The Cincinnati Bengals understand that they are in a vulnerable position heading into the 2017 season after losing their staple franchise left tackle, among other players, during free agency, following a losing season for the team. But they also know that they put in the resources to anticipate this loss years ago.
Andrew Whitworth may have departed out to Los Angeles, evidently for more money than the Bengals were willing to commit to the Pro Bowler in his mid-30s, but they are counting on the rapid development of Cedric Ogbuehi, whom they drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, to fill his shoes.
And the young offensive lineman is gaining confidence in his abilities a year after he found himself benched while attempting to secure a starting spot at right tackle. He has previously said that he is more comfortable at left tackle, where he started throughout his college career, but it goes beyond that.
For one thing, he has spent his summer training in mixed martial arts. “I think it’s helped with leverage, sinking my hips, and my overall strength”, the lineman said. “MMA is all about leverage and I think that helps a ton with my position”.
Ogbuehi is certainly not the first football player, nor the first offensive lineman, to turn to MMA training in order to search for an edge on the gridiron. There is a case to be made regarding how it can help improve a player’s skill set required to succeed in his chosen field.
But it goes beyond new workout regimes, as well, and there is an even simpler reason why this is his best offseason yet: he is actually healthy.
“It’s the first time that I got to slow it down and learn my techniques” he said about actually being able to be a full participant during the variety of spring drills. “I’ve noticed the difference. I’m a different player, and I’m a more confident player”, he added.
His offensive line coach has seen it as well. “OTAs are the time where you really start from the beginning and break down the core fundamentals of blocking”, he said. “He hasn’t been able to do that. He’s been hurt and was just kind of thrown in there to run plays. He’s been playing from behind a little bit. Now he’s playing from ahead”.
He said that “the best way to get confident is blocking your guy over and over again. You only get that through competitive execution of consistent fundamentals”, which certainly sounds like an offensive line coach’s perspective. He has “never really been comfortable enough where he could execute the techniques the same way twice”, he added, but concluded, “that’s what he’s doing now”.