There are two options right now with news that starting left guard Clint Boling tore his ACL against the San Diego Chargers. With Kevin Zeitler expected to return this week (after missing two with a foot) against the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati would send guard Mike Pollak back into the barracks of reserve players. Or, with Boling expected to be placed on Injured Reserve this week, he could step in at left guard. Pollak hasn't been a bad option recently either, graded as the third-best offensive lineman against Chargers and Browns in consecutive weeks.
The other option is keeping the same configuration that Cincinnati had departing San Diego.
Andrew Whitworth replaces Boling at left guard and everyone's favorite backup tackle, Anthony Collins, becomes your new starting left tackle. Pro Football Focus gave Whitworth a run blocking score of +4.2 against the Chargers, often as the lead blocker pulling from left to right.
"He can come off a little bit more ferociously, so to speak, where that’s what he likes," said Gruden about Whitworth per the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He likes to grind people and drive people and play physical. Sometimes at tackle, he doesn’t get that luxury. So I think he enjoys guard to some extent."
"Adjusting to Clint Boling's injury, and Andrew sliding in at guard, we just really did it kind of seamlessly," Lewis said via ESPN. "That was very good. Our front group, including our tight end Jermaine Gresham, did a great job up front blocking."
When the Bengals ran to the right, they gained 107 yards on 18 attempts where Andre Smith also scored a +3.1 PFF score on the ground. All the while Anthony Collins scored the best pass blocking score (+1.7) on the offensive line at left tackle.
Yes. Great plan.
What are the Bengals thinking?
Lewis did say Whitworth is an option (how could he not be after his powerful performance?), but he and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden praised the play of six-year veteran Mike Pollack's work the last two games and he is also a possibility. So is fifth-round pick Tanner Hawkinson, who also backs up left tackle.
The one thing we're not sure of is their current opinion of Andre Smith. According to Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Smith was benched because he was believed to have violated a team rule. Cincinnati did the same thing to Chad Johnson in '08 when he was late to a meeting and then kicked out after being disruptive. So we're not projecting long-term issues here, provided that the issue isn't lasting and that chapter has closed. But if not, perhaps the team slides Collins back to right tackle, keeps Whitworth on the left with Pollak replacing Boling at left guard.