The Cincinnati Bengals had high hopes for their 2015 NFL Draft class, which was supposed to go a long way toward contributing to long-term stability along the offensive line. They used their first two picks that year, in rounds one and two, on offensive tackles, in their minds preparing for the departures of their then-current starters.
Those starters ended up leaving, but the young players were unable to step up into their places. The big blow was the departure of left tackle Andrew Whitworth. First-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi has struggled significantly to lock up a job either there or at right tackle the past two years, but will try once again at right tackle, from which position he was benched in 2016.
The other tackle that year, Jake Fisher, has had a much more troubling journey. The second-round pick experienced an irregular heartbeat and was eventually placed on the Non-Football Injury List last season, undergoing heart surgery in mid-November.
He told reporters just weeks ago upon the start of mandatory minicamp that he had finally been cleared for a full practice. He was working in a limited capacity for the team during OTAs. He did not appear to have any obvious setbacks over the course of the three-day minicamp.
That bodes well for his being able to make a return to football normalcy come training camp later this month, even if there may not be a role for him immediately. The Bengals this offseason made a move to acquire Cordy Glenn from the Buffalo Bills for a third-round draft pick.
Chances are we may be back to where we were a couple of years ago, with Fisher and Ogbuehi competing to take over the right tackle spot that was vacated by Andre Smith. Only they re-signed Smith last year, and he eventually ended up back in that spot late in the year after starting at right guard initially. Bobby Hart is another player that could potentially compete for that position.
Really, anything that comes around for Fisher in training camp, however, is a bonus. He is only about seven months removed from a procedure on his heart. That’s a scary situation that can really put things into perspective, but he’s clearly decided that he wants to continue to play football.
I grew up with somebody who had football aspirations. He had to have open-heart surgery and was never able to play again after that, even though he wanted to. Things could have gone differently for Fisher in this case.
Luckily for him, they seem to have worked out for the best, and to that end, I wish him continued success.