Wait. You mean to tell me that the Cincinnati Bengals have a need to rebuild their offensive guard position? Seriously. Who would have thought that such monstrosities of awesome like Nate Livings and Mike McGlynn, spewing fire like demon spawn from the seventh circle in hell, wouldn't be enough to satisify Bengals fans and ensure that Cedric Benson doesn't fumble during critical fourth quarter possessions. Those same plays that Benson complains are the result of a dislike of Jay Gruden's offensive philosophy. Fumbled the football? Blame Jay. Punched a man on a Texas street during the dog days of Summer? Blame Jay. Only averaging 3.9 yards/rush? Blame the offensive line. Alright so there might be a certain truth to that.
According to the NFL Game Statistics and Information System, whenever the Cincinnati Bengals ran between the guards, running backs only averaged 3.3 yards/rush. Though one could argue that a number so low is pretty standard in the NFL, due to the overall difficulty running into the gut of an opposing defense, the Bengals rank as one of the worst teams doing it. Yet with 169 carries between the guards, the Bengals were one of the most frequented teams to pound the football into the gut. It's a point that we would have supported if Benson took a moment to worry less about the number of his (ineffectual) carries and worry more about the actual designs of those runs.
That being said, it's always simpler than how it looks. If a defense stops a running back from gaining positive yards, it's a combination of great defensive work and a poor offensive line. For the Bengals in 2011 it was a hybrid of both. But teams can only control what they can control and in Cincinnati's case, it's about rebuilding the interior of the offensive line.
Pro Football Focus ranks the league's top offensive guards heading into free agency, which includes Bengals offensive guard Bobbie Williams ranked ninth.
We round out our Top 10 list at guard with a couple of guys who simply have to answer the question, how much have you got left in the tank? We start with Bobbie Williams who, after a late season ankle injury, only going on injured reserve in mid-December, is unlikely to sign early in the offseason. Undoubtedly entering the twilight of his career, Williams may still have a year or two left in the tank and even in limited game time this season, showed that quality. He graded out as our 10th-best run blocker in a season where most guards struggled in this regard. The Bengals proved unable to adequately replace him this season with both Mike McGlynn and Clint Boling struggling, Williams still has value to them and would be a decent stop gap for a number of teams.
You really don't have to guess whom the top three are, do you? In case you're reading these pages for the first time in your life (welcome), New Orleans' Carl Nicks, Philadelphia's Evan Mathis and Baltimore's Ben Grubbs are the top three.