At No. 4 on our list of the Bengals with the most to prove in 2016, we nominated a newly-minted starting safety, Shawn Williams, as having a lot to prove. The notion centered around his lack of experience, coupled with the tasks of replacing a valued member of the team for six years (Reggie Nelson) and his new, big contract.
Cedric Ogbuehi makes the list for similar reasons. Like Nelson and his six years of Bengals service, Andre Smith left this offseason to join the Vikings after seven seasons manning the right tackle spot. The relationship between he and the team wasn't always pretty, but Smith did play at a high level at times in his tenure. Ogbuehi takes over (most likely, though Jake Fisher should receive a shot in training camp, too) as the new starter after being drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and Bengals faithful are hopeful he is the next in a great line of Cincinnati offensive tackles.
Why he makes the list:
The First Round Designation: With high draft position comes high expectations, and most believe Ogbuehi was the best tackle in his class, despite his college knee injury. His extreme athleticism for his size has been the talk of offensive line coach Paul Alexander the past two offseasons, so the sky appears to be the limit. "Busts" aren't as big of a deal as they were 10 years ago, thanks to the rookie wage scale, but even talented rosters like the Bengals' need their first rounders to net quality results.
Redshirt Rookie Season and Stepping into a Big Role: Like Williams, Ogbuehi is being thrust into a huge role because of a personnel loss. It likely was part of the plan all along when the team selected him and, in an odd way, all parties are fortunate they didn't have to rely on him in year one. But, he still has a steep learning curve ahead of him.
What he needs to prove:
Able Pass Blocker: Smith was a road grader who pass blocked reasonably well, but there were times when the smaller, speedier guys got around him with frequency (Von Miller, anyone?). The Bengals' coaching staff has noted Ogbuehi's quick feet and athleticism, likely making him good at multiple facets of the offensive tackle position duties. With Andy Dalton having a career year in 2015, keeping the status quo or even improving the pass blocking can only keep up the quarterback's confidence.
Helping to get Jeremy Hill Back on Track: After an outstanding rookie year, Hill struggled with consistency and fumbles throughout 2015. A lot of the responsibility remains on the third year back, but the offensive line play also factors into the equation. We're not solely pointing out Smith as the culprit, because that just isn't right, but if Ogbuehi can jive with the rest of the line to get Hill back on track, that's going to be a welcomed sight in 2016.