It's going to be an interesting season for Bengals' 2015 first round pick Cedric Ogbuehi. By most accounts, he's expected to go from a virtually redshirted rookie who did manage to work his way into five games at the end of the season to the Bengals' starting right tackle, providing he stays healthy and plays up to expectations.
That kind of career advancement will come with its own set of challenges. If he does, in fact, earn the starting spot, Ogbuehi will have to face off against talented defensive ends such as the Giants' Kerry Wynn, the Patriots' Chris Long, the Dolphins' Cameron Wake, the Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson, the Steelers' Cameron Heyward, the Browns' Desmond Bryant, the Broncos' Derek Wolfe, and the Redskins' Chris Baker. However, none of those players will offer quite the same test as the Texans' J.J. Watt.
The Houston Texans are just one of those teams that the Bengals can't seem to shake, for whatever reason. It all started with a 31-10 beatdown in the 2011 Wild Card round of the playoffs. From that game on, the Bengals have only managed to win one of four total meetings with the Texans, a 22-13 regular season win in 2014 featuring Ryan Mallet as the Texans' quarterback.
Of these four games, Watt has been part of all of them and Ogbuehi has been part of none. Ogbuehi is expected to be the Bengals' starting right tackle going into 2016 and, if that comes to fruition, he will be tasked with a challenge that Andre Smith could never quite handle - keeping Watt in check. It will be the toughest challenge of his young career, but the test should provide some insight as to just how well he can play.
Ogbuehi was drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft despite some fairly major injury issues. The Bengals fell in love with his athleticism and ability to win blocks at the second level, making him the ideal outside run blocker. He was noted as struggling a bit with pass protection, but his positives were just too much to pass up for the team.
With Andre Smith leaving for the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason, the door looks open for Ogbuehi to make his mark as the team's next starting right tackle. Granted, anything could happen between now and Week 16, but various Bengals personnel have already praised his development and expect him to take the spot.
It's hard to say just exactly how Ogubehi will fare in this matchup because there is barely any game film at the NFL level to analyze with him. But, regardless, facing off against the elite Watt near the end of a grueling season will show exactly what he's made of and if he really has what it takes to be the Bengals' next franchise tackle.
Watt has been a thorn in the Bengals' side ever since his rookie season. In his first meeting with Cincinnari, the Bengals actually didn't have too much trouble with him. They won their Week 13 matchup in 2011 by a score of only 20-19 and Watt only contributed three tackles on the day. However, the two teams met in the Wild Card round of the playoffs later on and Watt was all over the place, contributing two tackles, a sack, and a batted pass/pick six on Andy Dalton, helping the Texans to a major 31-10 victory in the Bengals' first playoff game of the Andy Dalton era.
In 2012, he played well against the Bengals in the playoffs again, contributing five tackles and a sack in the Texans' 19-13 Wild Card win. He was mostly held in check when the two teams met in Week 11 of the 2014 season, only posting four tackles in a 23-7 victory for the Bengals. However, in Week 9 of 2015, Watt showed his face again with two tackles and a sack in a very defensive 10-6 win for the Texans, handing the Bengals their first loss of the season.
In Watt's four meetings with the Bengals, most of them have been pretty impressive performances, but many of them have also been against the inconsistent and generally unimpressive Andre Smith. He did face off against Marshall Newhouse on one occasion due to Smith being hurt and Eric Winston last season while Smith recovered from a concussion. But, Smith and Newhouse are both gone from the team, Winston looks to once again man a backup role and Ogbuehi looks ready to make his mark as the team's new starting right tackle.
Who has the advantage?
It's hard to analyze this matchup in too much depth because Ogbuehi hasn't really had much of a chance to show what he can do at the NFL level. He did play in five games near the end of last season when he was ruled healthy enough to play, also making an appearance in their playoff loss. But, it's virtually nothing compared to the challenges of potentially starting and playing an entire game against one the best of if not the best edge rusher in the NFL.
We know that Watt will have plenty of confidence going into this matchup given his history against the Bengals. Potentially having 14 games to adjust to NFL level edge rushers should help Ogbuehi's chances, but he hasn't faced an opponent like Watt in his entire career leading up to this point. So, it's hard to say that he'll be prepared for the matchup.
From where we stand right now, there's really no argument against Watt having the obvious advantage here. But, that perspective could change after the team's first 14 regular season games during which we'll see Ogbuehi show if he was lives up to the hype surrounding him. One thing is for sure, it would be a huge accomplishment for the Bengals' young tackle if he could shut down the Texans' elite edge rusher.