One of the biggest questions and concerns regarding the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017 is the offensive line and most specifically how new starting left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi will fare.
Ogbuehi, the team’s first round pick from the 2015 NFL Draft, started 11 games at right tackle last season before the Bengals realized he was incapable of playing the position at the level the team requires. He was far from a starting-caliber player at right tackle, but the Bengals believe he’ll perform better at left tackle, which is a sentiment the third year tackle shares.
Still, after what was put on tape last season, it’s hard for fans to be optimistic in regards to what Ogbuehi will accomplish this season. Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese doesn’t share that sentiment and says he has full confidence in Ogbuehi’s ability to effectively play left tackle this season.
“I have full confidence that he’s going to be a fabulous player for us,” Zampese said on Tuesday. “It’s no different than a new guy at wide receiver or a new guy at another position. You find out what his skill set is so you can put in your game plan to keep it in his wheelhouse. No different than any other player.”
The idea that an NFL player may be better suited for one position than another is completely fair, but that doesn’t make it easier to imagine Ogbuehi being a “fabulous player” one year after allowing nine sacks and 40 total QB pressures in 11 games as a starter, per PFF.
Part of why Zampese believes Ogbuehi will come a long way in his third NFL season is his offensive line coach, Paul Alexander, who has a great history of coaching impressive linemen like Willie Anderson, Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler and many others.
“The guy that coaches that group, Paul Alexander, is a great communicator,” Zampese said. “Just his ability to get guys at an early age and have them perform to and above what their expectations are is good. Now, we have time on task with (Ogbuehi). It was a little slow because he had the injury when he got here. We got him in the rotation. He sees how things happen; now he’s got a chance to do it from scratch again. Those things give me confidence. He’s physically able to do it and we have a coaching staff that’s able to get him to do it. Now we just need time to do it.”
Ogbuehi was drafted by the Bengals just months after suffering a torn ACL in his final collegiate game. He underwent surgery in January 2015, which forced him to start his first NFL training camp on the Non-Football Injury list and then the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He ended up playing in the final five games of the year, but just as an extra blocker and not in any significant role. In his second year, he suffered a sports hernia during OTAs and a broken toe in the preseason, which limited his ability to participate in some much-needed practices and preseason games. This year, for the first, he’s had a fully healthy offseason training program (so far) and has worked hard to improve his strength and knowledge of the game.
The Bengals hit the field on Friday and figure to have their first padded practice of the year on Monday. We can only hope that Zampese is right and Ogbuehi will be “fabulous” this year.