All of a sudden, the spotlight is shining brightly on second-year center, Billy Price. After coming to Cincinnati as a hero for relieving his beleaguered predecessor, Russell Bodine, Price suffered a number of growing pains as a rookie.
Now, with Jonah Williams and Clint Boling gone from the offensive line this year, Price has become an invaluable key to the unit’s success. With Cincinnati committing to the running game under Zac Taylor this year, Price will need to be stout at the point of attack.
Why he could break out this year
It’s what Price has this season that he didn’t in the early months of 2018: health. While he was a warrior at Ohio State, Price suffered a freak accident during the Combine, where he partially tore his pectoral muscle.
He missed workouts and then was available in camp and the first two weeks of the season. Then, a foot injury caused him to miss Weeks 3-8 and he only began to regain solid form towards the end of the season.
Joe Mixon finished the season with 100-yard rushing performances in three of the final four games and Price was one of the reasons for them. He’ll be flanked by two new starters at guard this year, so they will all need to coalesce quickly this summer.
What he needs to prove in 2019
This first thing is to stay healthy. Including Williams this year, Price is in a dubious group of eight previous Bengals first-round picks to suffer a significant injury early in his career. With the losses of Boling and Williams, the offense can’t afford to lose Price for a considerable amount of time.
Price will also need to prove that he is able to overcome some longstanding NFL notions on arm length (just 32”) for offensive linemen. While his college tape showed a lot of impressive plays, Price will need to play with the length and power that is required at the NFL level.
This is especially imperative in the AFC North, who not only boast impressive defensive lines across the board, but also huge interior guys in 3-4 alignments. A full offseason of true strength conditioning (which wasn’t an issue prior to the chest injury) should help him immensely.
Price will also need to show quite a bit of athleticism and versatility in Zac Taylor’s offense. This new system will feature play-action, screens and other plays where linemen will need to block players out in space, so he had better be ready for that responsibility.
If Price makes a nice leap in year two, a good portion of the concerns with the team’s offensive line will be quelled.