If there’s one word that seems to describe the Cincinnati Bengals' offseason, it’s ‘improvement.’ Most agree that the signings of Roy Williams and Laveranues Coles provided the team with an ‘improvement’ at their respective positions.
Fans and pundits alike seemed to think that the Bengals' stellar draft choices will go a long way towards an overall team ‘improvement.’
However, the optimal word to describe the Bengals offensive line seems to be ‘confusion.’
After letting their two terrible tackles from last season, LT Levi Jones and RT Stacy Andrews, plus Center Eric Ghiaciuc, walk away, it appeared the Bengals had a gameplan in place toward improving the offensive line. But do they?
Let’s take a look at what the offseason has meant for the Bengals front five.
When Andre Smith was drafted sixth overall in April, most expected him to be the rock protecting Carson Palmer’s blindside for years to come. That is until Marvin Lewis shocked everyone this month when he announced that last year’s left guard, Andrew Whitworth would be filling the left tackle position.
While putting Whitworth there doesn’t necessarily make sense, not having Andre Smith there is a brilliant decision for two reasons.
First, Smith’s work ethic has been called into question. After a year where Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick were more or less left for dead every time the Bengals snapped the ball, the last thing the team needs is a question mark at left tackle.
Secondly, combine his work ethic with the fact that he might be involved in a contract holdout until next century and it all makes sense.
Smith, who might not be in camp and therefore wouldn’t be getting essential reps, can’t be trusted at the team’s most important position. For Smith, right tackle makes sense… for now. If Smith holds up this year, moving him to left tackle down the road is something the team will have to consider.
Whitworth at left tackle is the real shocker. Last season, the Bengals had a left tackle in Anthony Collins who held his own against some good teams. Collins, who is going into his second season, started six games at LT last year.
Why not use Collins experience at left tackle and let Whitworth play the left guard position he’s best at? Beats me, even more perplexing is that as of right now, barring injury, it looks like the talented Collins will be starting the season on the bench.
Bengals Say: LT Andrew Whitworth RT Andre Smith
Breech Says: LT Anthony Collins RT Andre Smith
Whitworth’s move to tackle has left a glaring vacancy at his old left guard position. The Bengals have decided to fill that spot with Nate Livings.
Although Whitworth at left guard makes more sense, Livings is a decent alternative. He started six games at the position last season and he seemed to get better with each snap. If he continues to improve at that pace, Palmer may forget what it’s like to run away from defensive tackles.
At right guard, there’s no controversy. I know what you’re saying, "If only every positional battle was this black and white for the Bengals.”
Right guard Bobbie Williams is the only sure thing on the team’s offensive line. Not only is he good at what he does, but Williams has a history of staying healthy, something that’s essential when a young line is trying to build camaraderie.
Williams, who is going into his sixth year with the team and tenth overall, has started 77 of the Bengals past 80 games, he has proven to be durability at its best.
Bengals Say: LG Nate Livings RG Bobbie Williams
Breech Says: LG Andrew Whitworth RG Bobbie Williams
This may be the biggest question mark on the team, but I think all Bengal fans can agree that Eric Ghiaciuc wasn’t the answer. When you absolutely have no idea who to play at a certain position, you just have to pick someone and tell them, “It’s your spot to lose.”
This is basically what Lewis and Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski have told current depth chart number one Kyle Cook. Cook will be pushed in camp by April draftee Jonathan Luigs and also Dan Santucci. Santucci was a guard at Notre Dame, so he’ll spend the summer learning the intricacies of snapping the ball.
Bengals Say: Kyle Cook
Breech Says: Kyle Cook
Even if I don’t agree with the Bengals choices at each position, I do agree with one thing; the fact that they named the starters in May.
When Jon Kitna was announced as the Bengals starting quarterback in March 2003, people were shocked, most fans were clamoring for Palmer. However, Kitna took a team that went 2-14 the year before and willed them to 8-8.
When Palmer was named the starter the following March, some fans thought Lewis was crazy for taking out Kitna who had just engineered a six-game turnaround.
History has shown that when Marvin Lewis has a big decision to make and he makes it early, things work out for the Bengals. Bengals fans can only hope that history proves Lewis right again.