Is Andrew Whitworth Still a Viable Left Tackle?
While Whitworth is a fan favorite, as well as a personal favorite and team leader, he has been a shell of his former self. He is not right physically and has played stiff all season. While his instincts and veteran savvy have kept him going, it is easy to see that his bum knee has affected his leverage and ability to run speed rushers past the quarterback.
With such a deep class of offensive tackles in this draft class, now is the time to start grooming Whit’s replacement. Andre Smith is a high priority to resign, but his feet and mauling run blocking will restrict him to the right side. The Bengals can not afford to make the same mistake that they did with Levi Jones and allow him to stick around too long despite physical limitations.
This is also a very deep class for guards, and Clint Boling is not the long-term answer at left guard. A huge question this offseason will be whether Travelle Wharton can return from his knee injury. Kyle Cook never fully recovered from his ankle injury, but with Trevor Robinson on the roster with an offseason to improve, that is not as worrisome. But Boling is an excellent technician who just does not have the physical skills.
Linebackers Need and Injection of Athleticism
While many Bengals followers are banging the table to draft Manti Te’o, a linebacking corps that struggled due to limited athleticism in coverage would not be helped by drafting yet another thumping plodder that is suited to play middle linebacker.
Vontaze Burfict played admirably out of position at Will, but he is suited to be the long-term middle linebacker in this defense. With he and Rey Maualuga on the field, the Texans ran tight ends crossing the middle of the field and up the seam on play action all day, and there was not a thing the Bengals could do to stop it.
Emmanuel Lamur is going to be a very nice player for the Bengals, and in a nickel package can play the “star back” position, which is a hybrid safety and linebacker that lines up at the Sam linebacker position. This hybrid position, developed by Nick Saban and Bill Belichick, is perfect for a player with Lamur’s skill set.
But still, if the Bengals were to draft a linebacker in the first round, Alex Ogletree would be a name to keep in mind. Formerly a safety, Ogletree would inject the Bengals linebackers with the athleticism that they are sorely lacking and fit in well at the Will position next to Burfict. The seam-flat zone made opposing tight ends and quarterbacks alike drool when watching game film and needs to be taken care of this offseason.