The Bengals may have found their answer to the O-line woes. Trey Hopkins stepped in for Andre Smith and looked like an instant starter.
If you noticed someone missing from the Bengals lineup during the Buccaneers game, you’re not alone. The first name that comes to mind is Giovani Bernard. True. He wasn’t involved in the action. But, an even larger presence was absent from the battle. Andre Smith didn’t get any snaps and was replaced by Trey Hopkins. This doesn’t bode well for a Cincy team that signed Smith for insurance purposes on the O-line.
When the free agency period shredded the Bengals offensive line. Fans were rightly outraged and confused. How could the Bengals brain trust decide to let Kevin Zeitler roll with the Cleveland Browns? If that wasn’t bad enough, the Los Angeles Rams decided to give Andrew Whitworth a raise and let him bask on the beach.
Smith was supposed to be the Bengals’ answer to the Zeitler fiasco. But, his reunion with his old buddies seems to be going in the opposite direction. Maybe the Vikings and Mike Zimmer knew what was coming and decided to part ways with Smith before it got to the same point.
Various practices have been missed by Smith and the recent development of an elbow injury has popped up during camp. He missed most of the 2016 season with Minnesota due to a similar injury and eventual surgery. After being in the league since 2009, Smith seems to be more prone to injury. That’s not a good look for the Bengals’ offense.
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Hopkins Hops In
Thankfully, the Bengals kept Hopkins in the fold and are reaping the benefits. He was undrafted from Texas, three years ago. He’s already made an impression in camp. O-line coach Paul Alexander is a definite fan.
"“I have always liked him. He’s always done a good job,” Alexander says. “Heck, as an undrafted rookie he started in the first pre-season game. That kind of talks about the way we operate here. If you are the best guy here you play. We are a long way from saying, ‘OK, here is our team we are ready to play the opener.’ We got a lot of work to do.”"
Hopkins is showing versatility at a time that the Bengals can use it. With Smith looking like he may succumb to injuries, the right guard position may take on another dynamic.
In place of Smith, Hopkins performed well enough to not be noticed. That’s the sign of an offensive lineman doing his job well. He played the entire first half and looked like he was born for the position. Andy Dalton was untouched during his stint. Jeremy Hill and Joe Mixon were able to find the holes he created. The combined line effort produced a decent night on the ground (57 yards).
Changing Of The Guards?
"“There’s been so many question marks about the offensive line, but also questions about myself,” Hopkins offered, via Bengals.com. “It’s like I’ve been battling myself with being on injured reserve and then staying around on the practice squad. It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s a progression I look back on and see how it’s led up to this moment. I was excited to get the opportunity to play with the starters.”"
Hopkins could very well be the Bengals answer to what’s happening (or not) with Smith. The offensive line has been a question mark since the departure of Big Whit and Zeitler. However, things could change as the season progresses. Having a versatile player in the wings is always a bonus.