In four days, the Bengals will be put to the test. When the Baltimore Ravens swoop into Paul Brown Stadium, the offensive line will have to shine.
Going into Week 1 of the regular season is always a time of anxiety for fans. But, when you’re a homer for the Bengals, things tend to get extreme. There’s usually a ton of hair pulling, prayer and cursing at the television screen. The main focus of the 2017 anxiety has clearly been the offensive line. However, the stress and concern could be unnecessary. So far, the line looks like it could be way better than initial predictions.
When Bengals brass decided to close the wallet and let more talent walk out the door, the crying was on. Andrew Whitworth is working on his tan in Los Angeles and Kevin Zeitler is counting his cheese by the lake. Yet, those two players are not the whole line. In fact, what happened to the confidence in the other linemen?
Actually, the Bengals did exactly what most fans predicted. When Andre Smith was released by the Minnesota Vikings, they brought him home. At the time it looked like that was the right thing to do. But, incredibly, Smith suffered an injury that caused him to miss important time working out and getting reps with the team. But, that opened up an opportunity for Trey Hopkins. He’s done an excellent job in Smith’s absence.
Give Them A Chance…Geez
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Jumping the gun has always been a staple of the Bengals fan. But, in this instance, it may be a wee bit premature to base the entire season on the performance of the offensive line. Though Smith got off to a slow start, he’s settled into a new role as a backup for both tackle positions. With the uncertainty of the NFL and sudden injuries, that can go a long way for the Bengals.
As fans, it’s tempting to sit back and scrutinize each detail of the game. Honestly, the modern football enthusiast has an advantage over his counterparts of yesteryear. Video games and YouTube have helped with the understanding of schemes and concepts that once went zooming by. But, it’s still not like being in the middle of the madness. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is the man in the midst of the storm. So far, he’s been pleased with how the line has performed.
"“I thought those guys did a good job and gave me time, and you know, that’s one thing we’ve been able to do. I’ve been able to move a little bit and get out of a couple of scrambles and different things, so I think they’ve done a great job so far.”"
Per Bengals.com, Dalton was obviously satisfied with the offensive line performance. Now, it’s time for that confidence to filter into the psyche of Bengals Nation.
There’s A Choice
Instead of thinking about how bad the O-line will be, it seems like the question should be flipped. How good can this offensive line really be? There’s a dynamic that hasn’t been considered by many. The youngsters and vets had the opportunity to work with legends, during training camp and OTAs. Willie Anderson and Anthony Munoz were able to lend their knowledge and experience. Since their input, there has been a marked turnaround in protection.
In case you missed it, the process has been in the works for a while. It’s all about nurturing skill and having the right people bring out the best.
The chances of success are much greater when there are great minds in the mix. Before you get snooty and say Dalton shouldn’t get sacked at all, this is the NFL. The league is filled with superb athletes capable of adjusting on a dime.
Cincinnati’s offensive line will be challenged. There’s no doubt about it. But, they deserve a chance to prove their worth before being thrown on the verbal trash heap.