For two years, Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith was regularly discussed as a huge disappointment. Two seasons into his career, Smith was an injury-prone tackle that lacked motivation and a proper work ethic to succeed in the NFL. As a former No. 6 overall pick on an offensive line that desperately sought stability, the selection was increasingly viewed as a waste.
Suddenly, during the NFL lockout in '11, Smith attended a player-organized workout when he approached Andrew Whitworth with an "I've got this" shift in his attitude. Instead of being the lazy unmotivated offensive tackle that missed 19 games in his first two seasons, Smith has become the reliable anchor that's missed only two games out of the last 38, including two postseason appearances.
Amid the headline-generating contracts signed by Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, Smith was also the recipient of a team-friendly three-year deal that he signed after a two-month layover in free agency.
"The last two years here have been tremendous, going to the playoffs both years, and it was time for me to make the decision to be back," Smith said during his signing. "I think I’ve fully bought into what Coach Lewis wanted me to do, doing all the little things that make a great pro, and I’ve never enjoyed football more."
Smith was one of four offensive tackles selected in the first round during the 2009 NFL draft. Five seasons later and Jason Smith has already played for three teams, been released four times and has been unemployed since the Jets released him on August 31. Eugene Monroe, arguably the best offensive player in Jacksonville outside Maurice Jones-Drew, was traded to the Baltimore Ravens where Michael Oher is currently struggling (No. 59 offensive tackle, per Pro Football Focus) during a contract year.
After being ranked as the No. 28 offensive tackle according to Pro Football Focus in '11, Andre Smith was listed as the league's best right tackle last season. This year Smith has struggled as a run-blocker, accounting for his No. 10 ranking among all right tackles but his pass protection has been excellent, allowing no quarterback sacks, hits on the quarterback and only four hurries.