Bobby Hart has had a lock on the Bengals’ starting right tackle job for the last two seasons but second-year tackle Fred Johnson could secure the spot.
There may not be a name that stirs up more emotions from Bengals fans than Bobby Hart. The six-year vet has had the starting right-tackle position locked down for the last two seasons with mixed reviews, to put it politely.
Many fans hoped 2020 would be the year all this changed. However, free-agency came and went, as did the NFL draft and no change was made. This left the fanbase scratching their heads as to why.
Although things look like they may be business as usual when it comes to this ever-important position, if you look beyond the surface, that may not be the case. Although it is possible that the Bengals shot callers may really like Hart as much as they say, the real reason they didn’t sign or draft a replacement could be that they already have one in place.
In all the position battles to keep an eye on this off-season, there may be none more fascinating than the one at right tackle. Why is that you may ask? The answer is Fred Johnson.
Most Bengal fans may already be familiar with the former Florida Gator. However, some may not realize just how legitimate a threat he is to take over on the other side of Jonah Williams. Johnson could be the guy Bengals fans have been waiting for.
Here is what we know about the second-year player: The first thing is he is massive. Standing at 6’7″ and weighing in at nearly 330 lbs, he is quite the physical specimen. He was signed as an undrafted free agent to the Pittsburgh Steelers, received a wealthy amount of snaps in the preseason, and made their roster. He was cut later on, but the Bengals were able to scoop up the talented Johnson off waivers.
That in itself may not sound that impressive in terms of looking at a potential starter. However, the Steelers were very high on him. When looking at the depth they have in their O-line, with veterans already entrenched in their respective positions, the numbers game simply wasn’t in Johnson’s favor.
Johnson proved the Bengals were right to add him as the season wore on. Injuries forced the team to insert Johnson heavily into their rotation late in the year and eventually into the starting left tackle spot in the season finale, where he was very impressive.
In fact, he was impressive enough to make Cordy Glenn expendable. The former Buffalo Bill was supposed to be the anchor of the Bengals o-line for the foreseeable future, but he was unable to stay on the field. This gave Johnson the opportunity he needed to show he was more than capable of holding his own in the NFL.
Johnson is also very young, as he will be just turning 23 this summer, with a year of NFL experience under his belt. This means that his best football is still ahead of him. So what does this mean going forward for Johnson and the Bengals?
The coaching staff obviously sees something in the former SEC product, as does the front office, as was shown with the moves they (didn’t) make this off-season, in terms of the o-line. Hart may be the starter at the moment, but the Bengals brass has a belief that Johnson can come in and take that spot, quite possibly this year.
Johnson showed enough last season to earn that chance. If he can take the next step, which all signs show he can, then the answer Bengals fans have been waiting for may have been here all along.