The one spot many fans want the Bengals to be aggressive about addressing (after the team most likely drafts quarterback Joe Burrow) is the offensive line.
During Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin’s increased media tour this offseason, he touched on many aspects of Cincinnati’s offense going forward. One he talked about recently actually hints at how hard the Bengals will go in on the offensive line position in the coming months.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition in that room. We’ve got some young tackles we brought in throughout the course of the season who have started to show some things, some traits. Those guys are going to be in the mix,” Tobin told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “Jonah has to come in and earn the spot like anybody else has to. We’d like to believe that he can take it over and be a long-term solution there. If there is somebody else who earns it we’d like to believe he could fit somewhere else. We are going to get the five best guys on there.
“It’s hard when you are moving new guys in and out from different positions. Hopefully we will be able to get guys to stay a little healthier up front and I think that will dramatically improve. As the year went on and our guys started to get more comfortable with each other, guys sort of solidified some of the things we were doing, the results improved. That’s what I wanted to see and everyone wanted to see. We started being able to run the ball a little bit more effectively and that started to open up other things for you … We are going to rep Fred. We are going to rep the young Ohio State kid (Prince). We are going to have competition added. There will be some additions that come in throughout the offseason and it will be healthy for us. How is it going to be on Week One, I can’t answer that right now. “
Tobin makes plenty of fair points here. We will start with the fact they feel like they addressed left tackle in the first round of last year’s draft when they selected Jonah Williams. Prior to getting injured before the season, the plan was even to have Williams at left tackle with Cordy Glenn moving inside to guard. That tells you how high they are on this guy.
There was also plenty of shuffling throughout the season. We saw injuries to Glenn force players like John Jerry to play left tackle at times. Michael Jordan and Billy Price rotated a few times at left guard. John Miller missed sometime at right guard as well. Center Trey Hopkins and right tackle Bobby Hart were the only two to start all 16 games. That could lead to some chemistry issues.
It is also fair to think young players like Jordan, Fred Johnson (who showed some promise when given the chance to play at tackle), Isaiah Prince and even Billy Price improve given all of them have yet to really hit the primes of their career. Not to mention this will be the first offseason many of them don’t have to learn a fresh scheme for how they’re supposed to block.
Before the cries of critics fill the comments about gambling too much of the season on these players improving being a mistake, that is absolutely the correct stance to have, and it seems to be one that Tobin also believes. After all, he has seen it fail first hand and derail an entire season.
When the Bengals allowed Andrew Whitworth to walk in free agency, the Bengals didn’t do anything to really hedge their bets on Cedric Ogbuehi filling his shoes. It was an incredible blunder that left many shaking their heads, and it is something this team is still recovering from.
I’m in no way comparing Williams or anyone else on this line to Ogbuehi, but Cincinnati has been quietly a little better about bringing in competition along the offensive line with Zac Taylor in town. The first pick was a left tackle despite already having Glenn. They drafted Jordan and brought in Johnson despite having players they felt okay with at those positions. These moves don’t deserve a ribbon. These are moves the breed competition, which leaves you with a group that pushes each other harder, and leaves you with more depth on your roster. The alternative was hardly bringing in enough players to even have to cut someone off the offensive line.
The fact Tobin is even mentioning this as a possibility is a positive, but he seems to be the kind of guy who is trying to make the Bengals look like an enigma going into the offseason. He is disputing reports that the Bengals’ won’t trade the first pick, and now he is basically going around saying they won’t be ruling any position out of consideration. That is a useful strategy considering how transparent Cincinnati has been in some of these drafts where teams have easily hopped them for players in whom they were supposedly interested.
Is this Tobin setting up an early smoke screen, or is this him realizing that a team that earns the first overall pick doesn’t have the luxury to draft based on what they think is the biggest need? Time will tell. At this point we can at least take comfort in the idea that Cincinnati may make a few moves to help Burrow feel comfortable early in his career.
Our own John Sheeran caught up with Tobin at the Senior Bowl and had a lengthy sit-down with him. The conversation centered around draft strategies, so have a listen below.