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Bengals mailbag: Centering in on offensive line and protecting Andy Dalton

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Now that Cordy Glenn is in the fold, is addressing center early in the draft the next cure-all for the Bengals’ offense? If so, which youngster is the best fit?

As we inch closer to the end of the month, the NFL Draft is on the front of everyone’s minds. We’re not completely sure as to what the Bengals will do with their 11 picks they have in the holster, but we have some pretty grounded ideas.

And, with a call for mailbag questions this time of year, came questions from fans who are eager to know how the Bengals will tighten up some the weaker areas of the roster. It’s been a more active free agency period for Cincinnati than in recent years, but there are still needs on the interior of the lines, safety and linebacker.

You can have yours answered in this feature by hitting us up on Twitter @CJAnthonyCUI or @CincyJungle. Thanks to those who took the time to ask some great questions!

For the top-three true centers in this year’s class, the consensus opinion appears to be Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow, Iowa’s James Daniels and yes, Ohio State’s Billy Price. All three appear to be guys who should be picked within the first 50 picks in the draft.

And, all three of these guys should be on the Bengals’ radar.

If we’re wondering about the preferences and skill sets of the linemen Frank Pollack employed while in Dallas. Whether it’s in Zack Martin, Travis Frederick or Tyron Smith, he knows the formula for the archetype of a successful offensive line.

For the most part, these guys are big, athletic for their size, technically-sound and have mean streaks in them. It’s the reason why they have had one of the premiere lines in the league. While it’s hard for teams to consistently find these types of talent, the Cowboys used high-end draft capital to bolster one of the most critical areas of their football team.

Based on film I’ve seen and collecting of opinions of draft analysts I respect, I’d rank them as Daniels, Ragnow and then Price. It’s not a large gap between the three, mind you, but that’s how I have them ranked.

Daniels is more of the athletic and technically-sound ilk, while Ragnow and Price have more of the size and mean streaks in them. Still, all three should be sound centers at the NFL level and all three fit the profiles, in one form or another, of guys Pollack has traditionally liked.

The reason I’m a little lower on Price than the other two is because of a couple of issues on film and his recent pectoral injury. It sounds like he should be ready by the time the season starts, but in an offseason with major overhaul on the line, these guys need as much time together to gel, as possible. I do like his work at getting to the second level of a defense with successful blocks, though.

There are a couple of other intriguing guys who can be had on day two or three that aren’t part of “the big three”. Martinas Rankin from Mississippi State, Bradley Bozeman from Alabama, Nevada’s Austin Corbett and UCLA’s Scott Quessenberry might have starting potential, should the Bengals choose to wait.

The interesting facet to this year’s draft are other interior linemen. Some, like UTEP’s Will Hernandez, appear to have elite skills at guard, while some can be a solid Swiss Army knife on a line. Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn is one of my favorite players in this year’s draft, in terms of a potential Bengals fit, and he could play a few different positions.

Wynn is likely a tackle or guard in the NFL, but some, like Walter Football, believe he has enough positional flexibility to play center as a pro. And, if there’s one thing we know about the Bengals, it’s that they love players who can give them numerous options.

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Great question. I’d have to say Andy Dalton has to be the one who should be the most stoked on Cordy Glenn’s arrival and Russell Bodine’s departure. Over the past two seasons, there have been far too many times where Dalton was hit, sacked and pressured from nearly every area of the line.

And, what was the result? A 13-18-1 record after having one of the best seasons in franchise history back in 2015.

That 2015 season is what the Bengals should be shooting for on offense this season. They’re off to a good start with Glenn coming over from Buffalo, Tyler Eifert re-signing for another year and John Ross on a mission to be a viable weapon in the offense.

If the Bengals can salvage the careers of either Jake Fisher or Cedric Ogbuehi at right tackle, and get two viable, immediate starters at center and right guard, things could change around for the better quickly. And, Dalton would be the biggest beneficiary.

Still, that is a lot of pieces needing to fall into the right places in a single offseason. While it could happen, it would need to buck some recent draft trends with the team—i.e. the injuries, struggles and/or late-producing players the team has selected at high spots the past three classes.

Obviously, Joe Mixon should be ecstatic with the offensive line revamp as well. Cincinnati has committed to him being their bell cow back this year, and while he made something out of minimal blocking often in 2017, his 3.5 yards per carry as a rookie most definitely needs to improve.

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The final question came to me via email (bengalanthony@gmail.com) from Matt in Burlington, Kentucky. His questions revolved around re-establishing the roles of guys on the roster, as well as options in the first round. Here’s what he wrote:

Anthony,

With talk of needs at safety and center in 1st round, I had the following thoughts:

Safety- move Josh Shaw to safety, I think he could be more the ball hawking center fielder we need and it’s more his natural position anyway.

Center- if you look at Westerman’s profile on either ESPN or NFL (can’t remember which) his player comparison is Alex Mack which I found interesting since he was drafted.

1st round pick-Will Hernandez- dude is going to be the Anthony Munoz of guards. Perfect for our division because he is tough as nails.

Love the podcast, just wanted to check in.

Thanks for the kind words and the insightful email. Going in order of questions/thoughts posed, I’ll start with Josh Shaw. I’ve always been high on the swingman player in the secondary, but he just hasn’t shined the way I thought he might since joining the team back in 2015.

It’s apparent that the Bengals are really wanting another capable safety, based on their courting of Kurt Coleman and a recent visit with Eric Reid. It’s a wise strategy, as they’ve had trouble defending tight ends and running backs in the passing game in recent seasons.

I’d like to think Shaw can be a solid third safety for this team, but he has just one interception (as a corner) in his three-year career. I do think the team should have him concentrating more on one position and special teams to get more production out of him. However, I think a veteran addition is probably the way to go and while Reid is talented, both sides need to see if it’s truly a fit.

There’s talk of Eric’s younger brother, Justin Reid, being in play at No. 21 overall. While I like his play-making ability, I think addressing offensive line, defensive tackle and linebacker should take positional precedence.

While the team will undoubtedly look at center and guard this year, I think Westerman has high upside. There was talk that he could also potentially play center, though that has yet to be seen through by the team.

While I’d like to see the team give Westerman more of an opportunity this year, this also needs to be an offseason of competition. And, with the aforementioned 11 picks in their pocket, it’s probably going to happen at a number of positions.

And, along with Wynn, Hernandez is one of my favorite linemen in this draft. I have questions about the level of talent he played against at UTEP, but he’s big and nasty—just what the Bengals need in the AFC North.

For me, the offseason overhaul isn’t just about talent, it’s about grit and attitude—and Hernandez has it. Maybe he won’t be a Munoz, but he sure can be a Max Montoya—and he was a heck of a guard for the Bengals.