Ever since the Bengals traded up to pick #111 in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Russell Bodine has been penciled in as the team's starter at the center position. He has started all 32 of the last 32 games, plus a pair of playoff games.
During that span, most fans, as well as outside observers such as Pro Football Focus, among others, would contend that the weakest link on the Bengals' offensive line has been Bodine. In fact, just about anybody not in the Bengals' employ has seemingly mentioned how good the Bengals' offensive line is at every position except center.
And it is this lack of production in the middle of the Bengals' offensive line that has brought about the frequent musings and grumblings about the position, and far--too secure state of Bodine's role. So this leads us to our question: Would you rather the Bengals start Bodine for another season, or replace him with another lineman on their roster?
Why keep Bodine at center
- Some will argue that center, like quarterback, is not a position where you can just plop somebody in there and watch them excel starting on day one. It can be a heady position, with the center organizing blocking roles for the line on each offensive play. Therefore, Bodine needs to stay at the position and we should see him improve this year after two years of learning the job.
- The Bengals want to win, and therefore are going to play their best players. Therefore, they feel that Bodine is the best player on the roster to play center. If they had a better option, they would use it - but they don't. The coaches have more insight than outside observers. Therefore Bodine is the best possibility at center.
- Bodine is getting better. His first year was horrendous, but his second year was not as horrendous. You don't pull a guy out when he is showing improvement.
- The Bengals don't have any better options on their roster to play center. T.J. Johnson, the backup center, may not even make the roster this year.
Top 10 Bengals players with most to prove in 2016: No. 1B, Russell Bodine
The top of our countdown ends with a tie, as the big guy manning the middle of the line might be in a make-or-break year in 2016.
Why try someone else at center
- We are talking football, not rocket science. It's not that difficult to teach somebody to say, "Hey, you block that guy, and I'll block this one." The center has more of a role than just blocking, but it's not like we're talking about something that takes years for a long-time football player to figure out.
- The coaches do have more insight than fans, but sometimes information overload can prevent one from doing what needs to be done. Sometimes you need to take a step back. Just as we saw with Nate Livings and Evan Mathis, even when the coaches sees players in action every day, they can still err when figuring out who their best players are.
- Is Bodine really getting better? He still gets pushed into the backfield on a regular basis, and struggles to give the running backs any sort of inside lane. Even if someone improves from horrible to bad, they are still bad, are they not?
- The Bengals' seem to have better options. For starters, recent draft pick Christian Westerman is someone who can play center. Another, more likely option would be sliding either left guard Clint Boling or right guard Kevin Zeitler to center, and filling their spot with either Jake Fisher or Cedric Ogbuehi. Few would argue that Fisher or Ogbuehi would be worse than Bodine, and such a shift on the offensive line would go a long way toward the Bengals getting their top five linemen on the field at the same time.
So what do you think? Should the Bengals stick with Bodine in his third year, expecting the team's patience to pay off with improved play? Or should the Bengals fill the center position with another player on their roster, and possibly shuffle the line as necessary?