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Bengals 2017 bold predictions: Andre Smith plays like Pro Bowl guard

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The Bengals brought back a familiar face to potentially replace the departed Kevin Zeitler. Can he be as effective on the inside as he once was as a right tackle?

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While his talent was seen as the best among offensive linemen in the 2009 class, Andre Smith hasn’t fully lived up to his draft stock. Even so, after being taken No. 6 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals that year, Smith has had an NFL career that could be classified as “solid”. There have been bumps in the road, particularly in the early part of his NFL life, but Smith was a big part of the Bengals’ run to five straight postseason appearances from 2011-2015.

Smith reunited with the Bengals this offseason after the team lost its two best offensive linemen in free agency. His one-year contract shows that his stint with the team might be little more than a short-term band-aid, but it could be a much-needed one as the offensive line currently stands as the biggest question mark on the 2017 squad.

In his reunion with the Bengals, Smith is looking to man a new position for him at the pro level—right guard. On both Cincy Jungle and The Orange and Black Insider podcast, we’ve been giving a fair amount of crazy predictions for the team and what could ensue during the 2017 season.

Could Smith playing at a Pro Bowl level this year actually transpire? If it does, the Bengals’ offense would be in much better condition after the departure of Kevin Zeitler.

Why this prediction is likely:

Better positional fit?: Although Smith was No. 6 overall pick as a tackle, some believed he would always be an All-Pro type of guard in the NFL. He dabbled at playing inside in college at Alabama, but he has never lined up at guard in the NFL. Still, we’ve seen Smith struggle in pass protection against the smaller, quicker edge rushers, so perhaps moving him inside will mask those deficiencies—especially as his career winds down.

Bengals seemingly re-committing to the run game: Because of his size and skill set, Smith has been known more for his run blocking prowess than as a pass protector. Though they haven’t had high draft investments on the offensive line since 2015, they did use a second round selection this spring on running back Joe Mixon. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander is well aware of Smith’s strengths and weaknesses, so plays will be concocted to use Smith effectively to pave the way for Mixon, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill.

Why this prediction is bold:

A lack of experience: As mentioned above, Smith has not played guard at the NFL level. With additional inexperience rearing its ugly head at most other spots on the offensive line, one may be inclined to believe Smith’s possible success would hinge on a more proven line. Smith doesn’t appear to have Pro Bowl-type of help at center and right tackle flanking him this year, so he’ll need to play at a very high level in a brand new spot.

Andre’s health issues: While much of Smith’s health issues have been linked to the early part of his career and conditioning issues, there have been more recent concerns. After Mike Zimmer pounced to sign him to a one-year deal with the Vikings last year, Smith ended up missing 12 games with a triceps injury. He also missed two games in 2015 and another eight (postseason included) in 2014, creating questions about his durability. In fact, of his eight accrued seasons, Smith has only been active for the entire season twice. If he is to help the offense and play at a high level, he’ll need to remain healthy for much of 2017.

Poll

Do you think Andre Smith can play guard at a Pro Bowl level in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Of course!
    (110 votes)
  • 15%
    No way!
    (61 votes)
  • 57%
    Let’s wait for the preseason.
    (228 votes)
399 votes total Vote Now

Here is the audio clip of the OBI segment on SoundCloud to download.

f you’re unable to join us live, all Orange and Black Insider content is 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 theobinsider@gmail.com. Thanks for listening!