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Cedric Ogbuehi striving to become what Bengals need him to be

Cedric Ogbuehi is ready to rebound from a disastrous 2016 season. And boy are we ready to see him do just that.

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Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Through his first two seasons in the NFL, there is no question Cedric Ogbuehi has been one of the biggest disappointments in Cincinnati.

The second-year offensive tackle entered the 2016 season as the starting right tackle with virtually no competition. However, Ogbuehi endured major struggles, which hindered a promising offense far too often. He would finish 2016 as Pro Football Focus’ 73rd-ranked offensive tackle out of 81 eligible players.

The Bengals finally saw enough from their embattled right tackle in Week 13 when Ogbuehi was benched in favor of Eric Winston, and then Jake Fisher. Starting in Week 5, Fisher would come in to replace Ogbuehi for parts of games, but it took 11 games of Ogbuehi as a starter for the Bengals to realize they couldn’t let him continue hindering the offense. However, an injury to Clint Boling forced Andrew Whitworth to left guard in Week 16, allowing Ogbuehi to start at left tackle against the Texans and get one more start on the year.

That ended up being nearly as big of a disaster as Ogbuehi was at right tackle. To make matters worse, he suffered a shoulder injury that led to him being placed on Injured Reserve in Week 17.

Appropriately, Ogbuehi told the Cincinnati Enquirer that, simply put, “2016 was a s*** year." You’ll hear no argument from anyone who watched him play, but there’s more to it than Ogbuehi simply being part of a s*** year for the line.

Injuries ended up playing a major part in Ogbuehi’s season, which has him still being a very raw player heading into the offseason. He missed most of his rookie year while recovering from a torn ACL. And he then missed most of training camp and three weeks of the preseason games with a toe injury before returning in Week 1, a game in which he was destroyed by the Jets and in which Andy Dalton was sacked an absurd seven times.

So in terms of offseason workouts and live, fully-padded practices, Ogbuehi has almost no experience, comparable to a rookie. That was evident with his on-field struggles thus far, which effectively served as his practice reps, which helps explain why he was so bad.

Even Ogbuehi admits he’s still in the early stages of his development as an NFL tackle.

“I haven’t had an offseason yet,” Ogbuehi said. “I haven’t had OTAs. I haven’t been in OTAs or minicamp for a full year. I haven’t had an offseason where I can just work on technique and not have to rehab.”

Ogbuehi’s biggest issue is his lack of strength and blocking the bull rush. He knows this, and it’s what he’s striving to improve upon this offseason.

“Getting my shoulders strong and getting my core strong so I can handle the bulls and the power rushes,” Ogbuehi said. “To me, that was 95 percent of the issues was just the bull rush. I think once I fix that I’ll be more comfortable. I’ll have a full offseason for the first time and I think next year will be a good year.”

It’s been clear at times that Ogbuehi probably should not be starting at right tackle, even though he’s shown flashes of being a good player and was a first round draft pick. He just makes far too many mistakes for this offense to reach its full potential.

But is keeping him on the left side the solution? Ogbuehi seems to think so.

“I also know I’m not a right tackle,” Ogbuehi said. “Not playing right tackle is going to be a big thing for me. That’s not my position. It’s not comfortable. I know against the Texans I gave up two sacks, but besides the two sacks, out of 41 pass plays, my guy was nowhere near the quarterback. But those two plays were sacks, so I’ve got to fix that.”

Let’s just hope that whatever happens with Ogbuehi, he’s given the proper instruction and time to grow and reach his full potential as an NFL lineman with the Bengals. He simply can’t be rushed into or handed a position he doesn’t deserve. Which means re-signing Andrew Whitworth this offseason is a priority.

It’s good to hear Ogbuehi knows he needs to improve (and he really needs to improve), but can he improve enough to be worthy of a starting role in Cincinnati in the future?