Woe-Line

In honor of March Madness, the powers that be here at fansided have decided to do a 64-slot bracket competition to decide the worst NFL draft pick of all time. They’ve asked each blog to submit two candidates from their own team history to fill out the slate. The only reason that I haven’t done so yet is simply that every time I turn to the subject I become hopelessly depressed. Remember the fictional TV show Oww My Balls! from Mike Judge’s Idiocracy? I think I’d rather star in an episode of that than revisit the sad draft history of my team.

Unfortunately, current events aren’t all that much more uplifting. Take the word today from Baltimore, where ex-Bengals tackle Willie Anderson denies reports of his impending retirement. Anderson is in Baltimore working out with teammates (something he got out of the habit of doing in Cincy) and is planning to play this year.

Meanwhile, the Bengals have a gaping hole at RT and are looking to trade (or just release) left tackle Levi Jones, an event which would add a whole new level of pain to the disasterous decisions made on the o-line since 2006. With a Jones departure, the Bengals would have cut or let go of two guys from their 2005 offensive line who could still play, Anderson and guard Eric Steinbach, while keeping, paying and finally losing two guys who either couldn’t play any more (Jones) or who refused to stay (Stacy Andrews). Oh, and just to add insult to injury, Anderson and Steinbach now play for division rivals Baltimore and Cleveland!

Maybe the Bengals should trade Andrew Whitworth to the Steelers just to be fair?

The only thing that has Bengals fans more upset than this history is the team’s failure to address the problem this offseason. We wanted to see the front office pursue some veteran line help, especially at center, in free agency. But there was little quality available at the position by the time free agency opened, and the one good player, Jason Brown, got paid by the Rams. At tackle, getting anyone good would have required not just big bucks, but probably draft pick compensation for signing a franchised player or restricted free agent. If the Bengals were just a player away on the o-line that might make sense, but obviously that’s not the case.

Instead, it appears that, yes, the plan is to rely on the draft and what’s already on the roster. And I can’t actually say that’s a bad strategy, even given the team’s historically poor performance on draft day, because even a line of rookies and average joes would be an upgrade over what we had in 2008. At this point, I see the 2009 offensive line looking something like this:

LT: Eugene Monroe (backup: Whitworth)
LG: Whitworth (backup: Nate Livings)
C: Eric Wood (backups: Dan Santucci, Kyle Cook)
RG: Bobbie Williams (backup: Scott Kooistra)
RT: Anthony Collins (backup: Kooistra)

That’s close to a best-case scenario, I think. If Monroe doesn’t make it to six — and it looks more and more like he won’t — then the Bengals could be looking at drafting a right tackle instead and either moving Whit to LT or leaving Collins in that spot (where he played well down the stretch last season). They could also choose to go with Santucci or Cook as the starter at center. Both were rumored to be replacing Eric Ghaicuic at points last season, but both got hurt and ended up on IR.

But any way you cut it, the Bengals are in for a rebuilding year on the offensive line. It’s the final legacy of the O-Curse of ’06. Here’s hoping that 2009 looks a lot better three years hence.

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Tags: Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line

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