The Cincinnati Bengals’ interior offensive line saw some major change this offseason. The Bengals failed to re-sign starting right guard Kevin Zeitler and brought in a slew of new (and returning) talent to fill the void. At center, the Bengals retained both Russell Bodine and T.J. Johnson, and also spent a fifth round draft pick to add competition.
In training camp and the preseason, these six players will battle it out for what is likely a total of three roster spots for backups on the interior of the offensive line:
The former Texas Longhorn was picked up by the Bengals after the conclusion of the 2014 NFL Draft, and so far has managed to stick around with the Bengals as a member of the practice squad and roster (for brief periods). In 2016, he made his way onto the Bengals’ active roster for the final game of the season after A.J. Green went on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury. Hopkins has managed to impress the coaching staff and prove himself as a reliable reserve option at guard. He appears to be the favorite for the second backup guard position behind Christian Westerman as well as a possible backup tackle, a position he’s been working at this offseason.
A productive, versatile offensive lineman for the Oregon State Beavers in college, Stanton helped the Beavers set a single season rushing record (5.2 yards per carry) in his senior season. He will need to improve his pass blocking if he wants a chance to challenge for a roster spot, or even earn a practice squad spot with the Bengals. But, his run blocking is his calling card and will keep the coaching staff interested if he can show improvement in the other areas of his game.
The former Illinois State guard was expected to be drafted late on Day 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft. But, questions about his weighed down playing style and poorly developed technique led to him falling out of the draft entirely. If he can utilize his immense upper body strength and above average finishing ability, he could develop into a reliable NFL player. His ceiling in 2017 is likely as a member of the Bengals’ practice squad. But, much like with Hopkins, patience and commitment could lead to him being ready for a chance at the roster a few years down the line.
If any player has the experience and talent to challenge Hopkins for the final guard spot, Redmond is the guy. He spent 2016 on the practice squad and performed very well in OTAs. There is no doubt he would be the favorite to earn a return to the practice squad if he is unable to make the final roster in 2017. But, his natural fluidity and athleticism should help him put up solid performances for the Bengals this offseason. He directs his blocks very well and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him on the final roster.
Another former undrafted Texas longhorn guard vying for a spot with the Bengals, Perkins has a productive pedigree to back up his bid for the roster. Despite problems with speed and athleticism, his versatility and run blocking ability are worth noting. Former longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman contributed to the most productive rushing attack in Texas history (491.2 yards per game) with Perkins protecting the inside. He should make a solid bid for a practice squad spot.
Since being drafted out of South Carolina in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Johnson has managed to stick on the Bengals’ roster, holding down the backup center position for the last two seasons. It should go without saying he is the favorite to continue holding the position in 2017, especially after signing a two-year contract extension earlier this offseason. Johnson has only started one game in his career, so it would be foolish to think he has the spot on lockdown and if other players rise to the occasion, it’s possible he could be cut.
Dielman is the only offensive lineman the Bengals selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. Unlike Johnson, he cannot rely on his strength to win a block. But, he is very athletic for a center and can finesse his way into difficult angles. The Bengals seem set at center for now, but they wouldn’t have drafted Dielman if they didn’t believe he could bring some competition to the position.