Back in the 2015 draft, the Cincinnati Bengals thought they had a solid contingency plan in place for their aging bookend tackles. At the time, Andrew Whitworth was entering his 10th season, while Andre Smith was set to start his seventh, with many injuries in his own pro history.
The team used their two top picks on the position in Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher that year. Whitworth stayed through 2016, while Smith left after 2015, paving the way for the youngsters to grab on to starting positions.
As rookies, both were tried out in jumbo packages, with Fisher even getting some looks at H-Back after Ryan Hewitt went down with a knee injury. However, after getting more significant snaps over the past couple of years, neither guy has proven to be viable starting options.
It has particularly been the case with Ogbuehi, who has failed the last two respective seasons at both right tackle and left tackle. Cincinnati thought he’d fare better on the left side in 2017, which is more naturally suited to his skill set, but he was an even bigger flop at that spot after a failure at right tackle in 2016.
Now, in 2018, both the Bengals and Ogbuehi are at a crossroads. He’s in his critical fourth season, but the offensive lineman hasn’t shown much to the team in which to be optimistic, other than his offseason workout frenetics. Should they stay the course with him?
On this week’s Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast, Cincy Jungle contributor Scott Schulze and I discussed options with Ogbuehi. Would a kick inside to guard, namely on the right side, make sense?
Reasons why it can work:
He arguably played his best college ball at guard: In the lengthy Paul Alexander era, the Bengals liked offensive linemen who were athletic and/or showed the potential to play multiple spots. Even though Ogbuehi had a late-season knee injury at Texas A&M, the coaches liked the fact that he played at both guard and tackle.
Ogbuehi was a Walter Camp first team All-American as a left tackle in 2014, but some argued that his best college tape was when he was at the interior of the Aggies’ line. Working next to Jake Matthews definitely helped matters, but Ogbuehi was an anchor up front starting 13 games at guard, helping to pave the way to Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy campaign back in 2012.
Currently, the Bengals’ best lineman anchors the left guard spot in Clint Boling, but the right guard spot is up in the air at the moment. Either guy could slide over there and make an impact, if the college prowess is any indication.
Mask his limitations against the league’s elite edge rushers: What’s the first thing draft analysts say when a good college lineman has perceived limitations on the edge? “He’ll be great in the league at guard”, right?
At both tackle spots, Ogbuehi has not only struggled with getting push in the run game, but also in keeping some of the NFL’s better pass-rushers at bay. There are few interior defenders who have the same innate pass-rush ability as those on the outside (and the Bengals have one of them in Geno Atkins), so theoretically Ogbuehi could be more effective in a tighter window of space.
High college Pro Football Focus grades: Aside from being praised from numerous outlets for their bringing in of value with Ogbuehi with the No. 21 overall pick, the metrics gurus at College and Pro Football Focus also liked the pick back in 2015.
Quite the get for the Bengals. They get arguably the most athletic tackle and they can ease him into things as he comes back from an injury, safe in the knowledge they are set at tackle for the 2015 season before both Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith are out of contract. Ogubehi doesn’t always look like the most physical tackle but his ability to kick and slide in pass pro is something that the Bengals must be excited about, especially with his experience at left and right tackle.
Yes, tackle is where they were looking when analyzing Ogbuehi, but some of these skill sets could also translate to the interior of the line. Even though it hasn’t fully translated to the NFL at tackle, that athleticism could pay dividends at guard.
Frank Pollack: The cynic says that Pollack essentially won the lottery with his job as offensive line coach in Dallas. With the Cowboys spending three first round picks on offensive linemen from 2011-2014 (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin), some believed Pollack had an easy job.
However, someone had to further mold those talents into the All-Pro players whom the above-mentioned players eventually became under his tutelage. He has two more top picks in Fisher and Ogbuehi to mold, so a little tweak of the offensive system and some tough love can potentially mold No. 70 into a viable NFL tackle.
Reasons why it won’t work:
Too many promising guards already on the roster: Whether it’s in true guards who shined at the end of the year like Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman, the continuing Trey Hopkins experiment, or even the thought of Fisher kicking inside, the Bengals have options. And, many of those options, especially the former three, have some good pedigrees and mean streaks in them.
With Pollack taking over the offensive line coaching duties from Alexander, he might be inclined to give guys like Westerman or Redmond more shots on the interior of the line. Additionally, Ogbuehi might be given a shot to work out that critical fourth year at tackle (remember the structure of first round picks since the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement) to work out the kinks under a new coach.
A lack of strength and/or skill set to move inside in the NFL: It’s no secret that Ogbuehi has been overpowered when playing against NFL talent. It’s why he spent the 2017 offseason in MMA-type of workouts to increase strength and agility, but it didn’t translate.
Unfortunately, this is a stigma that has followed Ogbuehi from Texas A&M. Again, CFF’s review of the Bengals’ decision back in 2015 noted this issue:
When he got himself into trouble it was because he tried to time his punch too perfectly to swat a defenders hands away. What inevitably happened was Ogbuehi mistimed it and let the defender into his body. While Ogbuehi has almost the ideal frame for a tackle, his strength is definitely lacking and he doesn’t do as well as someone like Andrus Peat when the defender gets into his chest.
To use a stereotype, the interior of the line is usually marked with brute strength and nastiness. While Ogbuehi has the athleticism to transition into other offensive line positions, he’ll need to show more push and “oomph” against NFL defenders.
Re-shuffling the line to make it work: Part of what marked the Alexander era was not only the preferences of some lesser-talented players than those on the bench, but also in placing square pegs into round holes, so to speak. If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, go research Jason Shirley.
Some of Ogbuehi’s better college tape is at left guard, which is being manned by Boling. There were signs that Boling was capable of playing left tackle in the NFL in the final two games of 2017, but then we’re looking at moving a bunch of different players into spots that may or may not be their strongest respective spots.
The Bengals need to greatly fix the offensive line in 2018 and hopefully Ogbuehi is a part of that process. But, the team needs to find natural fits at positions on the line to ease the transition for any new faces in any new spots.
What do you think about Cedric Ogbuehi moving to guard in 2018?
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