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Bengals Mailbag: Offensive line concerns, updates on second-year players

We fielded a number of interesting reader questions this week now that OTAs have begun. Are we already seeing tangible improvements from the Bengals' 2016 season?

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As the weeks pass and the NFL regular season nears, questions from the Cincinnati Bengals fan base are coming with great frequency. Queries around position battles and the status of other young, promising players were ones we fielded this week both on Twitter and on The Orange and Black Insider.

On this week’s podcast, listeners asked about the offensive line and roster additions the team could make as they sort things out during the summer.

Connor Howe and I looked at some of the possibilities, especially with the biggest concern being at the offensive line. The team seems to be set with each one of their starters on the line, but they may want more veteran flexibility if injuries and ineffectiveness rear their ugly heads as Week 1 nears.

Possible veteran candidates include names like Orlando Franklin, King Dunlap, Brandon Fusco and even Ryan Clady. They were all discussed on the program, along with their possible scheme fits with the Bengals’ line. Unfortunately, age and injury issues have these guys still looking for work. And, the Bengals seem to want to move toward youth, which these players don’t have.

Another interesting question we received had to do with the backup left tackle situation. As it currently stands, if something happens to Cedric Ogbuehi, a few options would seem to present themselves.

Eric Winston, Andre Smith and even moving Jake Fisher to the left would be the obvious remedies. Though, none are completely desirable. There’s also the idea of pushing Smith to the right and Fisher to the left if Ogbuehi struggles once again this year—this time while protecting Andy Dalton’s blind side.

The additions of one of the aforementioned free agents could be a stop-gap option. But, for now, the Bengals are committed to the duo of Ogbuehi and Fisher at tackle, for better or worse.


Other than his being healthy and being back on the field, there isn’t a ton to report at the moment on William Jackson. Even though the OTA sessions provide limited scopes on unknown players, Jackson still looks like he’s the immense athlete the Bengals loved when he came out of the University of Houston last year.

He’s been eager to get back on the field after missing all of 2016 with a shoulder injury. Indications had Jackson being able to come back from the I.R.-return designation, but the team decided that Cedric Peerman was useful down the stretch, making 2016 a redshirt year for the rookie.

If we’re judging on his recent comments, Jackson is chomping at the bit to come back and contribute to the defense. And, he has been receiving starter snaps due to Dre Kirkpatrick’s injured hand keeping him off-the-field in practice.

“It was super hard, man,” Jackson told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It was super hard knowing that you could compete with those guys you (fixing to) play against and me just not being able to practice, just off to the side running. I kind of just had to stay positive-minded and talk to some good people and stay into it.

“I’m just ready to get back into it,” Jackson continued. “I wish I could fast forward to when we come back so I can start all over again since I didn’t have a rookie year. I guess my rookie year be next year.”

If the question on his “status” isn’t centering on his health, but rather his depth chart standing, he still appears to be in the third to fifth corner range at this point. The team is sticking by Adam Jones through his recent legal issue and he appears to be the starter opposite of Dre Kirkpatrick, who just re-signed a lucrative deal to remain with the club this offseason.

Fellow first round pick from 2014, Darqueze Dennard, seems to have the inside track on the slot gig with Josh Shaw looking to play multiple spots once again and compete for time with Jackson. The Bengals also decided to add an interesting guy last year in KeiVarae Russell, who was a third-round pick of the Chiefs and had an interception in the final game of the season on his first defensive snap played.

So, if you’re wondering if we’ll see a lot of Jackson early in 2017, he’ll likely only be coming in on defense in dime formations and when the opposing offenses go five-wide. Unfortunately, it seems as if Jackson will be another talented youngster to fall into the reviled conservative approach of Marvin Lewis with young and unproven talents.

But, if you’re looking for some good news, the returns of Jackson and Andrew Billings bring extra firepower to the class of 2017’s 11 exciting rookies. Some choose to look at it as the Bengals essentially getting two more talented picks in 2017.

Oh, and if you’re a data-driven Bengals fan looking for some reasons to get excited about the team and the talent it has amassed during the past couple of seasons, check out this recent Tweet from Pro Football Focus.

You can download the audio from the Q&A portion of this week’s OBI from SoundCloud here.

If you’re unable to join us live for OBI, our content can be found here on Cincy Jungle, as well as on our SoundCloud and YouTube channels, and on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at