"Hey," shouts the ref, "you may take my lunch, but you'll never take my FREEDOM!" (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
One of our running storylines since 2009 has been the growth and advancement of Andre Smith. While the pun is obviously somewhat only partially intended for your total amusement, the truth is that Smith's road to being the team's starting right tackle has been long, blocked by the closest monster with feet that's a tad bit slow during pass blocking. On Sunday, Smith got his first NFL start when the team didn't come out in a unbalanced line formation with Dennis Roland at tight end like they did in Minnesota last season and against Baltimore earlier this year. While Smith looked solid at times, he was also flagged for two false starts and allowed a quarterback sack.
On one hand, we have a hard time exclusively faulting Smith the false starts, considering that those were his first infractions of the season and considering the team as a whole has committed 14 false starts this year.
“It felt great. I feel like I can play better. I just have to watch the film and see what I can work on.”
And Smith was solid. While it might seem that Smith will have the bad pointed out against him, let's quickly point out the good. During Cincinnati's second possession in the game, Cedric Benson ran the football behind Smith and the right side of the line four times, picking up 31 yards. Of Benson's first six rush attempts in the game, five went to the right side of the line behind Smith, picking up 33 yards, averaging 5.5 yards/rush.
Attention Bob Bratkowski haters: Then the loopy came into play. When you're averaging 5.5 yards/rush on the right side of the line, the obvious thing to do is completely disregard that side of the line. With 2:50 left in the first quarter, Benson picked up nine yards on third-and-two, sprinting through massive lanes on the right side of the line. Benson, either through designed calls or Palmer audibles, ran 12 straight times to the left side of the line, averaging 2.1 yards/rush (and we rounded up). With 11:05 left in the game, Benson finally got another shot to patiently bounce his runs off the right side of the line, picking up seven yards and that was it.
Here's the simplified version. Benson finished with 6.7 yards/rush behind Andre Smith and Bobbie Williams whereas the left side contributed with an awesome 2.1 yard/rush average. Like we said, aside from two false starts and a quarterback sack allowed, that's a decent showing for Smith.