Four of the Bengals' offensive line starters from last year return to Cincinnati in 2016, and would seem to have a virtual stranglehold on their positions.
- Andrew Whitworth is coming off an All Pro selection, much to Jason Peters’ chagrin. The 34-year-old tackle won’t be moved from his starting role in the final year of his contract with the Bengals.
- Clint Boling has done a decent job as the Bengals’ starting left guard during the last four seasons, and is signed until 2020, which means he is unlikely to be moved from his spot any time soon.
- Russell Bodine was handed the starting center role after being drafted in 2014, due in part to Paul Alexander’s love of centers that can bench press excessive deadweight. While Bodine is easily moved by defensive tackles, he's unlikely to be moved by Bengals’ coaches.
- Kevin Zeitler has been a good starter for the Bengals at right guard, and is not likely to be losing that spot in 2016.
That leaves one position, right tackle, which will most likely fall to Cedric Ogbuehi or Jake Fisher, the second year players drafted in Rounds 1 and 2 respectively of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Bengals.
Before you ask about putting the five best players on the line, let’s just squash that pipe dream right now. The Bengals aren’t going to play both Fisher and Ogbuehi, shifting one of the guards to center, and yanking Bodine off the line. That just isn’t going to happen. They are going to play with four good linemen and Bodine as their starters, and a fifth good lineman on the bench. Your choice is to decide which of the second year linemen you’d rather see starting – Ogbuehi or Fisher.
The Bengals’ selected Ogbuehi with their first round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, despite an injury that was going to keep him from playing for much of the season. They wouldn’t have drafted an injured lineman in the first round if they didn’t see great upside as the heir apparent at left tackle to Andrew Whitworth or right tackle to Andre Smith. Therefore, the Bengals likely see Ogbuehi as the better player, and as such, he should naturally be the starter.
But do we want Ogbuehi at right tackle? Isn’t Ogbuehi the future at left tackle? Do we want him to spend the entire year learning the techniques and skills to play one position, only to abandon it at the end of the season, and start over with the youngster, teaching him left tackle again? Wouldn’t it be better just to put Fisher at right tackle, and sit Ogbuehi for, ugh, another season?
Not necessarily. Tackle is, more or less, tackle. Nuances exist between left and right, but if you can play, you can play – more or less. So if you want your best linemen on the field together, except at center, of course, then Ogbuehi has to be the choice. It frees up Fisher to do things like be the extra on jumbo packages, and slide into the backfield or catch the occasional touchdown pass.
Well, perhaps, but is Ogbuehi better than Fisher? Ogbuehi had his struggles at Texas A&M when he moved to left tackle, so maybe Fisher is actually better – despite being drafted after Ogbuehi?
Well, maybe you do. So we’ll let you decide. Who should the Bengals start at right tackle this season: Ogbuehi? Fisher?