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Trey Hopkins primed for starting RG spot with Bengals

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No one player has been a bigger surprise for the Bengals this year than Trey Hopkins.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The rise of Trey Hopkins has been one of 2017’s pleasant surprises for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hopkins originally joined the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He had a promising training camp, but in his third preseason game, he suffered a leg injury that caused him to miss his entire rookie year. Rehabbing from that injury also kept him out of the first two preseason games in 2015, which helped cost him a roster spot in the process as he spent that year on the practice squad.

In 2016, Hopkins had a good preseason and made the initial 53-man roster but he was inactive his first week and later waived and re-signed to the practice squad. He got the call back to the 53-man roster in Week 17 when Clint Boling went to IR.

Hopkins finally made the field in that game against the Baltimore Ravens, and with the limited snaps he got, he threw some great blocks against Baltimore’s stout front seven:

That turned out to be a sign of things to come, as Hopkins has been a star for the Bengals in offseason workouts, training camp, and now the preseason.

After a great game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Hopkins put in another solid performance against a strong Kansas City Chiefs front seven. On the game’s first drive, Hopkins threw an excellent block on Allen Bailey, a quality defensive lineman, that helped spring Jeremy Hill for a five-yard gain.

Hill danced around in the backfield and could have easily been tackled for a loss, but Hopkins remain engaged with Bailey, despite getting his facemask nearly ripped off. That probably should have been flagged as a facemask penalty, but even with that, Hopkins was still able to maintain his block and keep that lane open for Hill to get a good gain through.

Bengals wide receiver Brandon LaFell praised Hopkins' play during the TV broadcast of Saturday's game.

"We've got a young guy, man, a lot of guys are going to hear about his name coming up soon,” Said LaFell of Hopkins. “He's been making a lot of plays in practice during camp, and he's been pushed by Andre Smith and is learning a lot from Smith."‘

Speaking of, Andre Smith was relegated to the second-team offensive line while Hopkins got all of the snaps with the starters in the first half. That marked the second-straight week in which Smith didn’t get any reps with the starters, a clear sign that he’s behind in this battle for the starting right guard spot.

Hopkins still needs to finish strong in the preseason to ensure he wins that job come Week 1, but he looks well on his way to accomplishing that. As for Smith, having him as a backup guard, tackle and even a swing lineman could be a great role for him in this offense. The sixth lineman usually gets a heavy dose of playing time throughout a season, so he can still have a big role in this offense.

The Bengals’ offensive line was a major question mark heading into the 2017 season, but the emergence of Hopkins has brought some much-needed relief for this area.