-drill                 7.80  seconds       7.48 seconds          did not run

Bench Press                   30 reps                    30 reps                 did not lift

Vertical Leap              28.0 inches             30.5 inches             34.5 inches

Broad Jump                 109 inches             112 inches              113 inches

Weight                          331 lbs                    311 lbs                     320 lbs

So, Browns fans, take a look at the numbers. No offense to Mr. Sewell, but these are very good numbers rather than extraordinary numbers. Sewell is heavier. It looks like Sewell has a few ticks of speed on Erving in the 40, and he is even-up in the bench press, but Erving does somewhat better in the 3-cone drill, vertical leap, and broad jump.

Erving was drafted 19th overall and was perceived to be a disappointment. Part of his problem was that the Browns could not make up their minds which position they wanted him to play. Wills is faster than both of them.

Sewell’s 30 is very good, but there are a few linemen who have benched over 40 reps. Perhaps for that reason, Wills was too bashful to participate. Sewell did not provide compelling evidence that he is going to be better than Cameron Erving, who, after all, accomplished the same thing.

Anyway, do Sewell’s numbers knock your socks off? So much so that you can’t wait to make him the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft? You’re so sure the Bengals will regret this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Well, maybe, but not because the Pro Day numbers blew us away.

Fourth, the Bengals signed a quality tackle in former Viking Riley Reiff and also drafted three offensive linemen in the 2021 draft. That’s four offensive linemen who will make the team. They already had one stud in Jonah Williams (11th overall in 2019). Trey Hopkins is a competent center. Xavier Su’a-Filo was injured most of the year and was not available to block for Burrow, but is a decent guard.

Quinton Spain and Michael Jordan are also NFL-caliber linemen if not star quality. That’s nine significant offensive linemen. It might be that they are actually okay now, if not overflowing with superstars.

Fifth, in Ja’Marr Chase, they have the best possible scouting recommendation because quarterback Joe Burrow played with him for two years. They absolutely, positively know how he will perform with their quarterback.

That’s a rare advantage that tips the scales in favor of Chase. Burrow was one thousand percent in favor of Chase over any unknown lineman that the Bengals might bring in. Yes, Burrow is young and not a professional talent evaluator. But you have to trust his opinion because he knows Chase better than any scout could possibly know him.

For the Bengals, their scouting report on Chase is 10 times more accurate than any other receiver they could choose. He will play Day One and he will be an immediate star.

The Bengals believe Chase will be a young Julio Jones. While recognizing the potential of Penei Sewell, perhaps they just did not feel there was enough evidence that Sewell is quite that valuable.

Add it up. Ja’Marr Chase was clearly the right decision.

Burrow is going to have Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd Drew Sample, and C.J. Uzomah to throw to. It will be shocking if Burrow does not go over 4,000 yards in 2021.

Defense is the main issue with the Bengals. It’s not crazy at all to think that the Bengals might score enough to have a winning record and contend for a playoff spot.