Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan ‘expects a big game’ from oft maligned offensive line vs. Rams

Frank Pollack has heard enough about the alleged Super Bowl LVI mismatch (Cincinnati Bengals pass protection against Los Angeles Rams pressure) and the Bengals offensive line coach isn’t buying it. Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow was caught an NFL-high 51 times in the regular season, and Pollack’s maligned line is now preparing to face two elite quarterback hunters, one inside, one outside, in Aaron Donald and Von Miller.

“I don’t pay attention to all the outside noise, so to speak,” Pollack said. “The narrative is the narrative, I couldn’t care less. This is the ultimate team game. You need all aspects playing in the same direction to be successful. We’re one of those facets, we’re going to keep working and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t get caught up in all that stuff. That’s a good story for you guys and the fans to worry about. Not for us.”

Pollack invoked basketball great John Wooden, who won 10 NCAA titles at UCLA, in praising his line for its ability to play well in tough times. Pollack cited Wooden’s “pyramid of success,” which is topped by competitive greatness, and said his unit delivers that when it’s needed most. That’s a tough sell for Bengals fans who witnessed nine Burrow catches, an NFL playoff-tying record, in the Divisional Round against the Tennessee Titans. However, Pollack sees a silver lining even in that game.

“At the end of the Tennessee game, in the final series, the pass protection was impeccable,” he added. “In overtime in Kansas City, it was really exciting to see our guys take the trenches and run the ball. And to let Joe Mixon carry the rock downhill and come up with the field goal. That was exciting.”

Texans head coach Lovie Smith: Davis Mills ‘played as well as any of the rookie quarterbacks last year

If there was the hope of finding the future anywhere in the Houston Texans’ dismal season, it was Davis Mills. The rookie quarterback piloted two of the team’s four wins during the final month of the season, and after receiving the starting nod in Week 14, he threw nine touchdown passes with just two interceptions down the stretch.

New Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith saw a lot of Mills as the club’s defensive coordinator last year and is well aware of the rookie’s promise.

“For us, of course, Davis Mills came in and did some good things. You know, when you’re not the starter, you get a chance to face the (top) defense every week, so I got a chance to see him in a lot of different situations,” Smith said Wednesday. “He played as well as any of the rookie quarterbacks last year. So (I’m) excited about some of the things he can bring.”

Mills’ first chance as a starter last year, filling in for the injured Tyrod Taylor, came with the growing pains expected of a rookie. He threw four interceptions in Buffalo, two more in Indianapolis, and didn’t win a game in his first seven starts. He shined impressively in a loss to the New England Patriots with a solid QB rating of 141.7 while throwing for three touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing, yet showed promise as a third-round draft pick.. Smith has promoted Pep Hamilton from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, giving Mills a familiar face to work with in his second year in the league.

Saints’ Cam Jordan is not convinced Sean Payton is done with coaching: ‘Play chess, not checkers

Tasked with taking over for Sean Payton and continuing the Saints’ prestige, new coach Dennis Allen is turning to an old colleague who helped build the foundation in New Orleans.

The Saints are hiring Alabama offensive line coach Doug Marrone for a key role on their offensive staff.

In 2021, Marrone led a unit that protected Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. His return to the NFL makes him the latest Nick Saban assistant to successfully turn a stint at Alabama into a bigger opportunity elsewhere. Marrone spent the better part of the last decade in the NFL, including four seasons as head coach of the Jaguars (2017-20). While he was able to get the best out of Blake Bortles and guide the club to an AFC title game, Jacksonville’s offenses ranked in the bottom third of the league during the final three seasons of his tenure.

Marrone’s first coaching stint in New Orleans was a different story. He served as Payton’s first offensive coordinator and offensive line coach from 2006-2008, directing units that ranked in the top 10 in all three seasons. That led to head coaching stops at Syracuse and the Bills. Much of Marrone’s 30 years as a head coach have focused on the offensive line, but he has also been responsible for the tight ends.

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