As we pointed out Thursday morning, we're configuring the best Bengals lineup since Cincinnati last appeared in the Super Bowl (1988 season, 1989 calendar year). We'll go through each position, provide the candidates, give you my pick, and then you guys debate/poll the winners.
Time to get down with the ogres, the ballerinas of awesome, the soul of football, the core of why football is the best sport in the country. We've already opened the polls at left tackle, left guard, center, and right guard. Let's finish this.
Willie Anderson (four Pro Bowls, one playoff appearance): A former first-round pick (No. 10 overall) during the 1996 NFL draft, Anderson quickly developed into one of the league's premiere tackles. Anchored at right tackle during Corey Dillon's record-breaking performances (246 in 1997 and 278 in 2000), Anderson was a pros pro, deeply respected in the locker room and established in the NFL.
We have to wonder sometimes had Anderson played for a successful team during his first seven seasons, if he could have garnered arguments for Hall of Fame recognition. Anderson is one of only two players in Bengals history to earn First-Team All-Pro awards three times or more -- and that "other" player was Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Munoz.
Andre Smith: He's no Willie Anderson. Not even close. Unfortunately, and some could argue that it was his own fault, Smith's first two seasons were a wash with injury and residency in the coach's dog house for not being a pro (lacked commitment during rehabilitation).
Do we see a track for Smith to become one of the best tackles in the NFL? I believe the talent is there, but needs focused development with advancing maturity. And 2012 was a great step towards that argument, graded as the league's best right tackle by Pro Football Focus.