The offensive line has been an area of the team that the coaches acknowledged had to be improved this offseason and Price’s addition coupled with the team trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn were big upgrades.
But after making Price the 21st overall pick in the draft, the Bengals waited until pick No. 252 to select another offensive lineman. That pick is Ole Miss Rebels offensive lineman Rod Taylor who joined the team in the seventh round.
He started every game at right tackle last season after being Ole Miss’ left tackle in 2016. Additionally, he started at right guard in his first two collegiate seasons, which is where most think he’ll play in the NFL. Taylor’s versatility is likely a big reason why the Bengals selected him as he could be slotted into the right guard or right tackle spots, should he play well this summer in training camp.
“I have hope for Rod,” Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “I know he’s a seventh-rounder, but this guy has played a lot of football in the SEC as a starting tackle. He’s got good length … and he can really move. I think it will be interesting.”
But, was it smart for the Bengals to wait until Round 7 to select a tackle/guard prospect and not to draft any other players who could be slotted into either of the positions on the right side of the line in 2018?
With the draft over, here’s a look at the Bengals’ offensive line room:
Left tackle: Cordy Glenn
Left guard: Clint Boling
Center: Billy Price, T.J. Johnson
Right guard: Trey Hopkins, Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond, Oni Omoile, Rod Taylor
Right Tackle: Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, Bobby Hart, Kent Perkins, Jarvius Leamond, Justin Murray
Some of those guards and tackles are probably guys you’ve never heard of and some will be backups at other positions, too. But for now, the left tackle and left guard jobs have definitive starters while the right guard and right tackle spots are open competitions. The center spot should be Price’s with Johnson backing him up as he backed up Russell Bodine for the last few years. Johnson could be involved in the right guard competition, too.
Price may have a learning curve in getting up to speed as an NFL center, but you have to have confidence in the left-most spots on the Bengals’ offensive line as well as the center position. The right side is where things are really up in the air. Many thought the Bengals would address both the guard and tackle positions early in the draft, but the team didn’t find any prospects they liked while on the clock and now they’re left with what they have.
The final few games of the 2017 season saw some nice play from Westerman and Redmond at right guard, and maybe the Bengals will be giving them a chance to shine in 2018 after added coaching and time in the league. Perkins also played right tackle in the season finale against the Ravens and had some nice moments.
Clearly, the Bengals have confidence in the players they have, which is why the team waited until Round 7 to address the guard/tackle positions. Plus, the addition of offensive line coach Frank Pollack is sure to invigorate the line, infuse new coaching practices, plays and energy, too. The offensive linemen competing for those two open jobs will know they have a chance to earn starting roles on the team, and they’re all going to bring it to win those jobs.
The Bengals probably could have found a player or two early in the draft to add to the competition at the right guard and right tackle spots, but at least there’s a new left tackle and center. Glenn and Price will go a long way toward improving the Bengals’ offensive line and now the coaches will need to get to work on making sure things improve greatly from the mess we saw in 2016 and 2017. We know Paul Alexander wasn’t getting the job done as the Bengals’ offensive line coach, but the hope is that Pollack will take these players to the next level and help them all to create an offensive line that not only protects Andy Dalton but enables the run game, too.
“When you change the position coach it’s going to happen anyway,” Lazor said on Saturday following the end of the draft. “When you trade for a veteran tackle and draft a player in the first round, you expect certain things to play out. We’ll just try to play it out for the other spots and see what happens. It will be the right thing.”
Marvin Lewis believes it would have taken additional first round picks to improve the offensive line in 2018 and that guys in the later rounds weren’t going to be upgrades.
“You’re not going to pick guys that are going to come in here and go, ‘Oh, those guys are better than anybody you’ve got,’” Lewis said. “It’s up to the guys in the building, and it’s up to what we do schematically. It’s just not a one-person thing.”
There’s reason to be fearful for the way the right side of the line will turn out in 2018, but there’s also great reason to think Pollack’s coaching can help improve the unit and that the Bengals’ offensive line will look vastly improved this season.
You can’t forget that the Bengals turned the No. 12 pick in the draft into Glenn and Price. That’s a great start to fixing the line and Pollack’s coaching combined with those moves will go a long way in 2018.