Back in 2015, Cincinnati Bengals fans were shocked and confused when the team drafted Cedric Ogbuehi in round one and Jake Fisher in round two of the NFL Draft. After careful consideration, we realized the hope in drafting back-to-back offensive tackles was for the duo to take over for Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth in the years that followed.
Ogbuehi missed most of his rookie season due to a torn ACL suffered in his final collegiate game and Fisher was used during his rookie year mostly in jumbo packages and as a tight end, instead of as a lineman.
In 2016, Ogbuehi was essentially handed the starting right tackle job after Smith left for the Minnesota Vikings in free agency. The results were underwhelming, poor, disappointing, and most other bad adjectives you could muster. After 11 games, Ogbuehi was benched in favor of veteran Eric Winston and later on Fisher. Fisher wasn’t much better, though, it was a small sample size in which he showed off his ability to play the position.
But, even after a disastrous season for Ogbuehi, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin has not lost faith in the former first round pick.
“I think Cedric is still a tremendous prospect – I really do,” Tobin told Dan Hoard on Wednesday at the Combine. “He hasn’t had a (healthy) offseason, so it will be good to get him one. The injury thing has been real with him and it has hurt Fish too on the other side. It will be good to get them a full offseason of work and development and maybe at a position to focus on. But I think Cedric is a marvelously talented, young man. I think he’s made of the right stuff to work at it, and I’m bullish on him and his ability to play. I really am.”
These were the sorts of things we heard about Ogbuehi prior to the start of the 2016 season. Every member of the Bengals’ staff had glowing things to say about him and the future looked bright for the young tackle. Then, we saw him play and there was very little to be optimistic about. In 11 games started at right tackle, Ogbuehi allowed nine sacks and 40 total QB pressures. As of Week 14, at which point he’d already been benched for two weeks, Ogbuehi had allowed the sixth most pressures in the league. Ogbuehi was moved to left tackle after he was benched at right tackle, and started one game at the left tackle position, in which he allowed a sack. But, all of that aside, Tobin still has faith.
“The strength and the level of play that he is going against is the biggest jump for an offensive lineman,” Tobin added. “They see a lot more undersized speed-rush type guys in the college game. In the pro game you’re going to see the same speed but a lot stronger. The strength is something that most college lineman has to build up by the time they’re ready to play in our league.”
Andrew Whitworth echoed similar thoughts about Ogbuehi’s struggles last week.
“Everybody employs different techniques, and I think it is incumbent upon us to look at the players that we have and use the techniques that they’re able to use and to maximize each player in the way that they can be maximized,” said Tobin. “But it’s also incumbent on the player to develop the traits to fit into what we do. It’s a two-way street. Does Cedric need strength development? Sure he did. So did Fish. All young tackles do. Does he need technique work? Sure he does. So does Fish. I think Paul will do a great job of getting him up to speed and finding the things that he does well, and finding the things he struggles with and trying to build on those.”
Ogbuehi has spent much of his time in stripes injured, from the moment he joined the team, to last offseason when he was battling new injuries and then in the preseason when he suffered a toe injury in the first game, which kept him out for the duration of the preseason. It’s never ideal to go into your first season as a starter having been injured for much of the offseason and preseason. So, there is a hope that a healthy offseason will be beneficial for Ogbuehi after he even missed OTAs last year. But, Ogbuehi was placed on Injured Reserve for the final week of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. So, it’s unclear where things stand with that injury.
Hopefully, Ogbuehi will be able to put the 2016 season behind him and develop into the top-level talent the Bengals imagined he’d be when the team drafted him. And, the same goes for Fisher who’s expected to take over at right tackle in 2017.