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Bengals must have faith in offensive line potential

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LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 14: Offensive lineman Billy Price
LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 14: Offensive lineman Billy Price /
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The Cincinnati Bengals spent one high pick on the offensive line with their first-round pick Billy Price, center out of Ohio State.

The Cincinnati Bengals went into the offseason with some significant needs along the offensive line. The unit ranked 28th among all offensive lines in the NFL last season giving up 158 pressures. Left tackle was the most exceptional need along the line entering the offseason.

Cincinnati made a trade with the Buffalo Bills just before free agency opened acquiring left tackle Cordy Glenn. When healthy, Glenn is a top 10 left tackle in the NFL. The Bengals moved back nine spots and moved up from the sixth round to the fifth round later in the draft.

Following the trade, Bengals former starting center Russell Bodine left during free agency to sign with the Buffalo Bills after turning down the contract Cincinnati presented him. This became the next most prominent hole for Cincinnati with the need for a new center. The only player with some practice at center on the roster at the time was T.J. Johnson.

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Most mock drafts and we as fans were expecting at least two or three offensive line draft picks in the first two days of the NFL Draft. Cincinnati started off by selecting Ohio State center Billy Price. Addressing the middle of the line with a strong anchor was a sigh of relief for Bengals fans. That would also be the last pick they would spend on the offensive line.

What does this mean? When so many people were expecting offensive line picks, the team only took one in the first round and moved on. It would seem that the Bengals coaches and front office are higher on their offensive line as it sits now than most fans. There have been arguments about the right side of the line still needing to be addressed, but it seems they feel there is potential there.

It was no surprise that the Bengals avoided the tackle position after Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey was grabbed in the top ten of the draft. In a limited tackle class this year, I wasn’t expecting the Bengals to reach for a tackle in the second or third round.

Cincinnati already brought in a right tackle this offseason that gets overlooked in Bobby Hart. The former New York Giants tackle was with the Giants when they made their last playoff run and is at least an average starter. He will bring some competition to the right tackle position during training camp in July and August.

They also still have 2015 first and second round picks Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher even on the roster. Both Ogbuehi and Fisher have struggled to hold a starting role anywhere on the offensive line since being drafted. Both players have also been benched due to poor play. This could mean that Hart will likely be the starter in 2018 at the right tackle position.

When it comes to the right guard position, both Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman looked good in the final two games of the season. Bring in new offensive line coach Frank Pollack, and the Bengals think that he can develop these guys into full-time starters. Cincinnati still acquired two starting players to upgrade their offensive line which is always a substantial upgrade from last season, and they were both acquired with the first round pick.

It’s hard to imagine replacing four out of the five linemen on the offensive line in one offseason and expecting a significant change. Cincinnati has already brought in Glenn and Price who are massive upgrades over their successors. The team also brought in Hart who will compete with two other tackles they like for the right tackle position. Even if the team drafted a tackle in the middle rounds, they weren’t going to beat out Hart, Ogbuehi, and Fisher. Redmond and Westerman are both Bengals draft picks that haven’t seen significant time on the line and could fight it out while working with Pollack.

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Cincinnati made some significant upgrades to the offensive line, and it takes time to build a unit like the offensive line. Adding the players they did to this unit in one offseason is tremendous. There are teams in the draft that have average to below average offensive lines every year as well in case you forgot. The Bengals will have an upgraded line in 2018.

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