When Clint Boling retired earlier in the offseason, he left some pretty big shoes to fill at left guard.
It initially looked like the Bengals were prepared for Cordy Glenn to fill that role, but the injury to first round pick Jonah Williams forced him back out to left tackle. It won’t be an easy job to fill, and it sounds like the Bengals will exhaust all options in trying to fill it, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com:
Basically, anyone who has the ability to play guard has a shot at starting for that position. Many expect it to come down to Christian Westerman, a player that many fans have called to get a shot at playing for a few seasons now, and John Jerry who has ties to offensive line coach Jim Turner going back to his days as a Miami Dolphin.
One name fans may not want to rule out is one we’ve all become familiar with, Trey Hopkins. He has become known for being a very valuable offensive lineman because of his ability to fill in for multiple positions. Something that casual fans might not see being as valuable, but the logistics of having a guy that versatile opens up plenty of options when it comes to the active roster.
“You need a guy that can play more than two spots,” Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham told Hobson. “Really, you need a guy that can play all of them. And Trey is that guy. He allows you to dress only seven (linemen) on game day. That’s a big impact for everybody. Look what it does for (special teams coordinator) Darrin Simmons and it lets you dress somebody else on offense. Huge.”
The Bengals find themselves in a situation where they will probably end up having to carry seven receivers on the 53-man roster at the start of the season due to A.J. Green’s injury. The team won’t be able to put him on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list because he participated in training camp, so Hopkins being healthy and allowing them to maybe make a call along the offensive line easier would mean the world to Cincinnati right now.
This versatility could means that even if Hopkins wins the left guard position, his backup becomes a very important spot. If a tackle or Billy Price were to go down, odds are Hopkins may end up being the first guy moved to that spot, which would promote his backup into the starting lineup. So if we see Hopkins start, we should also keep a very close eye on the depth chart and who his backup ends up being.
Michael Jordan is also an interesting dark horse candidate. These coaches really only have ties to Jerry and Jordan at this point. Jordan however, has started off running with the second team as a center during Billy Prices’ absence. He seems to be a long shot, but him even being mentioned in the race has to have him fighting a little harder at practice.
That is one thing that having an open competition creates, effort. When guys know that jobs are up for grabs it makes everyone try harder. When guys can be removed from their starting spot due to poor play, it makes starters work hard to keep their level of play up as well as bench players work to be ready for their shot.
The fact the coaching staff is being so open about how the competition will work is so refreshing. Last season, the coaches seemed too stubborn to admit another combination of offensive linemen could’ve produced better results than Alex Redmond and Bobby Hart starting on the right side. This coaching staff is having an open competition where guys have the ability to audition for the starting spot.
Hopefully they are also as open to pulling players who struggle for extended periods of time to see if mixing things up could help. Instead of, you know, starting probably one of the worst sides of an offensive line in football for 15 weeks before making a change.