The Cincinnati Bengals offense is a bit of a mystery right now. Since the season ended on New Year’s Day, the team has lost and gained crucial pieces. Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, the team’s best offensive linemen last year, both left the Queen City in free agency.
The skilled positions, though, were greatly enhanced (on paper) via the draft. John Ross and Josh Malone join a receiving unit that is headlined by Pro-Bowlers A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert and is oozing with other youthful talents like Tyler Boyd and Cody Core.
Not to mention Brandon LaFell, the team’s 2016 leader in touchdown catches, was retained on a two-year deal. Finally, there’s Joe Mixon. Arguably the best running back in this year’s class was drafted by the Bengals in the second round, although it was met by a slew of controversy. He joins a backfield with the struggling Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, who is recovering from a torn ACL.
But who is going to block for all of these weapons?
Andy Dalton does have a quick release, but not every throw is going to be a quick slant or a bubble screen.
Trying Tackle Times
On the edges of Cincinnati’s offensive line have sat some great tackles. From the team’s only Hall-of-Famer to Willie Anderson, and the recently-departed Whitworth.
Now, the team is left with a trio of tackles. One average veteran and two unproven third-year players.
You know what you’ll get with Eric Winston – good, but not great. Thus was the case when he was beaten for a game-sealing strip-sack in Baltimore last season. But Winston, who recently signed a one-year deal, was a better option than Cedric Ogbeuhi, who was benched after his lackluster play for half a season.
With Jake Fisher, who knows? The second-round pick from Oregon hasn’t seen much time at tackle, but he has caught two passes, although he lost a fumble on his second one.
Ryan Clady is listed as one of the top remaining free agents. His recent injury woes have kept him from finding a team as training camp nears.
Clady, 30, was a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2008 and made it to four Pro Bowls during his tenure in Denver. He was also a two-time first-team All-Pro.
A torn ACL kept Clady out for the entire 2015 season. Then, he (along with a seventh-round pick) was traded to the Jets for a fifth-rounder.
The following scouting reports were written prior to the ’16 season. You can read the full report here.
Clady has always been a superb athlete at the left tackle position. His movement is what made him a shutdown pass-protector. He’s an intelligent player with great feet that can redirect pass-rushers and even drive them to the turf.
While not a liability, Clady is not a tackle you can develop a constant rushing attack behind. He can play high and does not possess the drive-blocking ability to consistently open up lanes.
A hopeful addition to the Jets did not pan out, though. Clady missed the final seven games of 2016 with a torn rotator cuff.
But bringing in a 30-year-old left tackle who specializes in pass-blocking could not hurt the Bengals. They desperately need to get better protecting Dalton, especially at left tackle, a position that has been secured by Whitworth and Anderson for the entire Marvin Lewis era.