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Bengals impressed by Jake Fisher after his first NFL start

It’s been a season to forget for the Bengals’ offensive line, but Jake Fisher is trying to be a bright spot and lock up the right tackle spot for next year.

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ offensive line has taken a major step back this year, and much of it has been due to the lack of stability at right tackle.

Cedric Ogbuehi opened the year as the starter there, but he struggled mightily in almost every outing this season before finally being benched earlier this month. Veteran lineman Eric Winston got his chance to start there, but he too was ineffective in his brief stint there.

Then the Bengals made a surprising move to start second-year lineman Jake Fisher at right tackle vs the Steelers last week. Originally drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the former Oregon All-American was expected to be a left tackle in the NFL, but for now, the Bengals need him on the right side, and he’s answering the call.

Sunday’s game saw the Bengals score just 20 points, but allowed just one sack on Andy Dalton, and that was by tight end Tyler Eifert. Fisher was great in pass protection and did well run-blocking as well.

That earned him some nice praise from offensive line coach Paul Alexander.

“He (Fisher) did great on Sunday,” Alexander told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He was really excited, I’m real happy for him. He really graded out, his first game starting, probably graded out higher than any player I’ve ever had in their first game starting.

“Literally he played better against Pittsburgh than any right tackle we have had play against Pittsburgh in recent memory.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Fisher graded out as the seventh-best Bengal in Sunday’s game. That helped the offensive line allow Dalton to be pressured on only six of his 28 dropbacks, one of the lowest amounts this season.

While the jury is still out on Fisher, this was certainly a positive sign for his long-term outlook in Cincinnati, and Alexander is making that no secret.

“If he keeps going like that, it’s his,” Alexander said of the right tackle job.

Fisher will certainly have earned it if he plays this well in each of the Bengals’ final two games. Up first are the Texans, who enter Week 16 ranked No. 1 in total defense. A big part of that is due to outside pass-rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, who’ve combined for three sacks over the last two weeks (Mercilus missed Week 15).

Then comes the Ravens in Week 17, who feature Terrell Suggs (8 sacks this year), Elvis Dumervil (98 career sacks) and emerging rookie Matt Judon (4 sacks this year) that Fisher will have to deal with.

Making matters worse for the Bengals’ offensive line is they’ll be without left guard Clint Boling in Houston due to his shoulder injury. That has Andrew Whitworth moving from left tackle to left guard, and Cedric Ogbuehi is expected to start at left tackle in Houston.

The Bengals think Ogbuehi may have a better long-term future on the left side, which is great news for Fisher as he looks to win the right tackle spot for next year.