The Cincinnati Bengals need all hands on deck when it comes to offseason workouts and the offensive line.
The team continued Organized Training Activities (OTAs) on Tuesday, but Andre Smith wasn't present as he’s battling Bronchitis and we excused as a result, per Katherine Terrell of ESPN. This is a voluntary workout, and it’s not a big deal for Smith to miss a pad-free practice, but hopefully he gets better soon!
Andre Smith, who is expected to be the starting right guard, is not at practice. Dont know if it's an injury or just an absence.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) May 30, 2017
The offseason defections of Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth have made the offensive line easily the team’s biggest question mark heading into the 2017 season. Smith is expected to help ease the offensive line concerns by replacing Zeitler at right guard.
With Smith out for the time being, the Bengals rotated in a committee of linemen at right guard, starting with Trey Hopkins, who has spent time on the practice squad and roster since joining the Bengals as an undrafted free agent out of Texas following the 2014 NFL Draft.
So, Trey Hopkins getting first unit reps at guard today. #Bengals— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) May 30, 2017
Fair to note #Bengals are moving people around inside at the guard spots for first and second team reps, and at backup left tackle.— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) May 30, 2017
Hopkins spent his entire rookie season on I.R. with a leg injury. He has since bounced from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, and the hope is he becomes a regular contributor this season.
Hopkins appeared in just one game last season, and most of his experience is at right guard, though he has played left guard and center, too.
Other than Hopkins, the Bengals are probably giving a lot of reps to Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond, T.J. Johnson and J.J. Dielman. Westerman was a fifth-round pick out of Arizona State last year who was inactive for all but one game last season, so he’s still a big unknown at this point.
That’s also true of Redmond, a 2016 undrafted free agent out of UCLA who made the practice squad during his rookie. He can play both guard spots, as well as center, and is a darkhorse candidate to make the final roster this year.
Dielman was a fifth-round selection out of Utah in this year’s NFL Draft. He can actually play right tackle and center, but the Bengals will probably give him plenty of looks at guard in OTAs and training camp.
As for Johnson, he probably has a leg up on all of these youngsters since he’s been with the team since 2013 as a seventh-round pick out of South Carolina. Johnson actually started at left guard in the regular-season finale last season, and he also appeared in 28 games during the past two seasons.