Surprise Bengals Starters – No. 1: Hakeem Adeniji, Offensive Line
With the additions of veteran tackle Riley Reiff and rookie tackle/guard Jackson Carman, I tend to agree more with the group that says it is much improved. However, there is still one question mark on the line: the left guard position.
Veterans Quinton Spain and Xavier Su’a-Filo are expected to battle it out for the left guard spot but don’t be surprised if second-year lineman Hakeem Adeniji comes out of nowhere and beats them out.
Adeniji was drafted by the Bengals in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Despite being taken so late, many in the organization and media praised the selection, saying that Adeniji was much more talented than his draft spot would lead you to believe. In his first year, injures thrust the rookie lineman into starting time and his performance was a mixed bag.
With an overall grade 51.6 on PFF, Adeniji did not play at a high level as a rookie. However, I would argue that a 51.6 is actually a very promising grade considering the circumstances. As a late-round selection, Adeniji was thrown into starting time unexpectedly and thrived on multiple occasions.
In the Bengals Week 8 upset over the Tennessee Titans, Adeniji played 100% of the team’s offensive snaps in what turned out to be their best offensive line performance of the season.
The following week in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the rookie impressed, even drawing the attention of Bengals’ legend Willie Anderson. Considering he was not expected to play at all as a rookie, these are promising signs for the young lineman.
Most of Adeniji’s experience is at the tackle positions, so it may seem like a stretch to say he will take a starting job at guard. However, recent comments from Dave Lapham suggest that he could be in the mix. If Adeniji shows that he has what it takes at guard, he may beat the veterans and lock down a starting spot in his second year.
These three Bengals might not be expected to win a starting job this fall but don’t be surprised if they do.