The Bengals made plenty of changes to their personnel this offseason, but one area that was largely untouched was the offensive line.
For a unit that really struggled to come together for most of the season, Cincinnati opted to bank on Jonah Williams solidifying the left tackle position, young players developing and a veteran player in Xavier Su’a-Filo coming in at right guard.
However, Dave Lapham has high hopes for the other offseason addition to the offensive line, Hakeem Adeniji, to eventually develop.
“I’m watching him play guard. I’m watching him play tackle. He’s just covering people up,” Lapham said on the Bengals Booth Podcast. “He’s got really good feet. He’s taking great sets. But again, consistency. One time his jam is really good, the next time it’s not and they’re in his chest. You can’t allow these defensive linemen in your chest or grabbing your shoulder pads or whatever. I’m not saying that he’s there now, but I know he has feet and I know he has intelligence because it’s not too big for him. He’s not in the huddle when they call a play looking at his center or his tackle when he’s playing guard like ‘what do I do?’ And he’s not doing that at the line of scrimmage when they audible.”
The Bengals managed to snag Adeniji in the sixth-round of the draft that they spent most of their picks adding onto a revamped defense and completely reworking the linebacker group. It is a good sign that Adeniji has looked so versatile and ahead in the footwork department, which is such a crucial skill for offensive linemen in the NFL.
Right now the only spots that are absolutely filled on the offensive line are Williams at left tackle and Trey Hopkins at center. The rest of the positions are up for grabs. Although, it would be hard to unseat an incumbent or coaching staff favorite before the season due to the lack of preseason games and practice time.
Even if Adeniji doesn’t get a chance to get some in game reps this season, Lapham seems to think the Bengals will be very happy looking back on that pick in the future.
“He has some potential,” Lapham said. “I don’t know how quickly it can be developed, but I think he does have potential. Tremendous late round find. He looks like a second or third-round guy the way he moves.”
Adeniji’s development should be something we all watch closely. The fact he is already getting moved around a lot means that it may just take one injury or starter struggling before we see him get some reps. Fans shouldn’t expect this rookie to turn things around this season, but if he develops like Lapham thinks he will, then Cincinnati may be one step closer to actually having a serviceable offensive line again.