We’re just less than one month from the start of Cincinnati Bengals training camp, and there’s nothing like an FCS offensive lineman signing to get you jumping out of your shoes!
The Bengals filled the 90th spot on their offseason roster with the signing of former Illinois State guard Cameron Lee. This brings the offensive line to a healthy 15 total players, more than enough to enter training camp and eventually the preseason. But what does Lee bring to Cincinnati that got the attention of the team?
Most small school college prospects who are graced with the opportunity to play professionally are the ones who utterly dominate their competition, or at the very least look the part in terms of NFL size. Lee didn’t play at an otherworldly level at Illinois State, but his build stood out.
His 6’5” frame with an 82” wingspan made him a favorable target as an undrafted free agent, but his nearly 11” hands puts him right in the range of fellow right guards Christian Westerman (11 7/8”) and Alex Redmond (10 1/2”).
Despite his above average size, his athletic traits leave much to be desired. When including density, his speed, explosion and flexibility put him among the bottom three of the Bengals’ 10 interior offensive lineman. That’s not going to help him out when the team is deciding on which lineman to keep in terms of scheme and positional versatility. The less athletic you are, the less you can do.
Lee is a phone booth guy through and through, meaning he can utilize good power and generate movement in tight spaces, but struggles in terms of exploding out of his stance and blocking in space. Playing mostly right guard for the Redbirds, he showed a good understanding of anchoring as a pass protector and finishing as a run blocker.
Rocking the long sleeves this game, Lee is the backside guard on this wide zone stretch. He attacks the inside shoulder of the 2i defensive tackle which gives him the proper leverage to seal him off and give the running back the cutback lane to go upfield. This is a standard play design, but is executed to perfection. There’s no reason for Lee then cleaning the cornerback off his feet at the end of the play, other than I suppose that’s how Lee plays all the time. And that for sure got Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander’s attention.
In sales, there is “Always Be Closing”. In football, there is “Always Be Finishing”. Lee engulfs the 3-Technique with his large hands on this angle block and doesn’t stop until he sandwiches him with the ground. A finisher’s mentality is often lost on subpar run blockers, mainly because they can’t sustain the movement they try to generate. Here, Lee locks on with no intent of letting go, and there’s no chance for the opposition.
In pass protection, Lee’s feet are not his strength, but those big and heavy hands help his game tremendously. Here, he faces a tackle-end twist on the weak side of the formation. He passes off the tackle to his right tackle, and successfully redirects the edge to the inside where the running back is prepared to clean him, clearing a gaping lane for his quarterback to drop a 40 yard bomb through. This is one of the main reasons why having huge hands can be a valuable asset for an offensive lineman. It’s much harder for a pass rusher to try a counter move when he’s being essentially handcuffed by the grip of the offensive lineman. Heavy hands make for light work.
This is more of an extreme example, but Lee’s balance and flexibility are less than stellar, and sometimes made him a liability in the second level. Here, he tries to dip his hips and reach for the linebacker, but gets pushed from behind and falls over. Just by looking at his flexibility numbers (3 cone and short shuttle) you can tell Lee is not a good athlete in terms of change of direction. He’s not going to be an asset pulling around the line of scrimmage or constantly performing angle blocks where leverage is so important.
Lee has a few qualities that are attractive in the eyes of Bengals management, but even in a position group that is underwhelming, he stands little chance of cracking a final roster spot. Size and tenacity got him to this point, but a severe lack of athleticism and therefore scheme versatility will more than likely prohibit him from being anything more than being a camp body.