Christian Westerman is entering his third season with the Bengals, and he may be looking at his best opportunity to start with the right guard competition seemingly wide open. He started off his campaign to becoming a starter by having one of the more impressive games of any Bengals player against the Bears.
Westerman finished with an offensive grade of 90.5 from Pro Football Focus, which was only behind A.J. Green as far as top grades on offense. He was even part of PFF’s Team of the Week.
While that is obviously a great accomplishment for a player looking to earn a starting job, it didn’t do much to impress Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
“No offense to Pro Football Focus, but I really don’t give a damn what they say,” Pollack told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “He had the same as about everybody else. He did a lot of good stuff. He was physical. He’s got to clean up his technique. He got high at times. But he’s grinding on that. He’s got to work on better hand placement. He did a lot of good things, as did everybody. But as did everybody else, he made some mistakes he’s got to improve. Typical Game 1 stuff.”
It is understandable that Pollack doesn’t want to come out and give any indication about who is winning the competition so far. His job also has to be hard enough at this point as he is trying to fix an offensive line that was one of the worst in the NFL last season, and his line has two spots still that need starters. It has to be a little annoying that in the midst of that, people — or organizations like PFF — are blasting who they the best person is for the job.
However, to the outside eye, Westerman had a great game. He didn’t get beat, and he did it while playing the most offensive snaps of any player on the Bengals’ roster. He may still have some things to clean up as far as technique goes, but it is pretty obvious that a lot of the other offensive lineman vying for the right guard position do as well.
Trey Hopkins started the game at right guard and Alex Redmond got time after him. That duo along with Westerman are the three really remaining in the right guard competition.
Pollack may not have been a fan of PFF’s thoughts, but he did concede that Westerman will probably get snaps with the first team at right guard as the team continues to evaluate its options.
“Everyone has to be ready for both sides. The only guy who is really locked on what sides are the centers. When we get short, I tell them to spin around. Just rotate, spin around and go back in,” Pollack said. “Nothing’s in stone. I know you would love it. I would love it, too. It is what it is. We’ve got to keep going. We’ve got time to develop. We have to take advantage.”
I’m not going to sit here and demand Westerman start based on one preseason game. What I am hoping is for Westerman to get a shot at right guard. The Bengals ran Alex Redmond with the starters at right guard briefly, and Westerman has more than deserved a shot at the same opportunity. Pollack knows there is still plenty of time for everyone to compete though.
“We won’t have a set lineup until the night before we play the Colts,” Pollack said. “It’s only been one preseason game. Still have three more to go. It’s way too early to anoint anybody. A lot of competition. Then get in the season and you have to hold your job.”
Fans should keep an eye out for Westerman to attempt to repeat his performance in the Bengals’ next preseason game.