We’ve heard it so much it’s getting kind of old. The offensive line is going to be the Cincinnati Bengals’ weakness this year after losing two of the best players in the business, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, in free agency. We get it. We really do. But you know what? In football, things don’t always turn out how we predict. A lot of times, a unit that is perceived as a strength ends up being a weakness and vice versa. Think about it, that was the Bengals’ offensive line last year.
2015 was a great year from the unit. Everyone expected more of the same in 2016. Then the line was bad, allowing Andy Dalton to be sacked 41 times.
So how about we try to honestly evaluate the offensive line?
John Sheeran does just that in the following video:
It’s really not fair to dismiss the entire line as bad. For instance, Clint Boling has offered quality play at guard for years. And Trey Hopkins has worked his way into the starting lineup, demonstrating substantial improvement from being an undrafted free agent in 2014 to starter in 2017. Both Hopkins and Jake Fisher have looked strong in the preseason in run blocking.
Don’t believe us? Read it from former NFL offensive lineman Jeff Schwartz.
Of course, the most glaring weaknesses are Cedric Ogbuehi and Russell Bodine. John believes that the team moved on from Whitworth in part because giving up on Ogbuehi would have been a bad PR move. Furthermore, while the team insists on playing him at tackle, Ogbuehi really played best at left guard in college. As for Bodine, the Bengals seem to be incapable of drafting a quality center (as demonstrated by the recent release of J.J. Dielman).
In short, it’s a mixed group. Some of the line looks to be good, some solid and improving, and some mediocre, and all signs point to the line remaining that way. But, anything can happen in an NFL season. What’s expected to be good may be bad and what’s expected to be great could be terrible.
So what’s going to happen in 2017? We may think we know, but we’ll only really know once the games begin. Luckily, that happens on Thursday for the Patriots and Chiefs and on Sunday for the Bengals and most of the rest of the league.