Controversy seems to constantly gravitate towards the Bengals’ offensive line. Nearly every position has an injury, new starter or a player with a bad contract attached to it.
The center position used to be the center of the problems within this group, but Billy Price is ready to establish himself as an asset instead of a liability.
“It’s a lot better feeling than what you come into as a rookie,” Price told Dan Hoard of Bengals.com. “Especially the offense that I came from which was very simple. My (football) IQ wasn’t very high, so where I am today versus where I was last year is completely different.”
Price’s sentiments towards where his head is at entering year two compared to being a rookie is nothing new. Most players have said similar things after going through the motions of being an NFL rookie, especially one that started right out the gate. The transitional period for offensive lineman specifically is significant depending on where you come from, and for Price, the adjustment from Ohio State to the NFL was just that.
“There were only two linebackers in the box at all times,” said Price. “We didn’t have to worry about rotations and whether a nickel was in the box or a safety was in the box. None of that stuff really mattered to us. It was ‘this is what they’re going to line up in and let’s go run it down their throat.’ You don’t know until you’re exposed to it.”
The Bengals are used to throwing young centers into the starter’s role, but getting quality play out of them early on has been the main issue. Price struggled last year and it’s fair to say a good amount of that was mental. Former offensive lineman Dave Lapham knows the path Price is going down now.
“As a rookie I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” said Lapham. “I thought I knew, but I really didn’t know. Then you start to know. And I think he’s starting to feel more confident because of that. Because he does have some experiences at the NFL level in the bank. So with his physical advancement and his mental advancement, I think he’s feeling very confident and he should.
“He does have leadership qualities,” said Lapham. “There’s no doubt. His personality is that of ‘come do what I do.’ He wants to be out front – a front and center kind of guy. And with that comes responsibility. You’re putting pressure on yourself when you do that kind of thing. But he’s ready for it.”
Price’s leadership skills have been well advertised since he arrived in Cincinnati, but going through multiple injuries really deterred his opportunity to command authority. Having two position coaches in just as many years can also be tough, but Price’s new one is definitely on his side.
“That’s not an easy job in there no matter how you cut it,” said offensive line coach Jim Turner. “You can be a first rounder or a seventh rounder or a free agent – it doesn’t matter. When you step on the field and you’re actually out there playing you’ve got to do that job. My point of that is that he’s a young player. And young is young – you can’t change that. He’s in his second year and he’s still going to make mistakes, but he is getting better. He is getting smarter.
“No matter how you cut it, he’s the center so he is the leader of that group,” said Turner. “And he’s got to take that role on. And he will.”
The Bengals were bullish on their last center, and things don’t appear to be any different this time around for Price. 2019 will go a long way in determining if they’re making the right choice this time around.