Roster Projections is a series that’ll look to break down and discuss each of the Cincinnati Bengals’ position groups, then project how they’ll look at the end of the 2018 offseason. In this series, we’ll look at players’ 2017 seasons, analyze them as they currently are, and predict how they’ll spend 2018 with the Bengals. The fifth edition of this series will cover the Bengals’ offensive line.
Offensive Linemen currently on the roster:
- Tackles – Cordy Glenn, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Bobby Hart, Austin Fleer, Justin Murray, Kent Perkins
- Guards – Clint Boling, Trey Hopkins, Christian Westerman, Rod Taylor, Alex Redmond
- Centers – Billy Price, T.J. Johnson, Brad Lundblade
The offensive line may be the most crucial position group in all of football. Without at least an average offensive line, the offense is toast. The Bengals found that out first-hand last season after starting of the worst offensive lines imaginable. Cincinnati went after some upgrades after finally admitting some mistakes from past drafts. Let’s look at the potential improvements, broken down between tackles, guards, and centers.
Bengals fans may never forgive the organization for letting Andrew Whitworth leave in free agency in 2017. Whitworth, year in and year out, was a top-ten blindside protector in the NFL. The Bengals thought that 2015 first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi was the man to replace Whitworth – he hasn’t.
Ogbuehi was one of the worst offensive linemen in football last season. While athletic enough to handle speed rushers, he lacks the technical refinement to do so. He’s also too weak below the waist physically to anchor against power rushers. Ogbuehi is now the favorite to start on the right side after the Bengals traded for a massive upgrade from the Bills.
That massive upgrade is named Cordy Glenn. When healthy, Glenn is one of the best left tackles that the league has to offer. Injuries have been an issue for him in the past two seasons, but he appears to be healthy now. A downright mauler in the run game and surprisingly agile for 6’6″ and 345 pounds, Glenn is everything that Ogbuehi isn’t. Look for him to come in, solidify the blind side for Dalton, and help rejuvenate the offense.
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Two men will compete with Ogbuehi for the right tackle spot: Jake Fisher and free agent acquisition Bobby Hart. If healthy, Fisher is the better option to start – he showed promise in 2017 before an irregular heartbeat sidelined him. Hart better fits the profile of an NFL swing tackle. He could be a primary backup on both the left and right sides – he should compete with Ogbuehi for that job. Look for him to stick on the roster in that capacity, if he does.
As with the tackle positions, the left guard spot is locked down while the right guard spot is the subject of a three-man training camp battle. Clint Boling, on the left side, is the stalwart of this line. When injuries struck last season, Boling stepped up and moved around to hold things together. After relieving Ogbuehi at left tackle late last season, Boling will be sliding back to his natural left guard position. He enters the 2018 season with no question marks about him – unlike the rest of the unit.
The battle for the right guard spot is getting interesting in training camp. Trey Hopkins was the starter last season, but had an up-and-down year overall. He can look like an above-average guard at times and downright terrible at others. This probably led to Alex Redmond getting a share of first-team reps in training camp. In the limited snaps Redmond played last season, he looked like a man-moving run blocker. Christian Westerman, the third right guard to get first-team snaps, is the wildcard in this race. He played limited snaps last season and looked to me like a potential starter. Better in pass protection while still stout in the run game, he might find himself in the starting lineup come kickoff.
It’s worth noting that seventh-round rookie Rod Taylor out of Florida State was a favorite of the team in the draft. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in training camp. Any bid for the job from him will have to wait for next season.
Any Bengals fan reading this will know that former starting center Russell Bodine‘s departure was long overdue. He wasn’t near good enough to go unchallenged as the starter for as long as the team allowed him to. Every other play, it seemed that defenders were going through him or around him into the backfield. The Bengals allowed him to walk in free agency before addressing his position with a first-round draft selection.
That selection, Billy Price, can be penned in as the starting center. After recovering from a torn pectoral muscle he suffered at the NFL Combine, he stepped into training camp as the starter. Price was a very cerebral player at Ohio State and should have an easy time mentally transitioning to the NFL. He also brings a nasty streak to the run game and a smooth skill set as a pass blocker. Look for Price to become one of the league’s better centers very soon.
T.J. Johnson and undrafted rookie Brad Lundblade will battle for the spot behind Price on the depth chart. Johnson has proven himself to be a serviceable backup and should have the inside track for the job. Lundblade will be challenged to beat Johnson out just to earn a roster spot.