When the Cincinnati Bengals ended up losing out on left tackle Andrew Whitworth in free agency, that compounded with the fact that their two young tackles from the top of the 2015 draft class struggled enough to be benched last season led everybody to assume that their decision to reunite with former right tackle Andre Smith was so that, you know, he could play right tackle.
Apparently the plan is for him to take over the spot of their other big free agency loss on the offensive line, Kevin Zeitler’s position of right guard. Instead, the Bengals are going to cross their fingers moving forward with putting Cedric Ogbuehi at left tackle and Jake Fisher at right tackle and having Smith play out of position.
Sounds like a brilliant plan.
I’m being sarcastic, of course, but it’s obviously a reasonable approach. These are two high-pedigreed tackles who are only entering their third seasons and they want to give them a good chance to work themselves out over the course of the offseason. The long-term plan of having them bookend the line by no means should have been altered.
It is a bit a head scratcher to want to move Smith at 30 years old inside, but it’s not as though he’s wholly unsuited to the job. At 6’4”, he is not necessarily a giant, and the plain truth of it is that both of the Steelers’ guards are an inch taller. Smith is also in the same weight range as Ramon Foster at around 325 pounds.
The former first-round draft pick was actually a reasonably athletic prospect when he came out of the draft, which is why their offensive line coach, Paul Alexander, encouraged the decision-makers to make him the sixth-overall pick that year, which they did.
Perhaps he never exactly amounted to what one would typically associate with as a 10-top pick, but outside of frustrating injury issues, Smith has generally been a good player. Of course, that whole injury thing is a pretty big part of the equation and something the Bengals will need to concern themselves with.
It would be wise, I think, to get Fisher taking some reps at right guard as well in the event that Smith gets injured. There was initial discussion when it was believed that they would keep Whitworth and lose Zeitler that Fisher could be kicked inside to guard. In this event Eric Winston would play right tackle, though I suppose he himself could play inside as well.