This year’s draft presented an anomaly of sorts for Bengal fans–a trade up in the draft to select Russell Bodine. He’s a powerful lineman with strong hands and a feisty nature, which fits exactly what the Bengals are looking for. His power and attitude would allow him to match the strength of opposing defensive linemen and open running lanes for The running backs. Prior to his selection, Bodine earned the endorsement of Giovani Bernard–the running back he blocked for while playing at North Carolina.
“When you have one of those guys that’s very physical and very kind of in-your-face, it’s always good for an offensive line. He’s a guy that’s not going to back down from anyone. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”
Bodine played well during OTAs and often had the opportunity to play with the first-team. But Bodine has struggled of late with the most basic, yet important, part of his job–getting the snap off. It seems Bodine has struggled to get on the same page as Andy Dalton, something Dalton addressed recently:
“It’s going to get eliminated. We can’t have that. That’s the easiest thing you do on the football field is get the snap.”
It’s good to see the newly extended Dalton is supporting Bodine, but Bodine is clearly focused on addressing the issue per Bengals.com editor Geoff Hobson:
“The last week of workouts he struggled with some high shot-gun snaps early in practice and when I asked him about it he looked right through me with an Arctic stare. “It will get worked out,’ he said simply.”
If Bodine cannot handle the starting duties at center, he has he experience playing at both guard spots, but in an analysis by CBS’s Rob Rang, it seems obvious that Bodine fits the Bengals scheme perfectly as a center rather than as a guard:
“Bodine’s game — like Alexander’s scheme — is based on power. The marginal agility and balance Bodine demonstrated at the combine (OL-worst 8.29-second in the 3-cone drill) and on tape scared off some scouts but is mitigated by the fact that in Alexander’s scheme centers are generally asked to either drive defenders off the ball or turn and seal them away from the action, rather than scoot to the second level and adjust to linebackers.”
By not being able to handle these duties, the Bengals would end up in a familiar position where the center position is a weak point along their line. This would clearly present problems for the Bengals running plans, but would also effect the passing game. It’s well known that Dalton has struggled when facing pressure. In the past, this pressure has often come up the middle and this is clearly the worst place to have this issue as the quarterback would then be flushed from the pocket and the play inevitably breaks down. Dalton is a rhythm type of player, which is probably why offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has so often emphasized using tempo to develop a rhythm. This type of pressure attacking the face of Dalton would be the quickest way for an opposing defense to break this rhythm and it would just so happen to, once again, be the Bengals weak point along the line.
Fortunately the Bengals some other options at center in linemen Mike Pollak, Trevor Robinson, and PS player TJ Johnson, but all these options do come with caveats. Pollak was a very solid guard for the Bengals last year subbing in when injuries occurred at several points last year. He consider’s himself a natural at the position after playing center primarily in college. But the point here is that he hasn’t played at center since college and hasn’t been training at the position during camp as he slowly returns from a knee injury. When it comes to Robinson, he played well in the past while former center Kyle Cook was hurt, but was unable to take the job from a lackluster Cook. This concerns me because Cook held onto the position due to his intelligence. It tells me that Robinson struggles in this regard and didn’t have the strength and ability to negate this weak point. To date there’s very little information on Johnson as he’s made little noise but his second camp. At this point he may be battling for a practice squad job.
Finding a center for the upcoming season was clearly a priority for the team. As Jackson looks to implement his aggressive, up-tempo attack which will feature he run, he looks to need a heady center who can get plays off in a quick and clean fashion while having the power to seal off running lanes. If Bodine falters, the Bengals end up in that familiar, vexing position where the center position is in-flux. This could present a real problem for Jackson’s game-plan and will allow pressure up the middle in the passing game. The center of the Bengals’ attention may yet again be remedying the center position; this time hopefully sooner rather than later.