Something that I appreciate about the Bengals is the predictability in their roster construction, as it makes the cloudy picture of the 90-man roster a little more clearer.
Like every team, the Bengals not only have their “types” at certain positions, but they also consistently reserve roster spots for specific role players.
For years, the Bengals have kept Cedric Peerman as the fourth running back on the active roster specifically for his play on special teams. They’ve employed players such as Jonathan Fanene, Frostee Rucker, Wallace Gilberry and Chris Smith to be the pass-rushing defensive tackle in their 3rd down nickel package. And they’ve almost always had a designated “swing” offensive tackle, someone who could play both left and right tackle if need be.
A few years back, Anthony Collins was that player for the Bengals. A fourth-round pick from the 2008 NFL Draft, Collins remained on the Bengals roster for six years as an insurance policy for both left and right tackle.
As we all know, Collins took a five-year deal from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the offseason after 2013 when he admirably filled in for an injured Andre Smith at right tackle, and only saw one year of that deal before being released. Collins would never see another NFL roster, but seven years in the NFL as a fourth-round pick is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
The Bengals attempted to fill Collins’s spot with players like Reid Fragel and Marshall Newhouse, it was even Jake Fisher’s original role when he wasn’t playing fullback. This past season, Smith returned to the Bengals and filled the role when the team had its issues with Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi, but he wasn’t a long-term option.
Louisville’s Geron Christian may be a prime candidate. If you aren’t familiar with Christian, that’s okay. You surely have heard of the quarterback he was tasked with protecting
For starters, Christian’s biggest asset is his length. 35” arms provide a huge boost in his pass sets even when the edge has an advantageous angle in turning the arc. On this vertical set against Purdue, the Boilermakers pin the ears back on the slot defender in this delayed zone blitz. Christian has the feet to meet him at the apex of the rush, but his punch sends the blitzer an extra three yards upfield. He then proceeds to lock his 10 3/4” hands to try and get the pocket back in order. His recovery footwork and length are tantalizing to say the least.
Even when he’s late getting out of his stance, Christian’s hand timing matched with his long arms creates enough space between the edge and himself to settle in a wide base and latch onto the sternum of the now helpless edge.
What’s unique about Christian, and why the Bengals seem to be taking interest in him, is that Louisville’s offense alternated #73 Mekhi Becton and Christian at left and right tackle on throughout each game during the season. Not between games, not between halves or quarters or even drives, but between each play.
I don’t understand it and I hope I’m missing context, but regardless, Christian had to be proficient at both tackle spots every single game. Here against UNC, he’s a little sluggish climbing on his vertical set, but completely swallows the edge’s attempted long arm. Christian seems to be an attacker in his sets and doesn’t try to hug defenders.
More non-passive pass protection. His hand usage goes great with his overall body lean in his back and knees, he leverages himself very well and that makes his punches all the more effective. He’s delivering strikes, and that power is maximized.
Christian doesn’t always hit his target though, and that’s always going to be an issue with tackles who are fast punchers. A quick-twitched pass rusher like Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell can make Christian miss just enough for space to open up and an athletic advantage to be exploited.
Christian has solid footwork, but he’s not as quick as you would prefer for a tackle, and he can get beat around the edge if he doesn’t win immediately.
Misidentifying a blitzer off the edge or confusing protection responsibilities was something that popped up from time to time with Christian and I honestly wonder if constantly switching sides of the formation had something to do with it.
Whatever the case maybe, he won’t be asked to flip sides mid-game in the NFL for schematic purposes.
As a run blocker, Christian’s consistency drops a good amount. On plays like this, he does a great job of locking on and driving out c-gap defenders with his length and lower body drive. At Louisville, their running game was almost all Lamar Jackson, so the conventionalism in their ground game was minimal compared to other programs. But Christian was still tasked with standard down and drive blocks.
However, I don’t think Christian possess a surplus of power to consistently win at the line of scrimmage. Christian is long, but his frame has yet to be filled out at just 298 pounds. If he loses a step, defenders can reset the line of scrimmage and render him helpless. He’s not a road-grader, but teams can work around that if they’re smart.
The Bengals are traditionally known to value length at offensive tackle position, and they’ve been looking for their next Anthony Collins for five years now. It makes sense why the Bengals have shown interest in Christian because he’s their type and he basically played that role all season long.
Collins was drafted with the 112th overall selection 10 years ago, which just so happens to be the same spot the Bengals pick in the fourth-round in this year’s draft. If three rounds and two days go by and the Bengals have yet to take a tackle, you could pencil in Christian in that 112th slot.