We've said it once; we're going to say it again. The Bengals shouldn't just re-sign Evan Mathis, they should start him at left guard for the 2011 season. Above Nate Livings, above Clint Boling. We're only talking about a year here, but the returns would be noticeable, compared to the previous regime that took snaps at left guard.
The most glaring point is that when Mathis started seven games with the Bengals in 2009, the Bengals won six. According to Pro Football Focus' grading scale, Mathis posted the third best pass and blocking scores compared all Bengals linemen that year. And for whatever reason Bengals liked Nate Livings, often graded as one of the worst blockers, over Mathis so much that he started all 16 games with the 4-12 Bengals.
Of course we're not saying the difference of an offensive guard is the different for a football team -- that actually hurt saying that because my affinity for offensive linemen. But we knew the better guard; Mathis hated it, sore enough that he likely will not return to the Bengals in 2011. Not thanks in part to Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander, who already admitted that Livings "played well enough" to remain the starting left guard. What the hell is going on here?
Ultimately it might all be for naught. During the 2011 NFL Draft, the Bengals drafted Georgia guard Clint Boling, who we hope will at least compete for the spot as the team's starting left guard. Though based on the way this team treats rookies, we're fairly convinced Boling won't start the regular season.
Carlos Dunlap was one of the more productive defensive ends in recent memory. Yet he only got on the field due to injuries and suspensions with Antwan Odom, Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker. When given time to play, he exploded with 9.5 quarterback sacks during the Bengals final eight games in 2010. Jerome Simpson, often hearing that he struggled adapting to the playbook, literally exploded during the final two games last season when allowed on the field. Again. He got on the field due to injuries and lack of personnel ahead of him; not because of any "throw caution" to the wind mentality by this coaching staff that views old unworkable body parts a bit too nostalgically.
Though this year's rookie crop could have a great chance of starting as rookies than previous players. It's not like we have a quarterback option better than Andy Dalton, though we could realistically see the team signing a veteran free agent. Our guess is that A.J. Green slowly integrate into the offense as a fourth receiver, based on how quickly he adapts to the NFL. We could actually see safety Robert Sands being the most likely to make his first NFL start amongst those in the Bengals rookie class. And a main reason for that is simply lacking personnel at the position.
But those discussions are for another day.
Let's kickoff the "Sign Mathis, boot Livings" campaign today.