The 2018 season will be a fresh start for the Bengals’ offensive line, as the “reset” button was firmly pressed after the conclusion of the 2017 season. The change on the line begins at the top with long-time assistant coach Paul Alexander no longer with the team, being replaced by Frank Pollack who was in Dallas while the Cowboys built up what is probably the NFL’s best offensive line.
In addition to the coach, four of the starters from last year’s unit could be relieved of their duties and replaced as we head into the 2018 season. The most notable change is at center. Russell Bodine, who has played nearly every single offensive snap for every game the Bengals have played over the past four seasons, was not re-signed. Bodine is now in Buffalo where he will fight for a starting spot with the Bills.
The Bengals are also proceeding without a pair of long-time tackles: Andre Smith and Eric Winston. Smith has spent eight of his nine seasons in the NFL with the Bengals, and started eight games at right tackle last year. He also replaced Cedric Ogbuehi at left tackle when the Bengals played in Cleveland. Smith signed with the Cardinals in free agency. Winston has spent the past four seasons with the Bengals, playing in 37 games over the past three years. He is currently a free agent.
Here’s a look at the Bengals’ top offensive line options and our projections for each position. With that said, much will be determined — especially on the right side of the line — this summer in training camp.
Cordy Glenn: Glenn came to the Bengals in a trade with the Bills, allowing Buffalo to reach for
future draft bust Josh Allen. Glenn is a good player and should be the Bengals’ starting left tackle for the foreseeable future. This job is secure with the only issue being Glenn’s health. If he’s healthy, he will start.
Clint Boling: Boling is the steady, although unspectacular starter at left guard who has spent the majority of the past six seasons starting at that position for the Bengals. He played the final two games of 2017 at left tackle in an emergency role. The Bengals prefer their veterans, especially when they are in-house, so Boling will continue to be the left guard. He finished 2017 with a 75.5 grade from PFF, which ranked him as the 24th best guard in the league. If you figure there are 64 starting guards, that better than average. He also had to do a lot to help out the rest of his lackluster line mates, which may have held back his level of play. With his former college teammates (Glenn) lining up next to him, Boling should be playing at an improved level in 2018. You’d have to think Pollack’s coaching will help, too.
Billy Price: Going back over 40 years, outside of Cedric Ogbuehi (who was injured), every Bengals first round pick on the offensive line is a starter from day one. At the center position that includes Blair Bush and Dave Rimington. It will soon include Price. He’s getting healthy following a partially torn pectoral injury suffered at the NFL Combine, but he’s already working with his teammates and all signs are very positive.
T.J. Johnson: Johnson has been with the Bengals since being selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He started Weeks 2 through 5 at right guard in 2017, but was just filling in for an injured Trey Hopkins and later suffered a season-ending injury himself. It’s hard to envision a player who couldn’t unseat Bodine from a starting role being able to unseat a good center like Price, so Johnson’s bid to be the Bengals starting center in 2018 doesn’t look very promising. He’ll most likely backup Price, assuming he does in fact make the roster.
Trey Hopkins: After joining the Bengals as an undrafted free agent back in 2014, Hopkins finally got a chance to start in 2017. He was injured in Week 1 of the season before taking back the starting right guard role from the fifth game on through the end of the season. Hopkins has the inside track as the returning starter, but he’s not a lock to win the job. He did not do enough to enter the 2018 season set as the starter, and his PFF grade of 48.3 would pretty much validate that. He will have competition for his role from the guys who got the nod there in the final few weeks of the year.
Christian Westerman: The only candidate for the right guard position who was actually drafted, Westerman joined the Bengals via a fifth round selection in the 2016 NFL draft. After spending the first 24 games of his NFL career on the sidelines, Westerman started the final two games of 2017 as the starting left guard. He alternated quarters in the final two games with undrafted guard Alex Remond. It should be pointed out that in those two games that Westerman started, the Bengals offense compiled 288 yards on the group and 57 points, which was their best two-game run of the season. And that output came against a pair of teams fighting for playoff spots – the Lions and Ravens both lost to the Bengals, which knocked both teams out of the playoffs. Westerman looked the part of an NFL guard in that very short sample size, and should be considered to have at least a solid chance of winning the right guard spot.
