After not playing a single snap during his rookie season, Christian Westerman‘s battle in 2017 isn’t to make the roster, it’s to receive playing time and maybe even the starting right tackle job. It won’t be an easy competition, and he is the underdog. Still, you shouldn’t count out Westerman.
College: Arizona State
Hometown: Chandler, AZ
Experience: Second-year player
Draft Position: Fifth round pick (2016)
Westerman is currently in the second year of his rookie deal. It is a four-year deal worth $2.57 million. He is set to make $540,000 this season, and he will have a $597,000 cap hit this year. Westerman is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2020, according to Spotrac.com.
After spending two seasons at Auburn, Westerman transferred to Arizona State. It turned out to be a good move as he really got to show off his talent, and he even made Pac-12-All-Conference Second Team. He was a three-year letterwinner at ASU and appeared in 26 games during his three seasons with 25 starts. He was part of the foundation of an offensive line that paved the way for back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers.
At the Combine, he put up 34 reps, something the Bengals surely took note of before they selected Westerman in the fifth round in the 2016 draft. While he easily made the 53-man roster, he only suited up once for the 46-man active roster during his rookie year and in that one game, he didn’t play a tall. It was disappointing considering where the Bengals finished the season that Westerman didn’t see any game action, but the rookie wasn’t discouraged.
“That process sucks but I also understand that I redshirted and then I ended up being a guy a couple years later getting drafted,” Westerman told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “My point here is, we’ll call it a redshirt year my first NFL year and in a couple years I’m hoping to be one of the best, top guys, top guards.”
While it was hopefully a good learning experience, Westerman could see himself way closer to the action in 2017 if he has a good enough training camp and preseason.
It is no secret the front runner to start at right guard is Andre Smith, who is returning after a stint with the Vikings last year. Still it wouldn’t be surprising to see Westerman get some game action at some point this season.
The first thing going for Westerman is that Smith is learning the guard position after playing tackle for all of his NFL career. It isn’t a sure thing he will pick it up enough to warrant him starting. Last season he struggled in Minnesota before getting injured and put on Injured Reserve, although that was at the tackle position.
The bigger thing going for Westerman is that Smith has an injury history that we all know too well. It is part of the reason he has been forced to sign one-year deals for the past two offseasons. He has also torn his triceps in both of the past two season, and it would probably take an article of its own to write out all the minor injuries he has suffered during his career. If Westerman wins the backup right guard job, he better be ready to go at a moment’s notice with Smith in front of him.
The Enquirer also reports Westerman cut out carbohydrates and sugars in hopes of adding 10 more pounds of muscle for this season. He seems to be showing all the commitment to make Smith work as hard as possible to hold his job. The right guard battle will definitely be one to watch during camp and the preseason. Last year, Westerman had a few flashes of what he could become during the preseason, but showed his lack of experience and fundamentals at times. If he has become more reliable in that sense after his redshirt season, it could be smooth sailing into a prominent role. There will be competition from other players like T.J. Johnson, Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond, so anything is possible at the right guard position this year.
With that said, Westerman is almost a sure thing to make this roster as a second year player who was drafted by the team last year.