The Cincinnati Bengals crawled out of the doldrums on Sunday by netting their first win in several weeks, just their fourth of the season, as they scraped and clawed to a now 4-7-1 record. They are probably getting pretty close to being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, though it is not quite there yet, as far as I know.
But do you know what else is not quite there yet? 2015 first-round draft pick Cedric Ogbuehi, who was benched recently for the Bengals after having been reduced to a rotational role with veteran tackle Eric Winston for much of the season.
Ogbuehi got the hook in the middle of their Week 12 game, and he ended up playing 37 snaps in that game to Winston’s 38. On Sunday, in the Bengals’ victory, he rode the bench all game, spending zero snaps on the field for the offense. Instead, it was 2015 second-round draft pick Jeff Fisher who rotated with Winston.
But the interesting thing here is that, even though he was pulled out of the lineup, he could still be setting up for a starting job at left tackle as early as the start of the 2017 season. For now, Andrew Whitworth is entrenched in that position, and rightfully so, but things could change.
For starters, Whitworth is going to be a free agent next year, and will be turning 35 in three days. That is, of course, a big reason for the Bengals drafting a pair of offensive tackles with their top two picks of last year’s draft.
But even if the Bengals do re-sign him at 35, there is the very real possibility that he could instead kick inside to left guard. He has done it before, and he has played equally well in that position. If Ogbuehi at left tackle and Whitworth at left guard helps the Bengals set up their best offensive line, then that is the route that they will take.
But that is down the road, a fact that Ogbuehi realizes as much as anybody. Of Whitworth at left tackle, the second-year lineman said, “it’s his spot until he is ready to give it up”, whether that comes through free agency, a move to guard, or retirement.
But he also said, that he is “purely mentally everything left”, referring to the fact that in his mind, he still works through all of the information that he has to process through the prism of a left tackle, which is where he played in college, rather than as a right tackle, where all of the physical and mental work is a mirror image.
So the benching actually gives Ogbuehi the opportunity to focus again at left tackle, especially with Fisher working behind Winston now. “It’s my natural position and I can just concentrate on left tackle that’s my future position”, he said. “It was one of those things I really thought that I’d be left tackle and [Fisher would] be right tackle. Might as well start now”.