Coming into the offseason, we knew the big priorities for fixing the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018: coaching and the offensive line. There has been a bit of turnover at both ranks and everyone is getting a peek at the new-look units with voluntary offseason workouts underway.
Of course, the Bengals swung a trade with their “BFFs”, AKA the Buffalo Bills, for left tackle Cordy Glenn, but another major transition is with Frank Pollack’s takeover of the line from departed long-time coach Paul Alexander. There also will be more additions in a week, when the 2018 NFL Draft begins.
By most accounts, things already have a very different feel in the spring workouts—in a good way. Per Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson, many of the veteran linemen are sensing a shift in the M.O. for 2018.
“He’s a tough guy. He emphasized toughness,” Christian Westerman said of Pollack, his new coach. “He talked about things ... that all offensive linemen enjoy and he was a player. That was a good vibe.”
Westerman has had an odd first couple of seasons with the Bengals after he slipped to the team in the fifth round in 2016. He finally saw some significant time at the end of the year because of injuries and lo and behold, the Bengals played some of their best ball of 2017, ending the season with two wins.
Both he and Alex Redmond could be in play to take over the open right guard job, with Westerman having potential flexibility to get looks at center, too. Nevertheless, Redmond also sees a different in approach with Pollack at the helm of the group.
“Frank has a different mentality. He’s intense. He keeps you awake,” Redmond said. The most-tenured Bengals offensive lineman, Clint Boling, was also hopeful that the changes made this offseason would turn into positive, tangible results on the field this year.
Essentially, three starting spots on the line are up for grabs this year. Aside from the aforementioned right guard position, both right tackle and center also appear to have scrums ahead.
Based on need, visits and talent at the position this year, conventional wisdom has the Bengals addressing center within the first two rounds of the draft. Right tackle remains a bit of a mystery, though.
With Glenn now starting on the left, Cedric Ogbuehi appears to be his backup, while also potentially competing on the right—a position at which he started 12 games in 2016. Jake Fisher should also be in the mix, as is Bobby Hart, who came over from the Giants in early free agency. Fisher has been cleared from the heart condition that shelved him and forced him to have surgery in 2017.
Aside from grooming new talent and instilling a reinvigorated nastiness in the line, the biggest impact Pollack could have on the group is potentially salvaging the careers of Ogbuehi and/or Fisher. If he’s able to do so, guys like Andy Dalton and Joe Mixon should see major dividends this year.
“It looks good when you see Ezekiel Elliott run for 20 and 30 every play. That‘s what we like to see,” Mixon added about Pollack’s arrival. “It’s similar stuff. It’s the linemen getting after it every play being aggressive.”
There is a long road ahead to improvement and three starting spots to sort out, but it appears that Pollack is already having a big impact in a short period of time.