Through the first seven weeks of this season, there is no question Cedric Ogbuehi has been one of the biggest disappointments in Cincinnati.
The second-year offensive tackle entered the season as the starting right tackle with virtually no competition. However, Ogbuehi has endured major struggles thus far, which have really hindered a promising offense far too often.
The Bengals finally saw enough from their embattled right tackle in Week 6 when Ogbuehi was benched in the third quarter after a bad holding call on him backed Cincinnati up to their own goal line. The very next play saw Andy Dalton sacked for a safety off a blitz up the middle, and that effectively was the turning point in that contest against the Patriots.
Veteran lineman Eric Winston, who has been working as a backup guard and tackle this season, came in for Ogbuehi and finished the game.
Then in Week 7, Ogbuehi got the start vs Cleveland, but was abused by Browns rookie pass-rusher Emmanuel Ogbah. The rookie came into this game with just one sack in six games, but finished the game with two sacks, six tackles, two QB hits, and two tackles for loss, most of which came vs Ogbuehi.
That led to Ogbuehi getting benched for portions of the game, but it was actually part of a learning process for Ogbuehi, who offensive line coach Paul Alexander is coaching in a unique way, as ESPN’s Katherine Terrell writes:
First-year right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi will go in for two series and come out. On the next offensive series, he stands right next to offensive line coach Paul Alexander and watches while 11-year veteran Eric Winston goes in his place.
That system repeats throughout the game.
"We watch every play together and we talk about it, we talk about what's going on and what he sees and it's good," Alexander said.
Added Ogbuehi: "He just tells me the play and tells me to kind of visualize it out there and just watch mentally."
That was the rotation the team tried out against the Browns last week and, according to Alexander, it'll continue until he's satisfied with how Ogbuehi has progressed.
"He just tells me the play and tells me to kind of visualize it out there and just watch mentally," Ogbuehi said.
It sounds like a good way to allow Ogbuehi to play and learn at the same time, and it certainly helps having a good backup in Winston to make it work. The Bengals know Ogbuehi has the higher ceiling with tons of room to grow, whereas Winston is in his final years, so finding the right balance here has been a tough ordeal through the first two months of the season.
"I’ll know when we think we need to do something different," Alexander said. "I’m not going to worry about that until that happens. I don’t care if it goes on indefinitely. I don’t care if it goes on one week. I really don’t care. I just think it’s the right thing for our team right now and that’s why we’re doing it."
And we have to remember that Ogbuehi is still very raw as a player. He missed most of his rookie year while recovering from a torn ACL, and then missed much of camp and three weeks of the preseason games this year with a toe injury before returning in Week 1.
So in terms of live game reps, Ogbuehi might as well be a rookie. That's been evident with his on-field struggles thus far, and Ogbuehi even admits he’s still in the early stages of his development as an NFL tackle.
"Really last year I didn’t practice the whole year basically; this year I missed the last three games of the preseason, so missing those practices really hurt. It’s not an excuse," Ogbuehi said. "I still have to speed up the progression because we’re trying to obviously win a Super Bowl.”
It’s been clear at times that Ogbuehi probably should not be starting at right tackle, even though he’s shown flashes of being a good player. He just makes far too many mistakes for this offense to reach its full potential.
Let’s just hope that, whatever happens with Ogbuehi, he’s given enough time to grow and reach his full potential as an NFL tackle with the Bengals, whatever that may be.
Andy Dalton for one thinks he’s improving.
“I definitely felt like he’s gotten better,” Dalton said. “He just has to keep progressing. I know he will, because he’s really talented, works hard, and is doing the best he can to be the best player he can be.”