Mike Iupati: A Contingency Plan for the Bengals


October 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers guard Mike Iupati (77) lines up during the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Levi

This off-season, the Bengals are facing the prospect of losing Clint Boling in free agency.  Although both Boling and the Bengals have a mutual interest in his return to Cincinnati, his market is certainly heating up.  Several teams including the Jets, Eagles, and Giants are seen as fits for the free agent left guard.  Boling certainly won’t lack for options this off-season.

There’s no reason at this point to believe the Bengals won’t re-sign Boling.  They have the money and have Boling’s interest.  Retaining his presence along the offensive line only makes sense, as the best lines often benefit from continuity.

Yet the reality is his return isn’t set in stone, and the Bengals would be imprudent to not explore other options.  This is where Mike Iupati comes in.  The massive left guard (6’5″, 330 pounds) formerly of the 49ers would seemingly be a good fit for the Bengals and their approach on offense.

Mike Iupati is a dominant run-blocker who drives defenders off the line and opens significant holes for running backs.  49ers running back Frank Gore has enjoyed several years of great production in part due to Iupati’s efforts.  This dominant style would fit the Bengals power running approach and only serve to improve Jeremy Hill‘s production going forward.

There is a downside to Iupati though.  He isn’t nearly as dominant when pass blocking.  As pointed out by Pro Football Focus, his ability to protect the passer is average at best.  But this deficiency can be mitigated due to the Bengals’ approach to throwing the ball.

Hue Jackson has made it his job to help Andy Dalton develop as a quarterback.  He’s attempted to take the onus off his quarterback and put him in the best position to succeed.  Part of this approach is to get the ball out of his hands quickly with short, quick throws and presenting predetermined reads.  This approach doesn’t ask linemen to block for long periods of time, which would help alleviate some of the concerns regarding Iupati’s pass protection.

The Bengals goal should be to re-sign Clint Boling this off-season; there should be no doubt about that.  But making sure they investigate other options should be prioritized also, so they aren’t left without option in the event that Boling finds a more appealing offer elsewhere.  Mike Iupati’s lack of ability on passing downs may cut down on the number of suitors he is presented with.  The Bengals have both the money and offensive scheme to appeal to Iupati.  It’s because of this that he should be viewed as a contingency plan for the Bengals.

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