After two shaky years for Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, the Cincinnati Bengals pair of offensive tackles are the No. 1 concern among the team’s fanbase this offseason. The Bengals’ success this season largely hinges on how well the duo plays in their third NFL seasons. But, all signs point to Ogbuehi and Fisher progressing.
Ogbuehi, who’s preparing to start at left tackle, and Fisher, who is expected to start at right tackle, have received significant praise throughout OTAs and minicamp and that’s continuing as the Bengals leave Cincinnati for summer break. The players will spend the next five weeks on their own ahead of training camp beginning in the final week of July. But, as they head home, offensive line coach Paul Alexander seems to be confident in how things stand.
“I like where they’re both at right now,” Alexander told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I wouldn’t put one ahead of the other one.”
A great litmus test for a new offensive tackle is how they perform against the most promising players on the defensive line. So far in camp, no defensive player has been turning more heads than rookie edge rusher Carl Lawson. Ogbuehi seems to be holding his own against the talented pass rusher, though, you’d certainly hope that would be true in no-pad practices with a third year player going up against a rookie.
“Lawson is killing everybody. Ced has been a much tougher matchup for him,” former Bengals offensive lineman and team radio analyst Dave Lapham said. “I think (Lawson) has won some, but Ced has won a lot of them. That will be very interesting to watch … (Lawson) is quick, has really strong hands, he’s got great hand placement. I think the only guy giving him a run for his money is Ced.”
Lapham has been critical of Ogbuehi in the past, so it is nice to hear his positive impressions of the tackle so far this offseason. He also acknowledged that Ogbuehi knew he did poorly last season and is working to change that for this year.
But, it’s one thing to impress the coaching staff and team employees, and another thing to impress other members of the starting lineup. Ogbuehi’s teammates are the ones he needs to impress the most, as they will need to rely on him throughout the season and believe they can trust him. This is especially true after a down year for the line last year, in which trust likely wasn’t at an all-time high.
“Our communication between the two of us has been straight,” left guard Clint Boling said of Ogbuehi. “He’s a big, strong, physical kid. I think more than anything it’s a lot of technique things and actually getting reps. Now that he’s actually getting an opportunity to do that I think he’s starting to transition into some good things.”
After starting at right tackle for the majority of last season, Ogbuehi will be moving to left tackle and in his place, the Bengals are turning to Fisher. He struggled nearly as much as Ogbuehi at the position in 2016, but, he only started there for three games and the games were at the end of the season. He hadn’t received all that much practice in the role prior to Week 15, so he shouldn’t have been expected to be great right off the bat. Prior to that, Fisher managed to find ways to contribute in less conventional ways, but none were as a traditional tackle, the role he was drafted to play. Now, Fisher knows the role he’s expected to step into and he sounds confident in the work he’s putting in this offseason.
“I’m healthier than I’ve ever been,” Fisher said. “Mentally I’m more focused. More driven than I’ve ever been.”
In addition to building his own confidence, his progress has been noticed by Lapham, too. “He’s bigger and he’s not sloppy. It looks like he’s going to be more stout,” Lapham said.
Ultimately, Fisher and Ogbuehi can impress their teammates, coaches and team employees all day, but what really matters is how they end up doing on-the-field when the pressure is truly on.
“You can’t really be for sure until the pads come on,” Alexander said. “But I’m feeling pretty good.”
If coach Alexander is feeling good, it should give us all license to feel good as well. Given the poor results from last year, it is understandable for fans to be skeptical about the development of the Bengals’ young tackles, but all signs point toward progress occurring for both Ogbuehi and Fisher.