The Cincinnati Bengals have spent most of this season using a bit of a rotation at the right tackle position after their previous starter, Andre Smith, left in free agency. They have been working second-year tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, a former first-round pick, into the starting lineup, but with some growing pains, and so as a result, they have been using veteran Eric Winston to rotate in.
On Sunday, Ogbuehi actually played less than half of the team’s snaps, 37 to Winston’s 38. But one might be right to wonder whether or not there is another potential rotation along the line in the makings. Against the Ravens, the Bengals benched starting center Russell Bodine for two drives in the second half after he was blamed for a botched snap in the red zone in the second quarter.
Replacing him for those two drives was third-year center T.J. Johnson, who the Bengals drafted in the seventh round in 2013. He spent the 2013 season on Cincinnati’s practice squad. He played only about 20 snaps on offense in his first two seasons prior to 2016.
Johnson also played 12 snaps in place of Bodine in Week Six, but that was a result of the starting center suffering a leg injury late in the game. Sunday’s snaps were the first that Bodine has missed this year when he has been healthy.
Though the Bengals continued to play him through the first half after his error on the snap resulted in a lost fumble early in the second quarter, they turned to Johnson for a long drive in the third quarter, which produced their only touchdown of the game. He also got the call on another drive, and played a total of 15 snaps to Bodine’s 60.
Other than the situation at right tackle, the center position is and has been the weakest link for the Bengals, and though Bodine is a veteran, he has never been anything special. He was drafted the year after they drafted Johnson, as a fourth-round draft pick, and he has actually started every game of his career, from the season-opener of his rookie season.
Considering that the Bengals are coming close to the point of bottoming out the season, one can’t help but wonder if they may begin to explore options for the future. They know that Ogbuehi—or perhaps Jake Fisher—is the future starter at right tackle full-time, but is Bodine deserving of any sort of security?
It would not be unreasonable, nor out of character, to see Cincinnati work in a rotation at the center position, considering that that is basically what they did on Sunday in the second half. You don’t sit your center down, of all line positions, unless he’s injured, or if you’re benching him.
The coaching staff sort of avoided saying that Bodine was benched, but they were highly complimentary of Johnson’s work. It will be interesting to see if he actually gets any playing time this coming game—and it if comes at the expense of Bodine.