There's a combination of reasons we believe it could be true, and not some wacky and wonky tweet we're accustomed to seeing from him. During an interview with Adam Caplan over the weekend, former Bengals offensive lineman Evan Mathis admitted that he once asked head coach Marvin Lewis if he could be moved to the defensive line. Now the podcast hasn't been posted (at least that we know of as of this writing), but we have our suspicions.
And it all goes back to the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Though he didn't start the first game in 2009, Mathis averaged 64.4 offensive snaps per game through the first seven games. Cincinnati went 6-1 during games that Mathis started that year against opponents that weren't necessarily the challengers from Saturday morning wrestling. Eventually Nate Livings replaced Mathis as the team's starting left guard, though Mathis still rotated into the games regularly, participating in 648 total snaps for the season. The breakdown in 2009, using Pro Football Focus' offensive line grading scales:
|Snaps||PFF Overall||PFF Pass||PFF Rush||
Sacks / Hits / Hurries
|Mathis||648||19.1||5.5||8.5||0 / 5 / 3|
|Livings||517||-2.8||2.2||-3.3||0 / 1 / 7|
That's where it went down hill. Mathis was, for the lack of a better word, dicked around. He didn't play his first game in 2010 until the 13th week against the New Orleans Saints, compiling a total of 114 snaps that year. Livings, on the other hand, was graded as one of the poorer guards in the NFL, even allowing 28 hurries on the quarterback.
When Reggie Bush watched the New Orleans Saints draft Mark Ingram during the 2011 NFL Draft, the running back tweeted "It's been fun New Orleans." Mathis responded that "it hasn't been fun Cincinnati." Now some fans took exception, believing that it was an attack on the fans or the city itself (we tend to overreact like that sometimes). Check out the back and forth and our defense of Mathis' comments, writing at the time:
It's very rare that we jump behind a player who speaks out against the organization. Fans feel so connected to that team that a quote or an act against the team is an attack against the fans.
Yet, we're behind Mathis on this one. He's been the best option at left guard for the past two seasons and the Bengals keep finding excusing to replace him with one of the poorly graded players.
So the lack of playing time makes sense, asking to move to the defensive line. It's not like the Bengals haven't experimented with players before.