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Bills vs. Bengals: Who replaces La’el Collins?

Buffalo looks to take advantage of adversity on Cincinnati’s offensive line

When quarterback Joe Burrow first entered the league, I was nervous he would be broken by the Cincinnati Bengals. In his rookie year, Burrow was sacked 32 times in only 10 games, tearing his ACL just over halfway through the campaign. Things didn’t look good. Coming back from injury in 2021, he was then sacked another 51 times in 16 games. Say what you want about Burrow; the dude is tough.

This year, the Bengals have protected him better. Through 15 games, he has only been sacked 39 times. Their offensive line has been remarkably consistent, rolling the same starters all season long. That is, until last week, when right tackle La’el Collins suffered a devastating ACL/MCL tear injury.

Now, with the Buffalo Bills and their pass rush coming to town, Cincinnati faces adversity for the first time this season trying to put together an effective unit to protect their star quarterback. Who will take over for Collins? Let’s discuss.

Hakeem Adeniji

After battling through training camp all summer, Adeniji came away with the backup tackle position. The 6’4” lineman has experience in the NFL, which has been an up-and-down road for him. After Collins went down against the New England Patriots, Adeniji came in and finished the game. He has 18 career starts, but most notably, he started in the Super Bowl for the Bengals last year — and gave up three sacks to go along with five pressures. It wasn’t his best work, but he was matched up against a stout Los Angeles Rams defensive line. Adeniji called it a learning experience, and is looking to come back stronger.

“I took a whole lot out of it,” Adeniji said of the Super Bowl. “The best thing about having failures like that in life is you get to learn from them, you get to take everything in and appreciate the good things that happened. It’s important you are able to magnify the things you can get better on. This offseason was huge for that. It helped me grow a lot as a person and on the football field.”

Adeniji would be taking over his natural position, tackle, where he played his college football — not guard, where he struggled last year.

Check out this play from last year’s playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. Burrow is in the shotgun. Adeniji, lined up at right guard, holds his ground initially, but then loses by way of the bull rush, giving up the sack.

Maybe we see different results with Adeniji at tackle instead of guard, but Buffalo should exploit this matchup on Monday night.

Isaiah Prince

The other option for the Bengals is to deploy Prince, another player who didn’t preform great last year. The 6’7” guard is on the practice squad, but he would add some massive size to the Bengals’ offensive line. He isn’t quite as experienced as Adeniji, with just six pervious starts leading into this upcoming game.

Just like Adeniji, Prince knows there’s room to improve.

“I go back and look at all the games from last year to see where I can improve,” Prince said. “You have to deal with it. I don’t want to re-watch it, but there are corrections to be made, and there are ways to get better from my mistakes. You always have to go back and watch. Don’t harp on it, but just learn something.”

One thing that has to make Prince feel good is the endorsement he received from his quarterback.

“Yeah, well, the good thing is that we played with Zay (Isaiah) for most of last year. So that’s a guy that we’re comfortable with,” Burrow said. “Played a lot of football, and so whoever we’re putting out there, I have the utmost trust in them, because they’ve all played a lot of football.”

Final Thoughts

Whoever takes over for the Bengals will have to bring their A game. Since edge rusher Von Miller went down with a knee injury, the Bills defense has collected 19 non-sack tackles for a loss — tied for first in the NFL over that four-week span. They also still rank 14th in the NFL in hurries, and 15th in quarterback hits. While they aren’t elite, pairing this pressure with good coverage in the secondary sets Buffalo up with an opportunity to get some sacks Monday night. How do you think they’ll fare against Burrow?