For my concluding post in this series of articles, I thought it would only be fitting to anchor them with the anchor of the offense: the offensive line. If you missed the first four sections of this series you can see them here: Coaching, Quarterback, Wide Receivers & Tight End, Running Back. Now, on to the final chapter.
The Bengals have one of the heaviest offensive lines in the NFL. In 2011 they had an average weight of 269 lbs. That was good enough for third in the league behind Buffalo and Baltimore. That alone speaks volumes. But when you look into the quality of players on the line, it speaks louder. The Bengals offensive line finished tied for fourth in sacks allowed (25) in 2011. Although they were not known as one of the best run blocking offensive lines in the league, there is plenty of young talent on the line that are just getting their feet wet in the NFL and look to improve their efficiency in the upcoming season.
Tackle Andrew Whitworth is one of the best in the game. He has been a Pro Bowl snub for the last few seasons. He is great in pass protection and a driving force in the run game. He brings a high level of intelligence to the line and is the anchor for quarterback Andy Dalton. With a young quarterback under center, there are not many players in the league that I would rather have protecting his blind side.
Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander stated that this past year one of the most improved players of late is right tackle Andre Smith. There were lots of question marks about him after coming out of the draft overweight. Once he became focused, fixed his weight issue, and healed his injured foot, it was easy to see why he was one of the most prominent offensive lineman in the 2009 draft. Now he has another year to continue to build up to his full potential. I’m looking for Smith to become a major contributor this year, taking on a larger role because the with the question mark a right guard, and the weakness of the right side of the line last season, he will have to become a dominant force in 2012.