When the Bengals drafted Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the thought was he’d go on to sit on the bench for a year or two and then become the future of the Bengal’s left tackle position.
Right tackle was in play, too...
In his first year in Cincinnati, Ogbuehi spent most of the season recovering from a torn ACL, suffered during his final collegiate game at Texas A&M. Once recovered, he was used minimally in jumbo packages and didn’t play a big role at any point. In 2016, he was essentially handed the starting right guard job after Andre Smith left in free agency (as planned) to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. Ogbuehi missed all of OTAs while dealing with an injury and then was injured in the Bengals’ first preseason game. He failed to play another preseason game in 2016. That was a huge loss for Ogbuehi as he needed both the training time in OTAs as well as the preseason playing time to help adjust to being a first-time NFL starter. He also missed a bunch of practices leading up to the start of the season due to his preseason toe injury, which was a big blow to his development.
On top of that, he missed time in the weight room and was unable to fully dedicate his offseason to training due to his injuries. That’s pretty major for an offensive lineman, especially a young offensive lineman who missed the entire offseason program during his rookie year, too.
On Thursday, the Bengals saw Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler leave Cincinnati for big-money deals in new cities. As such, Ogbuehi is now staring down a new starting job, on the left end of the line, the most important offensive line position.
“I’ve got to go in there and prove a lot of people wrong and prove that I can play the position,” Ogbeuhi said. “Last year was just a bad year. Plain and simple. I learned a lot. Just going through all the trials and tribulations. And never wanting to ever have that feeling again.”
Ogbuehi started 12 games in 2016, 11 of which came at right tackle. Ogbuehi was finally benched in favor of Eric Winston and then later on Jake Fisher for the final three games of the season. In Week 16, the Bengals gave Ogbuehi a shot at left tackle, moving Whitworth to left guard for the game (Clint Boling was out injured). And, while the results for Ogbuehi were better at left tackle than they were at right tackle, that’s really not saying much and Ogbuehi didn’t instill much confidence in being the long-term left tackle. The Bengals’ plan, at the end of last season, certainly couldn’t have been handing the starting job over to their 2015 first round pick. But with Whitworth gone, it now seems like that is in fact the plan.
Ogbuehi failed to start or play in the 2016 season finale due to a shoulder injury that landed him on Injured Reserve for the final week of the season. But, he now says he’s ready and healthy. The most important thing is him being healthy and getting in a full offseason remaining as such.
“I feel more comfortable on the left side and I’m healthy,” said Ogbuehi. “I feel like I’m ready. I feel better over there.”
Ogbuehi was lucky to have Whitworth, the best mentor and locker room leader a young NFL player could hope for, during his first two years in Cincinnati, and hopefully, he learned a lot from Whitworth during that time.
“(Whitworth) is the ultimate leader in the locker room,” Ogbuehi said. “He’s a special kind of player. Replacing a guy like that (in the locker room) who played so long takes time. It takes a lot of guys to step up.”
Ogbuehi will undoubtedly be counted on to step up, and he’s going to need to step up in a big way if he is in fact taking over the starting left tackle job. Whitworth’s shoes will be massive ones to fill.
“The pressure comes from myself trying to go in and prove people wrong,” he said. “All it takes is one good year to get everybody turned around.”
Let’s hope Ogbuehi proves his doubters (cough, everyone) wrong and helps to create a dominant offensive line for the Bengals in 2017 and beyond.