The Bengals' offensive line has endured its ups and downs over the years, but for the most part, it has remained one of the team's strongest position groups on a season-to-season basis. That's a testament to offensive line coach Paul Alexander, who is one of the NFL's most respected offensive line coaches.
In 2015, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler were two of the league's best players at their respective positions, while Clint Boling and Andre Smith were both near the league's average at their positions. In his second year, Russell Bodine showed some glimpses of improvement, but he's still a work in progress. In 2016, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher will battle for the starting right tackle position, while Bodine will look to prove why he deserves to retain his starting position. But regardless of what happens, offensive line coach Paul Alexander will make sure that the Bengals' O-line remains one of the best in football.
Alexander's units constantly overachieve, and though many fans only want to recognize the weak links of the group, Cincinnati has one of the best offensive lines in football. The Bengals' front office has done a great job at drafting prospects who would eventually become fixtures on Cincinnati's line, but none of these players would be as excellent as they currently are without Alexander's guidance and coaching. This begs the question: Just how good is Alexander as an o-line coach?
Sports Illustrated makes the argument that Alexander is the best at what he does of anyone in the NFL. In an article where the staff constructed a dream scenario NFL coaching staff, Alexander earned the nod as the offensive line coach.
One of the longest-tenured assistants of any stripe in the NFL, Alexander has been the Bengals' offensive line coach since 1994, and added the title of Assistant Head Coach in 2003. He's served under four different head coaches for the Bengals, and his lines have blocked for four different running backs with 1,000-yard seasons. Cincinnati's line under Alexander has ranked among the top 10 in fewest sacks allowed totals in four of the last five NFL seasons, and it set franchise records for low quarterback takedowns in two different seasons before that. Alexander has gotten the job done with his front five through multiple personnel shifts, injuries, coaching philosophies, and schematic shifts in the league. At this point, he should be talked about in the same breath as legendary line coaches like Howard Mudd and Alex Gibbs.
Calling him a legendary coach seems like a stretch at first, but it might actually be warranted. Throughout years of coaching turnover, bad drafting, poor personnel decision-making and other factors, Cincinnati's offensive line has constantly seemed to overachieve. The Bengals may not have had the absolute best offensive line in football in every year of Alexander's tenure, but Cincinnati's o-line has certainly performed well, given the players who have composed the unit. With Ogbuehi, Fisher and rookie Christian Westerman, Alexander has the tools at his disposal to ensure that his offensive line remains dominant for years to come.