Since I've done a great job at making this site seem like a broken record, I thought it would be best to continue that trend with draft talk. We've talked wide receiver, linebacker, wide receiver, cornerbacks, wide receiver, defensive line, running back and wide receiver since January. Let's take a closer look at offensive line -- which we started in April.
Mark Curnutte's latest suggests that the team is "considering using one of their 10 picks this weekend on an offensive tackle from an exceptionally deep, talented pool - or add depth in the middle at guard and center."
It's never a bad thing to stock on linemen -- the biggest success or failure of any team goes through the line. Even though the offensive line did quality work keeping Carson Palmer's sack total low (17), the line, at times, was simply awful run blocking.
Does the team really need to draft a tackle?
Marvin Lewis says that Levi Jones and Willie Anderson are healthier than last year and still improving. Stacy Andrews, the team's franchise player, will likely start the season on the bench. Scott Kooistra is signed through 2009 and played as expected with his role. This should also include Andrew Whitworth who started his career at left tackle subbing for an injured Levi Jones in 2006 -- until Dwight Freeney owned him -- to left guard replacing the departed Eric Steinbach.
Which brings us to guard.
I've never thought that the Bengals should move a left tackle to guard. Our offense is thick and beastly, but not nibble or swift. While Whitworth does pull, there are times when his lack of speed to the edges are a problem; slowing up the running back anticipating holes. Not all the time, but noticeable nonetheless. He's simply no Eric Steinbach -- though Steinbach was pretty damned good and expecting similar talent out of this year's draft might be too optimistic.
It's not that I think Whitworth is unable to play the position -- I thought he did fine. But I do think he should be the team's heir at left tackle if Jones doesn't improve in 2008 from injury the past two seasons. Andrews, if he signs a long-term deal (and that's important to note, obviously), is Willie Anderson's natural replacement. If Andrews doesn't sign a long-term deal, then Whitworth will have to be the team's backup tackle and heir to right tackle -- thus supports the case for drafting another offensive tackle. The point here is that a scenario exists that Andrews could sign elsewhere next off-season and Anderson could retire. Whitworth or drafted tackle? An interesting thought. If the Bengals do acquire a first round pick in next year's draft for Chad Johnson, what better luxury would you have replenishing your line based on questions that could go unanswered leading up to next year's draft?
But I think we need a natural guard. Our biggest folly was letting Steinbach go for extended contracts for our bookends. Marvin Lewis did speak highly of Nate Livings, so maybe he should be included somewhere.
But I'm really concerned about Center.
Eric Ghiaciuc really struggled last year. When Rudi Johnson stopped in his tracks, it was Ghiaciuc's guy that penetrated the backfield more than any other defensive lineman. Lewis has called out Ghiaciuc in the need to improve. Especially in a division with Haloti Ngata (340 pounds), Shaun Rogers (340 pounds) and Casey Hampton (325 pounds). If Ghiaciuc can't manage against these beasts, then what do we expect any running back to do? Though, like Livings, Dan Santucci was given approval from Lewis, "Santucci is a guy we feel good about in the future."
I wouldn't have a problem if the Bengals decide to go after several offensive linemen to revamp the depth to strengthen the running game. Thoughts?