Entering the season, no position group for the Bengals was given more attention than the offensive line. The anticipated transition from former offensive line coach Paul Alexander to Frank Pollack along with four new Week 1 starters have yielded a unit that has played fairly well through eight weeks, which is a lot more than what we can say about last year’s line.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals’ defensive line was touted as the undeniable source of strength on the entire team. And despite the defense ranking in the bottom of the barrel for notable metrics, their studs have produced and their new additions have shown flashes.
As a part of our midseason awards series, we’re putting the trench players in the spotlight and recognizing the best lineman through the first half of the Bengals season. The nominees are:
Clint Boling: After wholesale changes on the offensive line, the Bengals’ best blocker has still been their left guard. Boling has been a staple of consistency amidst the turmoil the offensive line has undergone over the past two years, and that consistency has been just as prevalent this season. In year eight, Boling’s level of play has aged like a fine wine.
This season may not be Boling’s best, as he has been beaten in pass protection at a slightly greater rate, but he continues to be the symbol of stability in the group.
Trey Hopkins: Compared to last year, this season started much differently for Hopkins. Alex Redmond beat him out at right guard in the preseason, and Hopkins became the primary backup at all three interior positions, effectively knocking T.J. Johnson off the roster during final cuts.
That decision has payed off as Hopkins has been filling in for rookie Billy Price for the last six weeks at center, and his work has been admirable. Hopkins had not played at center since he briefly did so when he was in college at Texas, and after showing promising signs in the preseason, Hopkins has been doing things we haven’t seen from a Bengals center in a long time.
Unfortunately, all signs point to Hopkins returning to the sidelines when Price returns from his foot injury, but Hopkins deserves credit for coming into his own at a new position.
Carl Lawson: One is not the number of sacks Lawson wanted to finish the season with, but it’s his reality as he will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Lawson’s sole sack came in a big moment against the Falcons in Week 4, but he could’ve ended up with a few more with his eight quarterback hits.
Some will look upon Lawson’s season and label it unsuccessful due to his lack of production, but he was still a consistent force in pressuring the quarterback, and his absence will unfortunately be noticeable on third down.
Carlos Dunlap: In the Marvin Lewis era, there may not be a better example of an impact player on the defensive side of the ball than Dunlap, and his game-changing ways have been on display in his ninth year. At the midway point, he’s on pace for 14 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hits, 10 passes batted down, and four forced fumbles.
On most other teams, Dunlap would be the best defensive lineman on most other teams. But he isn’t in Cincinnati because of...
Geno Atkins: Through the first five weeks of the season, there was no interior defensive lineman playing better football than Atkins, not even the king of 3-techniques Aaron Donald. At that point, he was on pace for 19 sacks, 26 tackles for loss, 38 quarterback hits, and an obscene number of pressures. Since then, Donald has retaken his crown, while Atkins has been unusually quiet for his standards.
Regardless, Atkins remains the best player on the Bengals, period. There isn’t a week where he doesn’t make a fool of the opposition, and he continues to carry the Bengals pass rush along with Dunlap. Respect your king people.
Who gets your vote for the 2018 Bengals’ midseason award for top lineman?
This poll is closed