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Weekly Lineman: Christian Westerman flashes at backup LG

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The Bengal who took the most snaps on offense Thursday night also looked the best up front.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

As evidenced by fake punt safety Clayton Fejedelem boldly opted for in the Bengals first exhibition on Thursday, the preseason is a time for experimentation on the fly.

For the past two years, the Weekly Lineman you’ve known and (hopefully) enjoyed as had a pretty consistent format: clips followed by analysis. Pretty straight forward, and nothing too different from what you can get from other film breakdowns on other football sites.

That way was fine, but I want to try and evolve the way we do this like the Bengals hope to evolve both the offensive and defensive line with new personnel and schemes. The evolution is giving analysis with my voice.

With vocal analysis overlaying on top of the clips (make sure your sound is on), the goal is to achieve a more direct breakdown of the plays, and garner a greater understanding of what is being shown by relaying added information. This is the plan for the preseason, and I’ll re-evaluate based off the feedback I get from you all.

To start, I wanted to go over Pro Football Focus’s second-highest graded Bengal from Thursday’s victory: Christian Westerman.

Upon re-watching, Westerman did not play a perfect game against Chicago’s reserves, but he did manage to immediately bounce-back from bad reps time and time again.

On his first snap, Westerman gives up just enough pad level for defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris to stack and shed his drive block and make the tackle in the gap just beyond the line of scrimmage. Robertson-Harris gets great extension on Westerman and effectively had control of his torso. To counter, Westerman needs to get his pads and hands little lower coming off that hard first step.

A few plays later, Westerman does a much better job landing his hands inside and utilizing the tremendous grip strength he possesses. His win off the snap allows his lower leg drive to kick in and escorts Robertson-Harris out of the gap. Running back Tra Carson takes advantage and scampers for a 12-yard gain and a first down.

NOTE: I misspoke regarding T.J. Johnson, he took on the linebacker, not the nose tackle

As we’ve seen numerous times in the past, the quality play of a couple blockers can’t overcome the miscues of those around them. This was the case for Westerman and left tackle Jake Fisher in this condensed formation against a stacked box from the Bears.

Westerman and Fisher work beautifully together on this combo block against Robertson-Harris, and Fisher comes off the block and moves up to the linebacker with efficiency, and drove him out of the desired path for the running back. Westerman behind him works to seal Robertson-Harris out of the other side of the gap, who ends up three yards back from the line of scrimmage and eventually on the turf from the hands of Westerman.

The run gained about three yards, but Westerman and Fisher get gold stars for the play.

On a down block against defensive tackle John Jenkins, Westerman gets stifled and loses ground at the point of attack. Jenkins’ long arms presses Westerman off the snap and while he holds his anchor steady, he’s right in the way of running back Mark Walton, who’s forced to bounce outside. The time it takes for Walton to do so, linebacker John Timu fills in the gap and records a tackle for loss.

The loss of gain forces the Bengals to punt, and as soon as they get the ball back, Westerman lets Jenkins know that he may’ve won the round, but not the fight.

With the help of center T.J. Johnson, Westerman drives Jenkins into the ground for his second TKO of the night.

Not only is Westerman athletic enough in space to be able to pull like this, he understands how to maximize angles to get to the defender, and how to drive through arrival to get movement and control. All of this together leads to Westerman getting to edge defender Kylie Fitts, and turning him away from the gap that springs running back Brian Hill to burst through for a big gain.

Plays like this prove that Westerman is scheme versatile and can handle zone and power concepts alike.

Westerman wasn’t challenged much in pass protection, and had essentially a flawless day in that department. The one sack the Bears did record came from Robertson-Harris, who did go up against Westerman in a one-on-one rep, but he was able to breach the broken pocket because quarterback Jeff Driskel had to step up almost back to the line of scrimmage due to pressure allowed from left tackle Kent Perkins and right guard Alex Redmond.

Dealing with a bull rush, Westerman takes a couple hob steps to recover and re-anchor, and does so successfully. For almost the entire rep, he’s got his behind pointed at Driskel, and Robertson-Harris doesn’t get a sack had Perkins and Redmond not gotten beat like they did.

Offensive line coach Frank Pollack was asked about Westerman’s day and had this to say:

Couldn’t really sum it up better if I wanted to.

Those were just the plays that stood out the most from the third-year guard, and he put on a very solid performance to begin the preseason. The battle for who starts at right guard is still very much in the air with Alex Redmond rotating in with starter Trey Hopkins yesterday at training camp. Don’t think because he’s not playing live snaps on the right side of the center that he’s not still alive in the competition.