As we preview all of the Bengals for the 2012 season, perhaps the biggest boom-or-bust player will be right-tackle Andre Smith. He’s played in just 27 games in three seasons with the Bengals after being the 6th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Last season, he played and started in 14 games and was part of an offensive line that thrived in pass protection and tied for fourth in NFL in fewest sacks allowed at 25.
According to Pro Football Focus, his +3.0 pass blocking rating was tied for 2nd-best amongst the Bengals starting o-line. His run-blocking still left much to be desired given his massive size and strength, and his -0.8 run blocking grade has to improve if the Bengals are to get back to their ground-and-pound roots that helped them claim the AFC North title in 2009, which is exactly what the Bengals drafted Smith to do. The team chose not to pick up his 5th-year option, meaning he is now in a contract year.
After starting off the season slow, Smith improved slowly improved as the season progressed. This culminated with his week 16 performance against the Arizona Cardinals, which Pro Football focus graded as the 4th-best offensive lineman performance by a right tackle during the NFL season:
4. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals: Week 16 vs. Arizona (+5.6)
It hasn’t always been easy for Smith inCincinnati, but he made it look that way against a lackluster Cardinals team. He didn’t give up a single pressure and earned five positive grades in the run game without a single negative play.
The performance was even sweeter given that it was late in the year with a spot in the playoffs on the line, proving that Smith can be counted on in big-game situations after it looked like he would be a bust prior to this season.