If you're not familiar with Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Trey Hopkins, it may be time for that to change.
Hopkins joined the Bengals as an undrafted free agent out of Texas following the 2014 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he suffered a leg injury during the preseason that landed him on Injured Reserve, cutting short what could have been a promising first year in the league. In 2015 and 2016 he spent the better part of both years on the practice squad, with brief stints on the 53-man roster.
Now, Hopkins is back and competing for the starting right guard position, which was vacated by Kevin Zeitler this offseason.
Andre Smith was signed this offseason with the intention of taking that role, but it seems Hopkins may push him for the job. Hopkins has been receiving practice reps with the first team offensive line all offseason, mostly at right guard. At first, it came as he was filling in for Andre Smith when Smith was sick during OTAs. Then it happened again with Smith healthy during the early days of training camp. With Hopkins at right guard, Smith reverted to his former position of right tackle with the second team offense. And when Smith was on the rehab field working on conditioning on Monday, it happened again.
Following practice on Monday, Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander made it seem like Hopkins not only is doing well in camp, but he may have a legitimate shot of stealing the starting right guard job from Smith.
"Hopkins is having a terrific camp and I think he is, at least, going to be one of our first guys coming off the bench," Alexander said via ESPN. "Or he, you never know, he may crack the unit. He's playing that well."
Alexander also had some praise for Smith, who he says is in shape and looking good, despite not practicing for undisclosed reasons on Monday.
"He's light, he looks good. Well, relatively, "Alexander said with a laugh. "It's the best he's been. He's in shape and he's running around. Physically he looks real good. It's just, you know, he's got some years on his tires. He's got to rest up a little bit and he'll go (Tuesday)."
It seems like Smith is going to need to perform better than “good” if he wants to be a starting lineman with the Bengals this year.
Hopkins may not have much NFL regular-season experience, but he has a world of potential and may just surprise both the fans and coaches this summer.