On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks traded for Jadeveon Clowney and on Monday, head coach Pete Carroll noted that he expects Clowney and Ezekiel Ansah to be active during the Cincinnati Bengals this coming Sunday. That is a significant upgrade from our worst fears — that Cassius Marsh (released, now on the Arizona Cardinals) and Rasheem Green would be starting — but maybe two former top-5 picks and players who were recently on franchise tags is overkill given Seattle’s first test of the season.
As I wrote about in the offseason when I previewed the Bengals, I expect Cincinnati to be one of the worst teams in the NFL and they seemed especially weak at offensive line. That news hasn’t improved any since.
Guard Clint Boling retired at age 30 to no hoopla, first round tackle Jonah Williams underwent shoulder surgery and could miss his entire rookie season, and starting left tackle Cordy Glenn is currently in concussion protocol, putting his status for Week 1 in doubt. There’s also Billy Price, the team’s first round pick in 2018 who couldn’t win a job at his natural position of center or anywhere else along the starting o-line.
Reminder that Clowney and Ansah’s first test could be Andre Smith, as Glenn remains in concussion protocol. Bengals line could be one of the worst. https://t.co/F5xTigOoq2— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) September 2, 2019
All told, when Clowney and Ansah make their debut for the Seahawks, it could be an open book test with all the notes you ever wanted.
If Glenn us unable to go, the team is likely to start Andre Smith at left tackle, fourth round rookie Michael Jordan at left guard, former undrafted free agent Trey Hopkins at center, John Miller at right guard, and Bobby Hart at right tackle. None of what I have to say about these players changes much from the preview I wrote in May.
Smith started eight games for the Arizona Cardinals last season, the worst offense in the NFL. He hasn’t been considered a team’s first option since 2015 but he could be starting against Clowney on Sunday. Hart had his first full season as a starter in 2018 after failing to keep a job with the New York Giants after three seasons as a backup who made 21 starts along the way. That could be the test for Ansah.
Miller started 47 games for the Buffalo Bills in four seasons. He signed a three-year, $17 million deal with Cincinnati, which isn’t exactly “starter” money for a guard these days, though it’s slightly more than what Mark Glowinski got from the Indianapolis Colts. And Miller could still be the best player on this offensive line. Jordan has obviously impressed enough in camp to start but if a fourth round rookie goes through zero growing pains to open his career that’s going to be quite a news story for hardcore football fans.
Finally, Hopkins moves in at center after making six starts there and bumping a recent first rounder to the bench. That’s got more to do with Price’s disappointing professional results than what Hopkins is doing, but I also don’t want to discount the job he’s done to get to this point.
Here’s the offensive line many people had predicted after the draft:
Jonah Williams-Cordy Glenn-Billy Price-John Miller-Bobby Hart
The right side remains the same but the left side and center has lost two first round picks and their most valuable lineman.
And most importantly for all of these players, they’re hoping for head coach Zac Taylor to have a similar effect on the play of the offensive line as what Sean McVay had done for the LA Rams. After all, Taylor spent the last two years working for McVay and the Rams, so he’s bringing offensive experience that is meant to elevate the play of his linemen and quarterback and perhaps that’s a little bit of what we’ll see on Sunday.
That being said ...
McVay clearly thought highly enough of the offensive line to have general manager Les Snead spend tens of millions of dollars on left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center Jonathan Sullivan. That’s a notable difference over Smith and Hopkins. Even Glenn would be coming in having missed plenty of practices with the new coaching staff. The Rams also had Rob Havenstein at right tackle, not Hart. They had Rodger Saffold at guard, not a rookie.
I’m not making any hard predictions on the outcome of the game — but if there was a team to face as you’re easing a pass rusher into the defense eight days after you acquired him, the Bengals might be it.