There was a time really not too long ago at all that the strength of the Cincinnati Bengals was its offensive line, but that certainly was not the case in 2017, a year after they allowed their two most talented and productive offensive linemen to leave in free agency.
They did expect to likely lose one of the two, but not both of them. Kevin Zeitler at right guard ended up signing with the Cleveland Browns for what was at the time the biggest contract for a guard, though that will probably change in the next year or two. Andrew Whitworth at left tackle signed with the Los Angeles Rams and helped turn them into a playoff team.
While there were issues in replacing both—veteran reserve Trey Hopkins played better than expected at guard—the left tackle position vacated by Whitworth was a major problem throughout the entire season, and one that needs to be addressed.
Of course, the Bengals thought that they had already done that a few years ago when they used their first-round draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. And just in case that didn’t work out, they used their second-round pick on another tackle in Jake Fisher.
Neither of them have developed into a legitimate NFL-caliber starting tackle three years into their career, and many who cover the team seem to believe it’s time for Cincinnati to move on from the idea that Ogbuehi can handle the left tackle position.
Take Paul Dehner, Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer as an example. He recently fielded questions from readers, one of which was about the offensive line and whether or not late-season improvements would lull them into complacency when it comes to addressing the issues there.
Part of his response focused on the former first-round pick, writing, “left tackle needs a new starter. Cedric Ogbuehi had two years to prove himself and the time has come to move on. It would be shocking and a mistake if the team didn’t use one of their first two draft picks or free agency addressing the position”.
That is a pretty emphatic vote of no-confidence from one of the team’s most well-known and informed beat writers, though that of course does not make him an expert in personnel nor in grading the performance of an offensive linemen. Some things are easier to tell than others, however.
For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus rated Ogbuehi as the 70th tackle overall with a grade of 41. He allowed eight sacks, four hits, and 23 hurries in fewer than 400 snaps in pass protection for the 50th-worst pass blocking efficiency rating of the 55 qualified tackles.