The Bengals are going to be without rookie center Billy Price until at least training camp. That leaves the team with only one true center in T.J. Johnson. But during practices this spring, the Bengals will need at least one more center to snap balls and during OTAs, the team is having Trey Hopkins move inside to center to take on those duties.
This, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. It is interesting that the team would move Hopkins inside even if it’s only until Price returns from surgery to his pectoral following an injury at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Bengals have a player in Christian Westerman who many thought could move to center when he was in the 2016 NFL Draft. Also Hopkins is the incumbent starter at right guard (prior to going down with injury at the end of 2017), though that means very little with the change to Frank Pollack as the offensive line coach. Still, you’d think the team would want him competing at right guard to see if hell maintain that job.
With that said, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Hopkins move around quite a bit this offseason. Last year there was talk that he could’ve been a backup tackle for the team, which wouldn’t be shocking given his size and arm length (6’3”, 307 pounds and 34 7/8” arms). It is incredible to have that kind of versatility as an offensive linemen. He is essentially assured a roster spot just due to the fact on game day he can fill in at any position, if needed.
Hopkins will surely be competing at right guard first and foremost once the Bengals get Price on-the-field, but if the competition is tight there with Westerman and Alex Redmond, we shouldn’t be shocked to see if the coaches include him in the right tackle competition, too. That is if one of Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi or Bobby Hart don’t emerge as an obvious starter at the position.
Hopkins won the starting right guard job last season over Andre Smith, who the team wanted to try moving inside because of the young tackles starting on the ends. But, Hopkins’ play at the position over the summer made it easy to make Smith a fail safe for the young tackle, which ended up being needed as Fisher was placed on Injured Reserve due to a heart issue during the season. Smith also regularly spelled Ogbuehi before Fisher’s season was over. Now, Smith is gone and Pollack is getting to work to reassess and shuffle around the line, hopefully for the better.
The Bengals lost their starting center of four years this offseason when Russell Bodine signed with the Bills, and many believe Price can keep up his predecessor’s ironman-type streak of starts once he recovers from his pec injury. It is still nice to see the Bengals using this opportunity to evaluate their options with Hopkins across the line without taking away any reps from the rookie. It will also simultaneously open up more reps for Redmond and Westerman at right guard.
Hopkins could very well spend this offseason bouncing around the offensive line as Pollack tries to figure out which players work best at which positions. One thing is for sure though, the offensive line is a work in progress and the Bengals are going to put forth their best effort to ensure this year’s output is far better than last year’s.