As roster cuts approach, the Bengals won’t have to make a tough decision at guard. The starters and backups have already separated themselves.
The Bengals have had question marks all across the offensive line, but none more pressing than at the guard position. Clint Boling has been a staple at left guard, but aside from him, nothing was certain. The starting right guard spot has been hotly contested all camp, and the backup roles were up in the air as well. However, after three preseason games, the position has started to sort itself out.
The right guard spot seems to be firmly in the hands of Trey Hopkins. The Bengals listed him as the starter on their initial depth chart. While this is by no means a perfect indicator of favoritism, the team clearly has some level of faith in Hopkins. Hopkins also started the majority of games at right guard last year, and acquitted himself okay in those starts.
In the preseason, Hopkins has not been perfect, but has looked fairly solid at right guard. He has been the starter each game without ceding work to Christian Westerman. Hopkins’ best game was certainly against Dallas, where he was one of the highest graded players on the Bengals. One of Hopkins’ best skills is his raw power, which could be an asset in the run game. I expect Hopkins to be the starting right guard, at least to start the year.
While the Bengals seem to want Hopkins at right guard, Westerman should be the guy. He has been a surprise with his play thus far, grading out as the best offensive lineman on the entire team. The only catch is that Westerman has primarily played as the left guard on the second team, so he has gotten easier competition.
Still, Westerman has been mightily impressive in his action to this point. If the Bengals refuse to play him on the right side, he should be the first backup at left guard. That should give the Bengals a nice insurance policy in case Boling goes down. Also, if the team turns on Hopkins at any point this season, they can give Westerman a shot at right guard. It should be exciting to see him once he gets on the field.
The last guard to make the roster should be Alex Redmond, who has been clearly the third best guard of this group. He has certainly been playable in game action, though, and can definitely cover for Hopkins or Westerman should they go down. Redmond has always had good physical tools, but has needed time to develop. He makes sense as a deep roster stash and Hopkins’ and Westerman’s primary backup.
Through three preseason games, the guards have found their roles on this team. Hopkins, Westerman, and Redmond can hopefully resurrect a dismal guard position, although there is still some room to grow.