Cincinnati Bengals Position Breakdown: Offensive Line

The offensive line is often the most overlooked position group on any NFL team. They typically don’t receive any media attention and they rarely get the glory of the playmakers around them.

Despite this oversight, the offensive line is arguably the most important unit on the field. You can have a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback, but it won’t matter if he has no time to throw the ball and gets knocked down every time he drops back.

Luckily, the Cincinnati Bengals enter the 2013 season with one of the best and most experienced offensive lines in the NFL.

The O-line is led by 8th year pro Andrew Whitworth at the left tackle position. Whitworth was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2012 and is considered the heart and soul of the offensive line.

Whitworth is the leader on the O-Line

Whitworth is the leader on the O-Line

The other starters alongside Whitworth figure to be Clint Boling, Trevor Robinson, Kevin Zeitler, and Andre Smith. While this is a very solid starting group, the backups make the unit even stronger. Anthony Collins, Dennis Roland, and Kyle Cook all have playoff experience and can step in at a moments notice.

Perhaps the biggest question mark is what to expect from Andre Smith.

Smith has been a conundrum since being drafted sixth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. He has been hurt, held out of camp, and attempted to sign elsewhere this offseason.

Despite these deficiencies, he’s been a very productive player when he’s on the field.

Smith is considered an average pass blocker, but excels in opening up holes for the running game. Look for the Bengals to utilize a strong right side of Smith and Zeitler to create holes for BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the speedy Giovani Bernard.

Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, who played 10 years on the Cincinnati offensive line, feels this is the deepest group in the Marvin Lewis era.

They’ve got a little bit of everything. Some experienced backups, there are young guys starting to blossom and guys that have played multiple positions.

Returning the same line from a year ago builds continuity among the offense and allows Andy Dalton to feel more comfortable in the pocket. There is no denying this is the strongest group since Rich Braham was anchoring the middle of the field during the 2005 season.

Another reason to believe this offensive line will be so successful is it is working against arguably the best defensive line in football.

Going against the likes of Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Michael Johnson can only help the offensive line prepare for life in the AFC North.

It is often stated the success of any team hinges on their ability to control the line of scrimmage. The defensive line certainly has that covered heading into the 2013 season. However, the overlooked and often unsung offensive line will be key in leading the Bengals to a third straight playoff appearance.

Bengals Update

While the Reds have been busy winning 10 of their last 12, the Cincinnati Bengals kicked off OTA’s this week. OTA’s are a good opportunity to look at some rookies and get a feel for where the team stands in the health department. It also means the NFL offseason is technically over and we can begin to think about football season again.

A few items of note:

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Adam Jones suffered some sort of injury to his calf muscle on the first day of OTA’s and will be held out for the remainder of practice sessions. Jones seems poised for perhaps his best season in Cincinnati.

He has been of the most underrated Bengals over the past three seasons and has filled in nicely when called upon. Furthermore, he has added a dimension in the return game.

Andre Smith

Andre Smith is once again absent from OTA’s. Resigning Smith played a huge role in allowing the Bengals to draft Giovani Bernard and Margus Hunt in the second round, rather than using one of those picks to replace the right tackle.

Everybody seems pleased with having Smith back in the fold, but he certainly hasn’t been easy since being selected 6th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Hopefully he gets his act together and returns to OTA’s at a respectable weight.

Andy Dalton

This is a big season for Andy Dalton. The third year as a starter is traditionally a good measuring stick for NFL quarterbacks. With the addition of Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert, the Bengals have surrounded Dalton with plenty of fire power. Dalton and AJ Green have been vocal about wanting to improve on the long ball.

Perhaps this play is fueling the fire a bit.

James Harrison

OTA’s give coaches their first look at newly acquired linebacker, James Harrison. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year brings a nastiness and edge to a young defensive unit. It will be interesting to see how Mike Zimmer uses Harrison and how much he will be called upon to defend tight ends across the middle, something he struggled with in years past. Harrison could become the x-factor of a very good defensive unit and possibly help take this team to the next tier.

James Harrison

James Harrison

It’s way too early to determine what this team will look like come September 8 for the season opener in Chicago. However, this team has weapons at nearly every position and there is reason to be optimistic going forward. The Bengals are building something special and it might be time for everyone to start paying attention.