Just Another Line?

Too much orange Kool-Ade gives BJ indigestion. But Kirk’s got my back. To that I’d add only that, while the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line does indeed have numerous question marks, they are of a different quality than those facing the line in the run-up to 2008.

Last summer, Bengals fans were wondering if either tackle could play at all. Neither Levi Jones nor Willie Anderson had been right since the end of 2005. Both had skipped the team’s voluntary offseason program (OK, Willie showed up for the last week) in 2008. Levi, after sparring with coaches in the 2007 offseason, had requested a trade before the ’08 draft. Once they got to camp, Willie was often absent from practice. In short, both players were still hurt to one degree or another, and Levi had motivation question marks as well. Throw in Eric Ghiaciuc’s struggles at center and a lack of depth, and the stage was set for the epic collapse that occurred.

This year, there are no injury woes (knock on wood) or desire questions surrounding Andrew Whitworth, Anthony Collins or Andre Smith. And based on actual, NFL game performance, there’s no reason to think that Whitworth and and Collins won’t be upgrades over last season’s duo of a broken-down Jones and a one-foot-out-the-door-and-on-a-plane-to-Philly Stacy Andrews. And that’s not even considering Smith. Let him hold out; I’m not at all sure I wouldn’t rather have Collins starting over a rookie. As for Ghiaciuc’s replacement, Kyle Cook, the situation at center is no worse than it was last season, at least in my opinion, and the tackle spots are in better shape. Depth — which will include either Smith or Collins, plus fourth-rounder Jonathan Luigs — is also better this year than last.

Kirk is right that expecting a 2005-caliber performance is probably wishful thinking. But the Bengals are in a lot better shape on the line here in June 2009 than they were 12 months ago. Just how much better we will start to get a read on in about a month.

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Tags: Andre Smith Andrew Whitworth Anthony Collins Cincinnati Bengals Kyle Cook Offensive Line

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