The offensive line was one of the Bengals’ worst problems last season.
By Week 3, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was so displeased with both starting tackles, Cedric Ogbuehi on the left and Jake Fisher on the right, that he rotated veteran Andre Smith into the mix. Smith was initially brought back to Cincinnati to play right guard, but he couldn’t beat former undrafted free agent Trey Hopkins for that starting spot.
The shameful thing about this situation is that Ogbuehi was a first-round draft pick and spent years being groomed as Andrew Whitworth, Jr., so to speak. During this offseason, the Bengals traded for Cordy Glenn, who is all but guaranteed the job at left tackle in 2018. Meanwhile, Ogbuehi’s career appears to have bottomed out after the Bengals have declined his fifth-year option, so it’s do or die.
Whether he is motivated by a potential deal as he enters a contract year, Frank Pollack’s ability to find a way to get through to him, or a combination of both, Ogbuehi might have found a way to save his career.
According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Ogbuehi appears to be in a position to take the starting job at right tackle.
“We all want to know who is going to look better with the new O-line coaching,” said Hobson. “But the spring has been all about getting them ready to play in pads. I guess you can say Cedric Ogbuehi has responded well to new offensive line coach Frank Pollack and if there is a surprise that came out of the voluntary practices it is that he’s apparently in the mix to start at right tackle.”
As bad as Ogbuehi was last year, the spot is his to lose. Fisher is the incumbent, but has had to overcome a season-ending heart condition. The only other contenders would be Eric Winston, who was brought in last year after Fisher hit injured reserve, Bobby Hart who came over from the Giants’ equally questionable line, or a handful of UDFAs. Pollack could tinker with the line and move a guard over, but it’s doubtful that it would be a better alternative to Ogbuehi.
So in one sense, it is not surprising that Ogbuehi is getting the first look at right tackle.
It is surprising in another sense that Ogbuehi seems to be earning a potential shot at the spot. This would be good news indeed, since the first round pick is such a heavy investment.
If the Bengals are finally getting a return on the investment, this would be pleasantly surprising. Bengals fans should be much more excited that Ogbuehi is finally earning a spot instead of being given one by default.
It could be that Ogbuehi has finally stepped up because he stands to earn so little on the open market next year. Either way, if he is even a little better than he was last year the Bengals stand to improve immensely.
Let’s hope that Pollack really is getting through to him and that we keep hearing great things about him.