Right Tackle: Andre Smith
Once known mostly for running an ill-advised shirtless forty at his pro day, Smith had trouble cracking the line-up over Roland at right tackle. His massive size was no longer enough to win every battle once he entered the NFL and he played with a surprising lack of power for such a massive man.
Last season, Smith became an improved run blocker, but he still seemed to struggle to keep his feet underneath him when he pass-blocked. But this season, Smith has been able to mirror even defensive ends as fast as Cameron Wake. He knows how to use his size as a leverage advantage and will put defensive ends on skates.
Even better, Smith has become comfortable blocking in space against linebackers if need be. He stays centered and does not overextend himself. His anchor was never an issue, but being able to drive defenders past the quarterback on a pass rush or engage opponents that were not directly in front have him have become old hat to Smith.
The Bengals have long tried to replace their revered former right tackle Willie Anderson, and Andre Smith has began to display the skills that made Anderson such a force for Cincinnati. Smith does have a past history of lingering foot issues, but now that he has put his weight issues behind him and improved his condition, that seems to have cleared up.
Smith is definitely the team’s highest performing offensive lineman and it would seem logical to use the franchise tag on him before he can hit the free agent market, especially if the team can strike an extension with Michael Johnson.