We've entered into one of my favorite phases with our extended training camp preview on Tuesday. A group of players of such importance that without them, the game doesn't exist. And there's really no group of players that you can say that about. Maybe the pit crew in racing, or in non-sports mediums, the aides in politics (you know the people that actually read the bills and do all of the work) or the crew of a television program.
We're not talking about the glorious headliners at quarterback or wide receiver, who anticipate crowds chanting their names like victorious gladiators. Not the foaming dogs that twist metal while sacking pretty quarterbacks six-feet into the dirt [Roger Goodell: Dude, we don't do that anymore].
The joy this writer often gets when watching football is when clinically overweight men violently clash with other clinically overweight men. The battle is simple, yet critical. Win and your team wins. On Tuesday we broke down our training camp preview into three sections, dedicating a look at each position: Offensive tackle, offensive center and offensive guard.
While reviewing the preview it became evident to me that while the starting offensive line could (extremely optimistically) reach the level of Cincinnati's 2005 group, the depth is extremely inexperienced within the interior. Offensive tackle should be fine, especially with Anthony Collins backing up Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith -- yes there will be a decline but it won't be an epic collapse. However behind Kyle Cook, Kevin Zeitler and Travelle Wharton, we're looking at a roster backing up those starters with less than 200 career snaps in the NFL.
Is there cause for concern? No, not necessarily. In fact it might not be a concern at all. We fully expect Clint Boling's development to have expanded from this point last year and Otis Hudson was often praised by Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander. Early during the offseason with Bobbie Williams rehabilitating, we began wondering if the team wouldn't integrate Hudson.
Regardless this team is very young in spots, especially the backups at guard and center. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
+ ESPN is kicking off a top-25 players in the AFC North series, naming Thomas Howard at No. 25. Later today we'll be kicking off our annual Top-20 Bengals series and you have to wonder, where are the dudes at Cincy Jungle going to rank Howard?
+ It appears that there's a battle brewing heading into training camp, as one local beat writer suggests between rookie Vontaze Burfict will challenge Roddrick Muckelroy. It's an interesting perspective. Burfict is more of a middle linebacker whereas Muckelroy is slightly more versatile playing inside and outside at Texas. Though his career in Cincinnati has been somewhat limited, due to the depth chart or injuries.
+ The Cincinnati Bengals announced that single-game tickets will go on sale on July 14.