There are always a few surprises when it gets to the final cutdown day in the NFL.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ biggest surprise may have been the amount of trust they are putting in their rookies to be backups along the offensive line.
Former Georgia Bulldogs center Trey Hill may be the most surprising as a sixth-round pick. Head coach Zac Taylor thought the rookie made it an easy decision, though.
Zac Taylor said rookie center Trey Hill’s “play speed,” strength and improvement in practice gives him confidence in the Bengals sixth round pick as the backup center.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) August 31, 2021
Hill was seen as a pretty great value pick when Cincinnati selected him in this year’s draft. Still, he was coming off a season where he had surgery on both knees, so it was really anyone’s guess as to how early he would be back to 100% and pushing for a roster spot.
The Bengals have been far more accustomed in the past couple of seasons to giving the nod to the veteran player while waiving their late round selections to place on the practice squad. That makes Hill’s nod as the backup center all the more surprising. However, it clearly shows what he has shown the coaching staff.
Hill proving he has what it takes to provide depth at the interior offensive line position allowed Cincinnati to get some value for former-first round pick Billy Price — who was likely to be looking for a chance to start fresh somewhere next offseason when his contract expired — a move that is shocking to see from Cincinnati.
He also likely played a part in the team feeling comfortable with moving on from former-fourth-round pick Michael Jordan. Sure, rookies like Jackson Carman and D’Ante Smith who both also showed flashes at guard behind veterans like Xavier Su’a-Filo and Quinton Spain were probably a driving force there. But this is a team that knows what it is like to have to rely on your third or fourth option along the offensive line after getting hit with a rash of injuries last season. The fact he is listed as a center/guard speaks volumes there.
Hill’s presence in the initial 53-man roster also shows that the Bengals and offensive line coach had a mission going into 2021 to try and jumpstart this line with new blood. The team has four players who weren’t with the team last year. The three rookies and Riley Reiff are new blood. Reiff may be the only new starter currently, but it probably won’t be long till we see players like Hill pushing for starting spots on this line.
Pollack has his young guys to mold now, and clearly he has players like Hill farther ahead of schedule than many of the most optimistic fans could’ve even anticipated.