CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals overhauled their offensive line last year with four new starters, and now more changes could be on the way with the infusion of two rookie draft picks.
The veterans who now must compete for their spot first will be expected to guide along the players looking to take their jobs as new tackle Jonah Williams and guard/center Michael Jordan begin their transition to the NFL.
Rookie minicamp takes place Friday and Saturday, and the newcomers will mix in with the returners for the first time next week as voluntary offseason workouts continue.
“I think the ultimate goal is the team and making sure we're doing what's best for the team,” Bengals left tackle Cordy Glenn said. “In that case you always want to help your teammate out and you want them to help you out.”
Glenn and the other veterans put a positive spin on the current situation, but the reality is no one quite knows what to expect. New coach Zac Taylor indicated he already has an idea how he and assistant Jim Turner want the offensive line to look, and it seems they want positions set well before the season rolls around – a big change from last year under Marvin Lewis.
Now the Bengals could be looking to move players that have filled certain roles for extended periods of time when less than two weeks ago it looked like there potentially could be minimal changes.
Cincinnati brought back the entire starting group this offseason and made just one addition through free agency, picking up former Buffalo Bills guard John Miller. Drafting Williams, the former Alabama left tackle, and Jordan, a three-year player at Ohio State, in the first four rounds creates some interesting position battles.
“Nobody knows,” Glenn said of how the lineup might look. “I'm pretty sure they have a plan in place. They're probably going to move a couple of guys around and see a couple of different lineups and see what they really have and what's the best unit to put on the field.”
Glenn saw a dropoff in his production last year, and there has been some speculation the Bengals might want to move him to guard or right tackle if Williams proves ready to step in at left tackle, where he ultimately is projected to play in the NFL. The Bengals re-signed right tackle Bobby Hart to a three-year deal this offseason, but he looks to be an expensive backup now.
The thinking with potentially changing Glenn’s position is that a switch could extend his career, as the 29-year-old begins showing signs of his age. Glenn has played every snap of his seven-year NFL career at left tackle but played some guard in college. He said no one has talked to him yet about a change and he didn’t sound thrilled with the idea of changing.
Glenn played left guard his junior year of college in 2010.
“Obviously I've been playing left tackle, I like playing left tackle, because that's what I've always played, but I'll do whatever the team wants to help the team out,” Glenn said after commenting on how long it has been since he played guard.
The Bengals acquired Glenn last March in a trade with Buffalo to fill the left tackle spot that had been a weakness since Andrew Whitworth left as a free agent in 2017. Glenn made 13 starts but missed three games because of a back injury and said it was an up-and-down first year in Cincinnati.
He received an overall grade of 60.9 from ProFootballFocus.com, which ranked him 60th among tackles last year. To that point, he had felt pretty good about his career.
“I don’t know if it was being in a new place, injuries or whatnot, but it was a little up and down,” Glenn said. “I wasn’t my usual self.”
If Glenn moves to left guard, that would mean Clint Boling would be the odd man out, and if that’s the case, he could end up with another team; he’s entering the final year of his contract anyway. Boling received a grade of 61.9 from ProFootballFocus.com last season, which ranked him 39th among all guards.
Jordan’s ability to play guard also could create some competition for Boling and Miller, as well as projected backups Christian Westerman and Alex Redmond. Redmond was the team’s starting right guard last year, before Miller was added this offseason.
Billy Price, the team’s 2018 first-round pick, likely will get the first look at center, but certainly Jordan provides another option there as well. Trey Hopkins, who lost his right guard job last summer, played center when Price missed six games last year.
“It creates competition for everybody,” Boling said of adding two new rookies. “Everybody is in that position where you are always fighting for jobs. There’s always competition associated with it. There’s been competition since I’ve been here and there’s competition at every single spot. That’s what makes guys better.”
Boling said he wasn’t surprised the Bengals drafted two linemen, especially since the team finally moved on from 2015 first- and second-round draft picks Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. They both left in free agency this offseason after never being able to live up to expectations in Cincinnati.
Williams and Jordan both add depth, and their versatility makes it so there are multiple options across the line.
“That’s a good thing,” Boling said. “You want to have versatile linemen who are able to move around, and that’s what makes guys successful in this business is being able to play guard and tackle, guard and center and move around and have flexibility and those kind of things to get the best five on the field.”