After injuries and additions, the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line has undergone a makeover, paving the way for a new starting five to develop.
Three short weeks ago, if you were wincing in pain when you heard the news that Joe Burrow would be protected by four backup offensive linemen due to injuries to the starters, you certainly weren’t alone. Since then, however, the situation in the trenches for the Cincinnati Bengals has changed significantly.
The group of patchwork offensive lineman kicked off their tour by surrendering zero sacks to the Tennessee Titans, albeit one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the league.
Coming off a bye, the unit was expected to get mauled against the Pittsburg Steelers’ ferocious duo of T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. While their AFC North foes had their moments, the protection was actually quite good, all things considered.
Zac Taylor and offensive line coach Jim Turner now find themselves with a plethora of options. Who should crack the starting five moving forward?
Left Tackle: Hakeem Adeniji
On the surface, it’s an easy decision to plug Jonah Williams back into the left tackle slot once he returns healthy. However, when you take into consideration the play of rookie Hakeem Adeniji the past two weeks, there’s room for debate.
During the week ten contest against the Steelers, the greatest Bengals right tackle of all time, Willie Anderson, made his impressions of Adeniji well known, stating that he was putting on a pass protecting clinic.
Left tackle is most likely Adeniji’s best position and Williams has been touted for his versatility and willingness to play at either guard position or right tackle. Cincinnati should stick with the rookie on the blindside, allowing him to develop. If early signs are any indication, they may have found a long-term option.
Left Guard: Michael Jordan
There are plenty of shuffling options the coaching staff can contemplate but youth and continuity prevail in this scenario. Michael Jordan is still just 22-years-old and has impeccable size. He’s been a liability often, but he’s also shown a physicality in the run game that makes his development intriguing.
Sticking with Jordan is the best option at this point. Hopefully, his pass protection can become more consistent and the Bengals have one less problem to worry about this offseason.
Center: Trey Hopkins
This is really the only no-brainer among the starting five. Trey Hopkins was the highest-graded lineman against the Steelers and it would be downright silly to disrupt the center-quarterback exchange at this point in the season.
Right Guard: Quinton Spain
Quinton Spain has had quite the roller coaster ride to begin his career in stripes. Just two days after entering the building, he played the majority of the team’s snaps at left guard. Then, he was asked to kick outside to tackle in the following game.
Planting him at right guard and keeping him there should allow things to settle down and provide him the opportunity to build chemistry with the guys flanking him. He’s got plenty of experience and a mean-streak that will bode well moving forward in a physical AFC North.
At 29-years-old, Spain may legitimately represent an answer at the long-maligned right guard spot for the next couple of years.
Right Tackle: Jonah Williams
Jonah Williams rounds out the starting five and gives Cincinnati hope that they can finally get some consistent play at the right tackle position. His versatility allows him to seamlessly insert into the spot and gives Cincinnati a fighting chance at keeping some of the league’s most intimidating pass rushers at bay.