Center: Jeff Faine/Trevor Robinson
The center position is not a fully complete grade due to Kyle Cook landing on the Physically Unable to Perform list before the season began. His return is uncertain, and the Bengals signed Jeff Faine off the street just before the season started, rather than entrust the most cerebral position on the offensive line to undrafted rookie Trevor Robinson.
Faine has played like a player who nobody wanted until dire injury struck. His experience in Bill Muir’s offense, the coordinator under Jon Gruden and for whom Jay Gruden worked as an assistant, likely led to the signing. To Faine’s credit, he has done a great job of making the calls at the line and coordinating the blocking assignments. The line often seems to be in position to combat any alignment or blitz package.
Unfortunately, Faine is often driven backwards and can not anchor against the bull rush. He lacks a powerful punch and does not keep his feet moving, often putting him out of position before even engaging his defender. When the middle of the pocket collapses then Dalton can not step into his throws and has to roll out to view the field, being a shorter quarterback. It also limits the use of the power running game, including the power-off-tackle play that suits Green-Ellis so well.
Trevor Robinson has seen limited playing time, including the second half against the Steelers. He found himself beat very badly three times: on bull rushes from Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel, as well as a quick swim move by Hampton.
But while Robinson is beat worse than Faine, he also finds himself performing better when he is on. He uses his 6-5 frame to create leverage and can drive defenders off the line, including a behemoth like Hampton. He can also anchor himself and create leverage when pass blocking using his long arms. He shows good bend the majority of the time and can stand up a defender.
Kyle Cook will still be welcomed back with open arms, but it is looking to be time to replace an old Notre Dame center with a young one for the time being.
Right Guard: Kevin Zeitler
While many criticized the Bengals for passing on a chance to draft David DeCastro in the first round, instead trading back, gaining an extra pick and taking Zeitler, whom they had coveted the whole time. Zeitler is a mauler in the typical Wisconsin mold, but his pass blocking prowess has been a pleasant surprise.
Against the Steelers, Casey Hampton sometimes shaded to Zeitler’s inside eye. Zeitler was able to blow Hampton off the ball with little or no help from Faine, including a block that was almost singlehandedly responsible for a 4th-and-2 conversion.
It would not be unreasonable to expect Zeitler to become a perennial Pro Bowler with his weekly development as a blocker. He is extremely polished for his experience level and packs a monster punch upon engagement. His footwork is outstanding. Many young linemen rely on their brute strength, being used to playing inferior college competition. But Zeitler anchors well and keeps his weight centered.
Outside of A.J. Green, Zeitler is becoming one of Cincinnati’s best draft picks in recent memory.