Typically it takes the offense a great deal more time to grasp timing routes, blocking schemes and projecting defensive alignments for blocking assignments. Out of the gates, the defense has a leg up since a defensive playbook requires less coordination than the offense, imploring more instinct.
If the Bengals defense can come out of the gates early, playing to the tune of the pre-season music of an aggressive secondary, a passing disrupting defensive line, and an intelligent linebacker crew, then the Bengals will have to rely less on the offense. And in truth, since 2003, the Bengals as a team only do as well as the offensive unit does. It's always been the way of things and the major reason why Marvin Lewis is constantly in the cross-airs of those that somehow think that the Bengals front office will find a coach that will improve the team further.
You also have to wonder if this offense will be better than previous seasons to start any season. The Bengals have started the same two wide receivers, the same feature back, the same tight end and quarterback for several seasons now. The offensive line is a different story after Levi Jones and Willie Anderson struggled last year to recover from injury before the season even started. Andrew Whitworth and Stacy Andrews were rotated around the line, albeit brilliantly, but there's something to be said about having a home. And Eric Ghiaciuc started feeling the heat of an inability to block bigger defensive tackles in the trenches.
This year, the offensive line is ready, healthy and arguably, the strongest it's been since 2005 when we had Eric Steinbach and Richie Braham dominating the middle of the line with Eric Ghiaciuc being the lone weak link -- hopefully he's improved. You also have to wonder if the offensive line would be better with Bobbie Williams at center, flanked by Andrew Whitworth and Stacy Andrews with Levi Jones and Willie Anderson as the bookends. I know it's not really a possibility, though the idea is pretty fantastic when you combine the weight of all men and come a few pounds short of a ton.
The offensive line projects Eric Ghiaciuc at center, flanked by Williams and Whitworth with Andrews and Jones at tackle. Willie Anderson and Anthony Collins are the logic second-team tackles with Nate Livings and Scott Kooistra backing up the guards. Still, the weakness is at center, with Ghiaciuc starting over Dan Santucci and Kyle Cook. And truthfully, we know very little of the backup centers; though if OTAs and training camp reports of Whitworth and Williams taking snaps at center is any indication, then the center position is truly the weakest part of our offensive line.
Based on the fact the Bengals took nine offensive linemen last season, I'm going to project the guys that make the squad for this season in no particular order.
- Willie Anderson
- Levi Jones
- Andrew Whitworth
- Stacy Andrews
- Bobbie Williams
- Eric Ghiaciuc
- Scott Kooistra
- Anthony Collins
- Nate Livings
It's not unreasonable to believe that the Bengals will keep only one center with the flexibility to move other linemen out of position (aka, the Jurassic Line).
This all brings me to this. Is this roster of offensive line the best we've seen during the Marvin Lewis era?