So this is how far it's sunk in Bengal-dom. The best offensive tackles on the roster are the ones they've given up on.
Jake Fisher is done for the season. Hopefully, he plays again at some point. Marvin Lewis said Wednesday what's ailing Fisher (and the coach wouldn't say what. Couldn't say it) sounds a lot more serious than it may be. But it's serious enough to KO his season.
Fisher wasn't having a particularly good season to begin with. He's been beaten at the point of attack consistently.
On the other side of the line is Cedric Ogbuehi, who gets bull-rushed beyond belief. They entered the league together in 2015 -- Ogbuehi a first-round pick and Fisher taken in round two. The Bengals believed they were the offensive tackles of the future. And because of that, Andrew Whitworth became expendable. So too was Andre Smith. Well, we know how that brainstorm went.
Now, Smith is back and is the best tackle the Bengals have. That isn't saying much.
But the player the Bengals let "walk" in free agency to the Vikings in 2016, the same player the Vikings let "walk" after one year, is the Bengals' best tackle. Think about that. Andre Smith is the best offensive tackle. And now, with Fisher gone, please welcome back Eric Winston, the tackle the Bengals cut in training camp, a player who's been in the league since 2006.
This is what happens when you value sizzle over steak. And the Bengals certainly thought they had the sizzle before this season. Except, they didn't.
They had one of the NFL's top three wide receivers. AJ Green was a headache to opposing defensive coordinators and a game changer. They drafted John Ross, the fastest player in the combine this winter, a man with tantalizing speed. They drafted an image-scarred Joe Mixon, a bargain really, in the second round of the 2017 draft. Tyler Eifert was back. Tyler Boyd was much smarter and promised to be better than than in his rookie season.
Look at the embarrassment of riches, we were told. Except, it isn't.
It's simply an embarrassment. This isn't the way you build a winning football team.
Boyd has been hurt most of the last month and a half. Eifert is out for the year, again (has this guy ever been healthy since he came here?). Mixon was a rumor for the first three or four weeks. And Ross can't get onto the field because, we're led to believe by the head coach, he isn't "comfortable" enough with what his assignments would be. Except, maybe not.
Ross is a guy who just needs to do one thing: go long. The rest is simply details. For a team that's now dead last, statistically, in offense, not being able to get a guy who only needs to "go long" on the field is beyond comprehension.
But Ross, Mixon or even Eifert aren't the root of the Bengals' problems. The Bengals' problem is simple -- they can't block anybody.
Have you watched them lately? Have you seen the offensive line actually get push on the opponent's defensive line? Have you seen Andy Dalton's stage act lately?
You can dump on the Red Rifle all you want. The guy should be out there with a hat and a cane. It's early vaudeville and Dalton goes on right after the comic. Or the stripper. Watch him dance. He's got a million moves. Unfortunately, most of them aren't the kind of moves an NFL team needs to win. Not his fault, not entirely. Not even Othello is worth watching when the guy playing Cassio isn't standing still.
Meantime, out in LA LA Land, Andrew Whitworth hasn't let an opposing lineman breathe on Jared Goff. The Rams are the most improved team in the NFL and Whitworth is the face of it. But of course, around here, he was too old and too expensive. Oh, Boomer. Oh, Max. Oh, so Bengals.
NFL coaches will tell you that the most difficult position to project, from college football to their game, is offensive line. Of course, they'll tell you that until the subject turns to quarterbacks. Actually, they have a point.
College linemen rely more on athleticism than brute strength. It works, for the most part, on campus. But, you can be as athletic as Usain Bolt. It only takes you so far when you have a 350-pound defensive lineman bearing down on you. Wouldn't that make it all the more sensible to hang onto someone like Whitworth until the next Anthony Munoz rolls down the pike?
While everyone was giddy about the Bengals drafting Ross this past May, the offensive line was just warming up for another meltdown. It gave up 41 sacks last season. This year, they returned the usual suspects. Did the smart guys in Bengal-dom think things would get better by osmosis? Couple of extra naps in the off-season would take care of that?
The basic precepts of football haven't changed in the last 75 years. You have to block. You have to tackle. If you do neither, you don't control the line of scrimmage. And if you can't do that, you can't win.
The Bengals controlled the line of scrimmage for a not-so-grand total of 19:46 of a 60-minute game last Sunday in Jacksonville. That's less ball control time than any team, in any NFL game, has managed this season.
But look at all the weapons Andy Dalton has.
Now, some random thoughts for this random Thursday...
Something about the Bengals signing Colin Kaepernick was heard on "good accord." Well, here it is, for what it's worth...
Tucker Barnhart's Gold Glove win means a lot of things. Most immediate is that the Reds need to trade Devin Mesoraco. And the sad thing is, they'll have to eat a majority of his contract to send him somewhere.
Mesoraco's physical issues over the last three years make it unlikely he'll ever be an everyday catcher again. Even a status as part-time catcher has to be in question.
The Reds owe him $13 million this coming season, the final year of a four-year contract extension he signed in 2015. He could DH in the American League and maybe play first base. The fact that he's never played first base in a Major League game could be a problem.
But whatever, with Barnhart signing a contract extension last summer and now winning a Gold Glove, there isn't much need for Mesoraco. Some team will take him, but not without the Reds paying a hefty part of his salary, like they did when they traded Brandon Phillips last winter...
Forty-eight years ago today, in a studio in New York, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel recorded what would become not only their signature song, but also one of the most iconic songs in music history. This song.
Written by Simon, with Garfunkel's voice in his mind, it paired them with one of the greatest studio musicians in the world, from The Wrecking Crew. While Simon and Garfunkel cut their lyrics in a New York studio, the tape of that was sent out to L.A. for instrumentation.
Simon wrote the song on his guitar, but knew he needed it to be a piano-focused song. So, his pianist of choice was The Wrecking Crew"s Larry Knechtel. Knechtel was legend at the time, but would go on to work on such other notable hits as Johnny Rivers' "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" and Elvis Presley's "If I Can Dream." Legendary Hal Blaine is on drums and Joe Osborn is on bass guitar. All would win Grammys, as this song won five of them, including Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year.
It turns out the album that spawned this hit, the album of the same name as this song, was the fifth and final studio album that Simon and Garfunkel made. They've done concerts and tours since this. They've had an on-again, off-again relationship. But they remain one of the best American groups in the history of music.
Forty-eight years ago today, they gave us another reason why that is so.