Bengals fans, it's time to stop bitching and move on.
The free agency departures of Whitworth and Zeitler leave the Bengals line with question marks at every position except left guard where Clint Bowling has been a productive starter for the past five seasons. Of course there are some things the Bengals front office could have done better to not allow this club’s offensive line to get into the shamble it is currently in with four of the five positions as question marks.
Should they have valued the guard position more and offered a much solid yet moderate long term contract to Zeitler a year or more ago? Absolutely. Should they have given Whitworth a respectable yet modest multi-year deal a year ago? Yes.
However let’s remember that the Bengals had the offensive tackle succession plan in place. They spent their first TWO picks in 2015 on top rated offensive linemen Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. In theory, ONE of those players at least should be a bedrock at left tackle allowing the departure of Whit to be a moot point. It just hasn’t worked out yet.
But can it?
The annuls of NFL history are filled with players who struggled their first year or two and were almost completely discarded before making colossal strides and becoming great players. Here are just a few that come to mind:
- DE Osi Umenyiora had a combined 8 sacks in his first two seasons before exploding with 14.5 in year three, winning 2005 NFL Most Improved Player and having 61 total sacks over the next six seasons.
- CB Josh Norman was a name nobody heard of for two and a half straight seasons before finally securing the starting CB spot with the Panthers and having a monster 2015 season on the NFL’s best defense, also winning the NFL’s Most Improved Player.
- DE Vic Beasley was the eighth overall pick in 2015 and after a lackluster rookie season there were rumors of the Falcons trying to trade him before his second season! He followed up his disappointing rookie season by leading the league in sacks with 15.5 in 2016.
The list of NFL players who were disappointments before turning it around goes on and on. The question is can third year players Ogbuehi and Fisher make similar jumps to greatness next season? Let’s first look at the situations of both these guys:
Ogbuehi was put on the reserve/non-football injury list his rookie year while recovering from an ACL before making his debut in December of that year. So recovering from an ACL straight to December/playoff football. Not easy. He then has his first “true” rookie season last year where he misses all but 14 snaps of the preseason with injury before still being named the starter out of necessity. His first career start is versus the Jets who have the best front seven in football. Cedric had a bad, confidence-draining performance and it was all downhill from there.
Now on to Fisher who played in 14 games his rookie season in 2015 but a lot of that action was at “H” back! Last year yes he struggled before the Dec. 20th game versus Pittsburgh where after the game O-liner coach Paul Alexander said:
[Fisher] did great on Sunday,”...I’m real happy for him. He really graded out, his first game starting, probably graded out higher than any player I’ve ever had in their first game starting.
Now maybe neither of these guys ever develop into great players and that certainly may be the case but the point is it CAN happen, history has shown us. And most of all, the incessant complaining about the Bengals handling of Whit and Zeitler will not help the situation. All we can do is wait and hope (insert “pray”) that happens.
Rocky is a hometown Cincinnati kid who after his eight year career in the NFL, including a Super Bowl Championship, decided to move back to the Queen City. He was an elected official for three years in his community of Green Township before joining the Big One in 2014. He enjoys talking all things Bengals and Reds, political issues, El Arco tequila, 80's metal music, giving Tracy Jones a hard time, and looks forward to eventually riding the Streetcar...just kidding. He and his wife and young son reside on the West Side of Cincinnati. Rocky's show is produced by Brad Stiene and Dave Keaton.