Hello Bengals Nation! It's an exciting time, as the fortunes seem to be shining brightly on the franchise. Out went the old, with high expectations and seemingly endless disappointment, and in came the new. Things couldn't have worked out better as the Bengals and the Panthers will each stake claims to getting the best QB in the 2011 draft for some time. However, barring disater, the Bengals always win since the price they paid was discounted to the point that they were able to get someone who will stake a claim as one of the best receivers in the NFL for years to come as well. Just remember, this is a time of promise and opportunity, the rebirth of the franchise. When you're in the midst of spring, enjoy it for what it is. Don't focus too much on summer, it will be here soon enough.
Anyway, I considered putting up several mock draft and off season plans in an attempt to solve all of the Bengals problems should anyone be listening, but that's been done by over 50% of the site anyway, so I figured I would go at it with a different approach. I thought a series examining each perceived major hole in the Bengals roster (guard, saftey, corner, running back and #2 receiver), and alternatives for filling them. I thought the guard situation was a good place to start as there are a wide array of opinions out there on this. Hopefully we can generate some quality discussion around this and glean some insight as to what would be the best way to move forward. Of course no one that matters will listen, but it seems like a much more productive way to spend some of these seemingly countless hours until the real fun begins in March (free agency) and April (the draft). So let's look at the guard position as it pertains to the Bengals roster:
The starting guards on the Bengals roster, Nate Livings and Bobby Williams, were a bit of a let down in 2011. Livings was downright terrible and Williams suffered a serious injury. Filling in for them was some combination of Mike Mcglyn, Otis Hudson, Anthony Collins and Clint Boling. None of those players laid claim to the starting spot, though all are fairly young in their professional careers. It seems almost forgone that Livings won't be coming back as he is up for free agency and not very good. Williams, despite his history with the team and the locker room presence that he is, shouldn't be considered a reliable starting option whether he comes back or not due the nature of the recovery time of his injury and his age. In all, the guard situation is bleak.
There are currently two guards on the roster for 2012 in Clint Boling and Otis Hudson. Both of these guys are young and have mixed reviews from Bengals fans. I am pretty high on both of these guys, though I wouldn't put both starting guard positions in thier hands. Taking a look at Boling, he was rated as one of the top guards coming into the draft. He had some setbacks this season, being injury and a shortened offseason, but coming into his second year I still believe there is a lot of hope for this guy. The narrow margin that he has not to succeed I would almost match with the chance that Hudson has to be successful. Both of these guys were projected to draft higher than they were, and I still think they both have opportunities to be valuable pieces along the line. Additionally, Boling still could be capable of being one of the top players at his position.
But, 2 questionable guards still leaves a lot to be desired when we are talking about both guard positions. There are a wealth of guards to be had come free agency or the draft, both of which the Bengals have the means to be big players in. For each of these options, there are clear 1st and 2nd choice options. Should the Bengals look to the draft, the #1 option would be David DeCastro while #2 would be Cordy Glenn. Going into free agency, option #1 would be Carl Nicks while #2 would be Ben Grubbs. There is also the issue of signing our own players back. Someone posed the idea of moving Andre
pudding tits Smith to guard and bringing back Anthony Collins as the starting tackle, which seems like pure genius to me, though there might be some decent competition for Collin's services. I would hope one way or another that McGlynn and Livings never dawn stripes again unless it's on the couch with a beer in thier hands. There are also a handful of players who would be next tier type players in both free agency and the draft that could be had with relative ease.
In all, I think this one can be handled without having to use any valuable chips in the draft. DeCastro would probably be the best option from strictly a best player perspective, but the price the Bengals would have to pay to get him as he probably won't be there at #17 is immense. Considering the dearth of options that the Bengals have to solve this problem along with the other areas of need and much more limited ways of handling those problems, and it seems like the Bengals would be wise to lay a solid foundation here well before April.
If I were to make a decision, it would be going with Collins as the RT and sliding Smith to guard. I would then roll the dice on Boling/Hudson . This would allow the team to draft low and/or pick up some serviceable back-ups or plan B players for injury or if neither Boling nor Hudson could get the job done. In terms of the Collins and Smith shift, I think if they haven't put that together by now then there is little hope that it happens within the next few weeks. Above and beyond that, the coaches are professionals who see these guys week in and week out, so they probably have a better perspective of the situation than we do with our limited sample sizes that we dissect to the Nth degree. As for the second, I think Mike Brown gives his players plenty of rope, and even too much leeway sometimes, and this situation would fall right into this category. Thus I see this as a realistic possibility of happening, which would be much to the dismay of many Bengals fans. Nonetheless, at some point you have to place trust in the guys you chose to be part of your team, who already have somewhat of a handle on the system, and go from there. This might be a little earlier than hoped for, and may warrant a one year stop-gap type player, but outside of fixing all the problems on the team at once, this is a decent way of working it.
What I think will happen is the Bengals take the Boling/Hudson approach to fill the right guard spot and sign Ben Grubbs for the left (or vice-versa) and then fill in the rest with mortar around those stones. I would be happy to see some of that mortar come in the form of Bobby Williams, but sadly that would be more because of what he has meant to this franchise than what he could be. Your thoughts?