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Bengals all in on Russell Bodine; grooming internal replacements if he leaves in 2018

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Bodine hasn’t shown anyone outside of the Bengals’ headquarters how he can be a long-term answer at center. But, the team continues to give him little to no competition.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals appear ready to ride with center Russell Bodine for at least one more season.

Ever since Bodine joined the team as a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, he’s consistently been among the worst starting centers in football. He has made small improvements in each of his first three seasons, but not enough that he should be handed a starting gig with no competition.

Well, it looks like Bodine will be unopposed once again, according to Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson. It’s because offensive line coach Paul Alexander continues to be a huge Bodine supporter, but that doesn’t mean the Bengals aren’t grooming some guys to replace Bodine if he leaves in free agency next year.

Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander is all in on Bodine and his backups, who could replace him if doesn’t re-sign after this season, are their own young guys. They’re developing guys like T.J. Johnson, whom they just gave a two-year extension, 2016 fifth-rounder Christian Westerman, promising second-year college free agent Alex Redmond, and injury-plagued Trey Hopkins.

Bodine may very well develop into a serviceable starter that the Bengals can count on, but he’s not there yet and there’s little reason to believe that will change. Pro Football Focus ranked him 26th among NFL centers in 2016.

And because he hasn’t shown he can be that through his first three years, he should, at the very least, have some competition for his job.

T.J. Johnson is not adequate competition, and he’s been working more at guard over the last two seasons anyhow. He’s not shown anything to suggest he would be a consistent starter, even in preseason games.

Trey Hopkins also isn’t real competition. He’s struggled to make the 53-man roster and stay on it, not to mention he’s been injury-prone ever since he came to Cincinnati as an undrafted free agent.

The real mysteries are Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman, both of whom have worked primarily at guard, but it sounds like they’ve gotten reps at center as well. Westerman was a fifth-round pick last year who failed to log a regular-season snap, while Redmond was an undrafted free agent who spent the year on the practice squad.

If that’s all the competition Bodine has to worry about, the Bengals must really be going all in with him this season. Oh well. At least he’s a free agent next year, though we probably should expect the Bengals to hand him a contract extension this year.