Alex Redmond: Like Westerman, Redmond joined the Bengals in 2016, though he came in undrafted free agency. And Redmond also finally played significant snaps for the Bengals in 2017 in the last two games rotating with Westerman in those games where the Bengals’ offense finally looked like an NFL offense. The right guard spot is probably a two-horse race with Redmond and Westerman, with Hopkins in close striking distance. For what it’s worth, PFF ranked Redmond higher than Westerman in 2017, although that’s unlikely to matter much in 2018. Redmond, like Westerman, should be considered to have at least a solid percent chance of winning the right guard spot.
Rod Taylor: Taylor is kind of the wild card in this. He was a seventh-round pick from Ole Miss and his game film at tackle certainly leaves a lot to be desired. As a guard, he probably projects as a backup or practice squad candidate. His odds of starting are likely 0 percent, but could be upgraded to single digits if the Bengals are unfortunately hit with enough injuries before the season starts.
Jake Fisher: As awful as the Bengals’ 2015 draft was with Cedric Ogbuehi in Round 1, it’s further compounded by the team’s second pick, Jake Fisher, failing to perform much better. Fisher was struggling through another season in 2017 when it ended abruptly in Week 9 due to dysrhythmia, a heart condition. As of February 2018, he has been medically cleared for football activities. Hopefully for Fisher, he will be able to avoid any further complications from the medical condition that affected him last year. PFF didn’t like Fisher too much, giving him a 46.2 grade, but there is a possibility that Fisher could improve with the dysrhythmia behind him. As bad as Ogbuehi has been, Fisher seems like the early favorite to win the job merely from a lack of quality competition.
Cedric Ogbuehi: If you want to know why Paul Alexander is no longer employed by the Bengals, Ogbuehi is likely part of that reason. Not only was Ogbuehi a bad left tackle in college who struggled with giving up sacks, but he was also injured when the Bengals drafted him. But to hear the way Alexander gushed about him after the draft, it’s hard to know if he had never seen any film of Ogbuehi, or perhaps accidentally thought he had drafted Brandon Scherff instead. After struggling so bad at right tackle in 2016 that the needed to be benched from his starting job, the Bengals moved him to left tackle in 2017 to give him the opportunity to show off that his ineffectiveness knew no bounds, and that he could perform just as poorly on the other side of the line. He played 14 games at tackle in 2017, being replaced in the games at Cleveland and at Minnesota, and got benched for good in the final two games. Ogbuehi will likely be given an opportunity to see if Frank Pollack can turn a lemon into lemonade. But barring the miraculous, Ogbuehi likely will be a backup in 2018 before hitting free agency in 2019.
Kent Perkins: After going undrafted in 2017, Texas guard/tackle Kent Perkins came out of nowhere to impress well enough before the season to earn a spot on the Bengals practice squad. He was promoted to the roster in December after Nick Vigil landed on IR. He played six snaps on offense in Week 17 at tackle. Without a legitimate starter at right tackle, Perkins should hopefully have a chance to win the starting role, but will have to step up his game to be a viable option long-term. His chances are small, but if he impresses this summer anything is possible.
Bobby Hart: When Hart was signed in February, it seemed to be merely a move to ensure depth at the position without Smith or Winston. And one would assume that after the Bengals drafted a right tackle in the 2018 NFL Draft, that Hart would be on the outside looking in. But when the 2018 draft passed without the Bengals selecting a tackle, Hart suddenly became a real part of a position battle without an obvious, proven leading candidate. PFF absolutely hated him, giving him a paltry 37.7 ranking, which qualified him for 76 out of 83 tackles last season. The Giants hated him too, releasing him in February, after he apparently quit on the team. But it seems the Bengals didn’t hate him, as the one team in the NFL to sign him. If Ogbuehi wasn’t awful, if Fisher wasn’t coming back from an injury, and if Perkins wasn’t unproven, Hart would have a very low chance to be the starter. But with the situation he finds himself in, he probably holds a decent chance to start in 2018.
Who will be the Bengals starting right tackle in 2018?
This poll is closed