Inside of a calendar year, the Bengals released their roster of centers from last year's squad. Starting center Kyle Cook was released earlier this year and subsequently retired at 31. Cincinnati waived Trevor Robinson during final cuts this year but rejoined the organization when Cincinnati signed him onto their practice squad. In the meantime, the Bengals used a fourth-round pick to draft North Carolina center Russell Bodine and then groom veteran Mike Pollak as the primary backup... at all three interior offensive line spots.
The Bengals have been busy.
Bodine will make his NFL debut this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, squaring off against the equally-as-powerful Brandon Williams, who generally flirts with the 330-340 range on the scale. Williams was promoted this offseason as the Ravens' starting nose tackle after Haloti Ngata moved to defensive tackle, replacing Arthur Jones (who signed a five-year deal in Indianapolis) -- though there will be formations when Ngata moves down the line of scrimmage. Either way, Bodine isn't worried.
"I've always taken the philosophy of it's not just who you are playing against, but what you do," said Bodine, who was selected in the fourth round of this year's draft and was inserted into the starting lineup almost from the first day of organized team activities in late May. "You go out there and handle your business and your technique and you'll be fine."
Williams, a former third-rounder from the 2013 NFL draft, only played 93 snaps during his rookie season, but they were productive. According to Pro Football Focus' grading system, Williams scored a +2.8 overall and a +2.7 as a run defender. In 59 preseason snaps this year, Williams and Elvis Dumervil generated the highest defensive grade (+4.9) with Williams claiming a team-high +4.3 against the run. According to the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens coaching staff view Williams as "one of their most-improved players."
"Brandon has progressed quite a bit," defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. "I mean, he’s got a lot of strength, he’s got a lot of toughness, he understands the scheme, and he understands what’s expected of him.
"Trying to be a starter for us, that’s what he wants to do and he’s going after that. He's been tremendously serious about how he’s working. His offseason was good. He’s in great condition, so we feel good about where he’s headed.
"He was strong when he walked in, but now his strength is a lot more functional because he understands the technical part of the game a lot better. He understands how we play a lot better and how we want things done. He understands that, and he was able to take his natural strength and work it into what we want. So far, everything is on the upswing."
Williams' strength isn't a state secret. He benched pressed 225 pounds 38 times at the NFL Combine. On the other hand, Russell Bodine led his class with 42 repetitions at the same weight. Yet, while Williams scored a +4.9 overall (and +4.3 against the run), Bodine generated an overall score of -5.1 and -5.4 against the run. Four preseason games is a horrible sample size... so we'll just burn that piece of paper for the meantime.
"I have to go out there and handle my technique and my responsibilities and my calls, and if you do that hopefully we'll come out on the right end of it," says Bodine.