As the offseason activity dies down and we roll towards the promise of football
under the summer sun, let us look to the future! Bengals Gab will be looking at each of the individual position groups on
the team over the next several days, providing readers with a grade on each and a primer as mini-camps, training camp,
and the preseason approaches.
Next up, the big uglies—the offensive line.
The play of the offensive line in 2009 was perhaps the biggest reason for the team’s turnaround. At the end of 2008,
the once-formidable group was in shambles. Aside from the steady play of RG Bobbie Williams, every other position was up
for grabs and in need of upgrades.
The running game was unreliable, and the passing game was non-existent. The team had not had a bona fide starting-quality
center since Richie Braham. The tackles, once considered a team strength, were suddenly a huge question mark. Worst of
all, it appeared the NFL
team was going to fill the voids in a typical way
Starting guard Andrew Whitworth was moved to left tackle, a position he was supposedly not suited for and one he hadn’t
played since his rookie season in 2006. Nate Livings, a college free agent and Whitworth’s former teammate at LSU, was
brought up to take over at left guard. Kyle Cook, another untested former college free agent, was installed as the
starter at center. They did try to address the position in free agency (Evan Mathis) and spent their first round pick on
Alabama behemoth Andre Smith. Center Jonathan Luigs was brought in from the draft as well.
Things looked bleak.
Nonetheless, Whitworth became a solid blind-side protector, Livings and Mathis platooned at left guard, Anthony Collins
and Dennis Roland held down the right tackle spot until Smith was ready and Bobbie Williams was his usual steady self at
right guard. Best of all, Bengals Gabbie award winner Kyle Cook became a sturdy, reliable, smart, and feisty center.
They quickly built a rapport under Cook’s leadership, and what was once a perceived weakness became the clear strength
of the offense.
Cedric Benson and the running game took off, and the line provided admirable protection to QB Carson Palmer.Team
brass re-signed unrestricted free agent Bobbie Williams, and restricted free
agent Evan Mathis. The signings ensured that the entire 2009 line would return in 2010, along with the additions of
draft picks Otis Hudson and Reggie Stephens.