The additions of Cordy Glenn and Billy Price have shored up two thirds of the Bengals’ offensive line, but the right side is still a big question mark. The Bengals currently have Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, and Bobby Hart as the top candidates competing at the position, but based on past performance, Fisher is the only real option.
There are a handful of young players on the line like Kent Perkins, Rod Taylor, and Austin Fleer who have potential to develop into good players, but are unlikely to make an impact in 2018. Hart is the only newcomer who could really challenge for the position, but the odds are not in his favor. Hart’s performance for the Giants in 2017 took a step back from how he played in 2016 when he was thrust into the starting role. Even in 2016 Hart had his struggles. His biggest issue is that he is unable to hold his ground against power pass rushers and is frequently jolted backward by their initial contact. Even if the pass rusher does not get to the quarterback, this forces him to move and takes him out of rhythm.
Ogbuehi was the Bengals’ first round pick in 2015 and Fisher was their second round pick in the same year. The pair struggled to see the field early and both of them have had their time at the right tackle position at this point. When the team abruptly lost Andrew Whitworth in free agency in 2017 the two third-year players became the team’s only option at left tackle. Ogbuehi won the job at left tackle and the results were not good.
Ogbuehi struggles in just about all situations. His pass protection is porous which makes him clearly unsuited for the left tackle position. Some have speculated he may do better on the inside, but the fact of the matter is he is not a strong run blocker either. Unless new offensive line coach Frank Pollack can perform a miracle and make Ogbuehi a more aggressive and competent player, he should not be on the field inside or out.
Fisher has had some success. He is not the franchise left tackle teams are looking for, but he is a pretty good pass rusher and strong run blocker. Fisher started at right tackle last year but then missed half of last season with an irregular heartbeat that required surgery. He has since been cleared from his heart issue, but suffered a shoulder injury that kept him limited in spring workouts. As long as he can stay healthy is the only real option on the roster. Despite hype that Ogbuehi is receiving and hints that he’s being considered to start at right tackle, the Bengals need to learn their lesson and sit Ogbuehi on the bench this year. Yes, it’s possible Pollack is molding him into a better player, but it’s highly doubtful that he’s going to be good enough to start for the Bengals at right tackle this year and if he truly is the team’s best option, that’s scary and uninspiring.
Fisher needs to step up and take over the role in order for the Bengals’ offense to succeed in 2018. He is a strong enough pass protector to give Andy Dalton the time he needs and has the run blocking ability to help Joe Mixon establish himself as one of the top rushers in the league. If Fisher steps up and improves upon the play we saw from him early in 2017, it could go a long way coupled with the addition of Glenn on the left side and Price at the center position. Plus, Pollack’s coaching should be the icing on the cake that’s enjoyed while watching an improved offensive line this season in Cincinnati.