CINCINNATI - DECEMBER 26: Jermaine Gresham #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates with Andrew Whitworth #77 and Anthony Collins #73 after scoring a touchdown during the NFL game against the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium on December 26 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. The Bengals 34-20. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Offensive Line (7): Andrew Whitworth, Bobbie Williams, Kyle Cook, Andre Smith, Anthony Collins, Clint Boling, Nate Livings
Starting with the 2006 season through last year, the Cincinnati Bengals have taken nine offensive linemen at the roster deadline to reach the 53-man roster limit [note: they took 10 offensive linemen in 2009, though Andre Smith was a roster exemption]. As of this posting we're locking in seven players. Andrew Whitworth, who is often graded as one of the premiere offensive tackles in the NFL. Bobbie Williams, who graded as the league's top guard in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus; similarly Kyle Cook graded as one of the league's top-12 centers.
Andre Smith and Anthony Collins seem like obvious choices with Smith as the likely starter at right tackle and Anthony Collins backing up both tackle positions. Not only is the team impressed by Boling at left guard, but are enjoying his versatility to play three interior spots at both guard position as well as grooming into a backup center -- which puts Reggie Stephens on notice. Originally I didn't have Nate Livings added, but let that surge of emotional fist-banging-on-desk pass. At the rate that Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander is defending Livings, we can't but conclude that Livings is a roster lock.
If we're lead to believe that the team will continue with trends and keep nine offensive linemen, that leaves two positions open. The battle for those spots includes backup center Reggie Stephens, backup guards Otis Hudson, Max Jean-Gilles Chris Riley and backup tackles Andrew Gardner and Dennis Roland. Hudson could be a roster exemption before the start of the season allowing the Bengals
Now we also admit that Roland could be a likely candidate to make the team, but that would give the team four tackles, three guards and a center; somewhat of a shortage between the bookends. If Boling plays backup center as well as both guard positions, we're not sure if it's realistic to use him as a starting left guard because if Boling gets hurt, now you have to do something to prepare the center position. And honestly, if Boling is playing well, why move him in the first place to weaken two positions rather than one to replace an injured Kyle Cook? On the other hand, the versatility offered with a guy that can play multiple positions has always endeared the Bengals on certain players.