On Monday, it was announced that Bengals right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi had suffered a toe injury that could potentially keep him out for the rest of the preseason. In his place, Jake Fisher appears to be the next man up in the starting lineup, opening up chances for some of the lesser known linemen to step up and make their marks.
One player who has been impressing in camp and could potentially benefit from a shakeup in the depth chart is the Bengals’ third year lineman out of the University of Texas, Trey Hopkins. It was his arm length and above-average athleticism that intrigued Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander before the Bengals picked him up as an undrafted free agent in 2014.
“I saw a very good athlete who just needed to refine his skills,” Alexander told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “He was a little bit out of whack. His techniques were whacky.”
Those ‘whacky’ techniques were a big part of the reason that he didn’t get drafted in the first place. But, he has all of the physical tools necessary to succeed. In fact, former Bengals offensive lineman and current radio analyst Dave Lapham seems to see something special in the young lineman.
“Long arms,” Lapham said. “He’s a strong kid. Athletic. I’m not sure why he wasn’t drafted his senior year. His line coach had different techniques and maybe some teams sided on staying away from the technique he was using. I thought physically he was draftable and when they got him I thought it was a good signing. He turned into one of those free-agent gems.”
So far, those physical tools have helped Hopkins to perform well in camp and the preseason. He played at every position on the interior line as a rookie in 2014. He played both left and right guard fairly well and even got some work in at center. Being able to move in and out of positions and perform well, the way Hopkins has done, is an impressive feat.
“Each spot requires you to do different things,” Lapham said. “Centers are a different ballgame with the nose guard breathing down your neck and you have to snap the ball as opposed to being uncovered. And you’ve got a lot of the responsibility for the calls and checks.”
In addition to playing all of the interior positions, he got some work in at left tackle on Friday against the Minnesota Vikings. Hopkins performed well enough, which is particularly good as it’s a position that has historically been one of the most important on the offensive line.
“Left tackle was the other real challenge. In those days the premier pass rushers were at right end. Now they’re all over the place,” Lapham said. “For me, pass protecting at left tackle and run blocking at center were the biggest challenges … Each one is different. No doubt about it.”
That kind of versatility is invaluable and has helped to impress various members of the team.
“He’s been really fluid with everything he’s done,” Jake Fisher said of his teammate. “Anytime coaches ask him to do anything he goes up there and does it and gets his job done. “
With Cedric Ogbuehi’s injury, Jake Fisher will be starting at right tackle on Thursday against the Detroit Lions. Eric Winston and Aaron Epps are next in line at the position. But, it might be a good idea for the Bengals to get Hopkins some work at the position, too. Having already accumulated experience at every other spot on the offensive line, Hopkins is already as versatile as they come on the offensive line, and the Bengals might as well see how he does once Fisher exits the game at right tackle. It also might be a switch that makes sense, as Alexander compared him to a former Bengals right tackle while raving about his physical tools.
“He has the longest arms in our room. Extremely long arms,” Alexander said. “He’s a little short. Andre (Smith) was short, but had real long arms. Some of these guys can do it.”