Bengals' Center Position a Cause for Concern Heading into Preseason Opener

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Bengals' Center Position a Cause for Concern Heading into Preseason Opener
Al Behrman/Associated Press

The Cincinnati Bengals will see their first action of the 2014 preseason on Thursday evening against the Kansas City Chiefs. Although, a familiar concern still looms large for this franchise—inconsistency at the center position.

Last season, veteran Kyle Cook continued to show a lack of ability in pass protection, leading to an overall ranking of 25th in the league at his position with a negative-2.8 rating, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). That, of course, led to the Bengals parting ways with Cook over the offseason.

Cincinnati opted to forgo grabbing some talented centers in the earlier rounds of the 2014 NFL draft and instead decided to take a chance on North Carolina product Russell Bodine in the fourth round.

Al Behrman/Associated Press

Bodine has some raw upper-body strength, and he can be a tremendous asset in the running game; however, his lack of agility and stiff-bodied nature could be a concern when in pass protection.

To make matters worse, he hasn't exactly had a stellar training camp.

On numerous occasions, Bodine has sailed snaps over quarterback Andy Dalton's head, and he's also sent snaps wide and short of the signal-caller, making for a dangerous situation for Cincinnati's $115 million man.

Richard Skinner of Cincinnati.com was in attendance for one of Bodine's early errant snaps:

Paul Dehner Jr. of The Cincinnati Enquirer noted another ugly effort days later:

ESPN.com's Coley Harvey relayed another on Tuesday:

These three incidents have been accompanied by several others along the way.

Yes, the easy excuse here is the fact Bodine is a rookie, and rookies are going to make mistakes. However, the fourth-round pick is the only Bengals rookie to hold a position in the starting lineup heading into the preseason, according to the team's official depth chart.

Needless to say, he's being expected to produce quickly.

The errant snaps have caught the attention of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who gave this thoughts during an interview with Harvey.

Said Jackson, "It's something he has to overcome. We drafted him to play center, and we think he can, but he still has to go demonstrate it in a game and continue to do it better in practice."

Dalton weighed in on the issue when speaking with Harvey as well:

That's one thing where he is a rookie and he's learning all this stuff, and so I'm just making sure he's learning the right thing. Sometimes he's going to one spot when we need him to go to another. I'm just making sure he and I are on the right page. I'm letting him do his thing and if I need to correct him, then I will.

The quarterback further weighed in on the situation during an interview on The Dan Patrick Show:

Bengals analyst Joe Goodberry tweeted an excerpt from the conversation:

After all, the last thing this playoff-contending team needs is to watch its franchise quarterback scrambling around in the backfield looking for an errant snap against some of the NFL's most ferocious defenders this season.

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Should Bodine fail to right the ship, the Bengals could fall back on third-year player and former undrafted free agent Trevor Robinson—he did have some nice showings during the 2013 preseason. Albeit, that was against second- and third-string competition.

But, the last time Robinson saw regular-season action was during seven starts in 2012. Over that span, he was ranked No. 28 overall at the center position by Pro Football Focus in pass protection with a negative-3.8 rating.

Unfortunately, until one of these players emerges as a legitimate starter, concerns regarding the center position will continue to plague a very promising Bengals team entering the 2014-15 season.

A keen eye should be kept on this situation as the regular season approaches.

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