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Bengals positional comparison from 2016 to 2017: offensive guard

Kevin Zeitler’s departure leaves a huge hole for the Bengals to fill.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive guard is arguably one of the most underappreciated positions on any NFL team. The Cincinnati Bengals have been lucky enough to see a lot of consistency at the position through the years, although things have been rough this offseason. In 2016, the Bengals’ offensive guards were part of an offensive line unit that looked putrid at certain points in the season. However, the majority of the problems centered around the right tackle position, while the guard positions were more secure.

The Bengals set out to make some major changes to the offensive line this offseason, following such a poor performance in 2016. But, the changes that took place were likely not what we all had in mind. How does the unit compare from 2016 to 2017?

2016 roster

Kevin Zeitler

The Bengals selected Zeitler with the 27th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the second of two first-round selections that year. The pick paid off as Zeitler went on to become a mainstay in the Bengals’ starting lineup, proving to be an ample replacement for Bobbie Williams. From the beginning, he was a 16-game starter, only missing time in 2013 and 2014 due to injuries. He was seen as one of the top young guards in the NFL in 2016 and was one of the few consistent bright spots for the Bengals’ offensive line.

Status: On the Cleveland Browns.

Clint Boling

Boling has been the model of consistency for the Bengals as the starting left tackle, perhaps not something expected of him when the Bengals selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he only saw the field for five games, starting three, but he has been the starter for every game he has been healthy for since 2012. In 2016, he held his own at the left guard position, although he played through a separated shoulder much of the season and was placed on injured reserve in Week 17 as a result. In 2017, he will be counted on to provide leadership following Andrew Whitworth’s departure.

Status: Still on the team.

Christian Westerman

Most draft analysts praised the Bengals for ‘stealing’ Westerman in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He didn’t record any snaps in 2016, but the Bengals are still excited about his impressive athleticism, timing, technique, footwork, balance, and strength going forward. His play strength needs to improve for him to make an impact at the NFL level, but with the right coaching from the Bengals’ staff, he could develop into a starter.

Status: Still on the team.

Trey Hopkins

The Bengals picked up the former Texas Longhorn lineman after the conclusion of the 2014 NFL Draft. He has only been part of the active roster for one game in his NFL career, but he has received plenty of praise from the coaching staff in training camp and as a member of the practice squad. Given the Bengals’ current situation at offensive guard, he has an opportunity to step up and make some noise in 2017.

Status: Still on the team.

Alex Redmond

The Bengals picked up Redmond after the 2016 NFL Draft. He wasn’t able to crack the 53-man roster in 2016, but he showed the Bengals’ coaching staff enough in camps and practices, he was retained on the practice squad. In his second second, he will hope to show the staff even more to hopefully make the roster and even earn some playing time.

Status: Still on the team.

2017 changes

Kevin Zeitler leaves for Cleveland

The Bengals’ biggest blow this offseason was likely the departure of Zeitler to the Cleveland Browns. The Bengals picked up his fifth year option to extend him through 2016, but unfortunately, when it came time for him to test free agency the Browns were willing to make him the highest-paid offensive guard in NFL history. His departure leaves a huge hole at right guard, which there will be an intense competition for this offseason. There’s an assumed starter (Andre Smith) but anything is possible when it comes to replacing Zeitler.

Andre Smith returns to Cincinnati

Following news of Zeitler’s departure, the Bengals announced the return of former right tackle Andre Smith. Despite questions about his notorious inconsistency and history with injury problems, the move made sense with the Bengals losing key pieces on the offensive line. It was later revealed the Bengals brought him back to take over the starting right guard position in Zeitler’s absence. This will give Smith a fresh new start at a new position and allow the Bengals to attempt to plug an offensive line unit that seemed to be hemorrhaging talent.

Undrafted players

The Bengals brought in former Oregon State lineman Dustin Stanton and former Texas guard Kent Perkins to add some offseason competition to the guard pool. Perkins was part of a unit that allowed (now rookie) running back D’onta Foreman to rise to prominence and contribute to the 19th best rushing attack in the NCAA. Stanton helped the Beavers set the team’s single-season rushing record (5.2 yards per carry). Needless to say, both players have immense potential and will have an opportunity to compete this summer.

Assessment

After losing Zeitler, it’s hard to say as off today that the team got better at guard this offseason. On paper, they most certainly got worse. But, this summer and the upcoming season will prove if the Bengals made a big mistake, or if there’s someone on the current roster ready to step up and impress. Hopefully, the change from last season to this season inspires some impressive performances this summer and the guard position remains the strength it has often been in Cincinnati.

Poll

Did the Bengals get better at guard this offseason?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Yes
    (48 votes)
  • 65%
    No
    (326 votes)
  • 24%
    Uncertain
    (121 votes)
495 votes total Vote Now