The biggest move made at the biggest position of need (guard) was that the Cincinnati Bengals re-signed Quinton Spain.
Sure, you can spin that into optimism, as Spain only joined the team mid-season, but fans were hoping for dramatic improvement from the position that failed quarterback Joe Burrow on his season-ending injury.
As NFL Draft talk heats up and pre-Draft trades go down, it seems more and more likely that the Bengals will be in position to draft the gifted and massive Penei Sewell, a 20-year-old tackle out of Oregon who opted out of last season.
For as athletic as he is, Sewell could still benefit from the opportunity to refine his technique as a tackle in the NFL. The Bengals have an outstanding offensive line coach in Frank Pollack, who will help Sewell get there eventually. In the mean time, though, the team may choose to ride with Riley Reiff and Jonah Williams as its tackles.
So where would that leave Sewell?
It is possible that he could begin his professional career as a guard. While that switch doesn’t work for every player (see Fred Johnson last year), our John Sheeran explains why he thinks Sewell can make the transition in the video below:
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“If Sewell is here, ideally you want to get him on the starting field. You don’t want to have him sit behind those two tackles,” said Sheeran. He continued to say, “I think you could theoretically play him at guard just to clean up some of the issues he has, and he does still have issues. We’re not talking about a clear plug-and-play Pro Bowler from day one.”
So what does it take for a tackle to move to guard?
“It’s a lot about athleticism and size,” said Sheeran. “I think with Sewell, he’s a mammoth out there. He’s got 35” arms, and he played around 330 [lbs] at Oregon, so he has plus-athleticism for that size. The main difference is how wide and how long are your sets in pass protection, because you’re not really getting out there and running around edge rushers, so it’s a little bit more compact. And if you have the length and athleticism to get out of your stance in run-blocking sets, you should be fine. Obviously, Sewell’s never played guard before. If they just drill him in throughout the entire offseason to start him there, I think he’ll be fine. But obviously it is a projection, and it is a transition.”
And why would this be different from Johnson’s (failed) transition last year?
“Leverage is very important when you’re playing more inside, because you have smaller defensive tackles who can get under your pads, and that’s how Geno Atkins won all the time against other guards. So he has to make sure he has his pad level correctly. That’s why Michael Jordan has struggled. At 6’6”, he has terrible pad length, unfortunately. He can’t get lower, and he loses leverage, and that compounds a lot of other issues.”
Still, Sheeran doesn’t think it would necessarily be Sewell who makes the move:
“I think it comes down to whomever amongst Riley Reiff and Penei Sewell is more comfortable at guard, that is where you should go. And I think if you want to have Sewell at right guard for a year and then move him out to right tackle, kinda like what they did with Andrew Whitworth back in the day before they moved him out to left tackle, I think that’s fine. But if you want to have Reiff just there as your stopgap right guard and have a guard to develop behind him later in the Draft, that’s also a viable option.”