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Andre Smith's Tough Road Finally Getting Better

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We ran a poll on April 25 just before the 2009 NFL draft asking if the Bengals should draft linebacker Aaron Curry, an offensive lineman, defensive lineman or trade the pick. According to the results 49% said Curry and 44% wanted an offensive lineman. And experts we spoke to believed that if Curry were available at No. 6, the Bengals should pull the trigger. At one point eight players were in consideration by the Bengals, including Curry, offensive linemen Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith. Michael Crabtree, Beanie Wells, B.J. Raji and Knowshon Moreno were also considerations by the team. Curry was recently demoted as a backup strong-side linebacker and save for Raji, has any of the other players the Bengals were considering made that great of an impact?

As known history is written, the Bengals selected offensive tackle Andre Smith, who would go on to miss 19 of 32 games during his first two NFL seasons due to injuries compounded by a reportedly known bad worth ethic that caused Marvin Lewis to question information he received from Alabama. Lewis told Peter King in early August 2010 that he "doesn't think Alabama shot him straight with its pre-draft info (the kid's work ethic leaves a lot to be desired) and Smith was not diligent enough in the offseason rehabbing a foot injury."

This offseason was the first time Smith made impressive strides to be the player the Bengals drafted for. Players hooked up in mid-June to workout during the NFL lockout with Andre Smith reportedly having lowered his weight thanks to an improved nutritional diet. But the first thing Smith said to Whitworth when the two met during the offseason was, "Whit, it's my time. Time for me to step up." Smith would go on to say that he's "trying to prove those naysayers wrong."

"I took everything more seriously this offseason to live up to the hype."

Marvin Lewis, who kept Smith in his doghouse for nearly two seasons, transitioned into more praise for the offensive tackle.

"He never knew what it looked like down here (at training camp). But I coached a guy in Baltimore (Peter Boulware) that had about three years without training camp, and he went to a bunch of Pro Bowls, so I hope Andre has the same kind of career. It’s been good to see him just be one of the guys and no longer be a story about his foot or this or that. As I told him yesterday, ‘You just blend right in now. No one’s ever talking about you.’ And that’s a good thing, and he’s blending in most importantly assignment-wise. He’s taken leaps and bounds since we put him on the field for the first time. We’ve got a big investment in Andre and we think he can be an outstanding football player, and now he has the opportunity to go out there and prove those things."

And he's played well this year. He's allowed less pressures on the quarterback than Andrew Whitworth, Nate Livings and Clint Boling. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith is the team's second-best offensive lineman behind Whitworth (who is graded as the league's best left tackle through three games). Granted it took him three years, but at least he's finally arriving.