Offensive Tackles(6): Anthony Collins, Reid Fragel, Tanner Hawkinson, Andre Smith, Andrew Whitworth, Dennis Roland
Tanner Hawkinson (5th round pick from Kansas)
Reid Fragel (7th round pick from Ohio State)
Despite Bengals quarterbacks taking 46 sacks last season, the Bengals offensive line ranked second in pass protection with a score of 53.7, according to Pro Football Focus' grading scale. And Football Outsiders ranked them No. 11 in run blocking with 4.16 Adjusted Line Yards.
Many times last season the line was a tale of two sides. From the left the quarterback was safe, from the right there was pressure. However, the reverse wsa true in the running game, struggling when running game to the left while the right was the team's strength.
The anchor of the line and a team leader, Andrew Whitworth ranked as the league's top pass protector at offensive tackle by Pro Football Focus. A 2012 Pro Bowler and a definite iron man, Whitworth has started 67 consecutive games, which is currently the longest streak on the team.
Using Pro Football Focus' scale again, Andre Smith graded as the league's fourth-best offensive tackle in the NFL. A far cry from the shirtless 40-yard runner on his way into the league. A steady improvement each season has turned Andre from a wasted pick to an incredible run blocker and a solid player to anchor the right side.
Anthony Collins was a fourth-round pick out of Kansas in the 2008 draft class. He's since started 18 games for the Bengals has become a valued backup. Collins started seven games in 2009 and the club went 6-1, improving the team's overall record when Collins starts to 11-7.
Tackle eligible Dennis Roland has played in every Bengals game since 2009. Standing at 6'9'', he is easily the tallest player on the field that often bulldozes piles as an extra blocker for running plays.
Tanner Hawkinson was an interesting pick in the 5th round. Many feel the Bengals reached for a lineman that weighs in at only 298 pounds while standing at 6'5''. Hawkinson only managed 13 reps on the bench press (225 pounds) at the NFL Combine. But he started 48 consecutive at left tackle for Kansas and all he's done is impressing the Bengals coaching staff with his versatility.
Reid Fragel was projected higher than a seventh-round pick but fell to the Bengals. At Ohio State, Fragel spent his first 3 years as a blocking tight end. After the Buckeyes lost both starting tackles in 2011, Fragel was moved to tackle and the Buckeyes were able to go undefeated.
In the NFL you want continuity on your offensive line. Players that routinely play next to each other on the line develops a rapport that makes the unit stronger. With the re-signing of Andre Smith and Dennis Roland, the continuity is there for the Bengals. It is a safe prediction to think that the Bengals will have the same four tackles on the roster this season as they did going into last season.
The hope is that the line continues to improve and the deficiencies of the two sides are worked out. We want Andre Smith to protect the pocket a little better and Andrew Whitworth to pancake a few more defenders to open the run. Somewhere along the way, we wouldn't mind seeing Whitworth mix it up again with those who take cheap shots on Dalton. That is always awesome to see the big guys sticking up for the quarterback.
As for the rookies, it is going to be a tough road to crack this foursome. I do like the idea of what Reid Fragel brings to the position. While he is still new to the role, the athletic ability from his time at tight end transfers well into the kind of agility you look for in the bigger guys, which could signal Roland's eventual departure. Additionally, this coaching staff favors versatility, which will favor Hawkinson.