The Cincinnati Bengals have one need that stands head and shoulders above the rest – an offensive line.
Last season, the team gave up nearly 50 sacks and lost its No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, quarterback Joe Burrow, to a gruesome knee injury in week 11 against Washington. Burrow had reconstructive knee surgery and is on track to make a comeback. The key will be to protect him now more than ever.
The offensive line was also the main reason the team ranked 24th in the league with a 4.1 yards per carry average.
The unit needs another Anthony Munoz-type of player—a franchise player. Granted there are not too many of those Hall of Fame players to choose from, but one does stand out who has potential, according to analysts.
Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell should be the team’s first pick in the NFL Draft, slated for April 29 through May 1. The Bengals have the fifth pick in the draft, which will be held in Cleveland. If Sewell is still on the market, he should be drafted by Cincinnati. No question.
The team is in dire need to find an offensive tackle to pair up with Jonah Williams – who played in 10 games last year and was impressive. If Penei gets taken before Cincinnati can select him, two other options are Rashawn Slater (Northwestern) and Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech.)
But according to Kellis Robinett’s report from the Wichita Eagle, representatives from the Bengals attended Wyatt Hubert’s pro day in Manhattan, Kansas last week.
Hubert could beef up the pass rush and strengthen the defense against the run game.
“Hubert said he ran the three-cone drill in seven seconds, which was a major goal for him coming into the day. He wanted to prove to NFL scouts that he can move fast enough laterally to play either defensive end or outside linebacker at the next level,” Robinett’s report stated.
The 6-3, 270-pound defensive end told Robinett that he believes he has a lot to offer that many athletes don’t. “My football IQ, my knowledge of the game. That is something that exceeds a lot of players, a lot of guys in this draft class, just how smart I am on the field, how many different positions I play and how experienced I am. That’s what really sets me apart,” he said.
Hubert is explosive and accounted for 20 sacks in three years with the Wildcats.
Cincinnati, which finished 4-11-1 in 2020, is also looking to add a kicker to the roster.
Randy Bullock is coming up on free agency, and the team might be looking at candidates to fill a potential vacancy.
Cincinnati cut Mike Nugent on December 13, 2016 and signed Bullock three days later. He has played for the Houston Texas, the New York Jets, New York Giants and Pittsburgh, and he was selected in 2012 in the fifth round out of Texas A&M.
In January 2017, Bullock signed a two-year contract extension with the Bengals. In week two of the season, he connected on three field goals and was responsible for all the offensive scoring against Houston in a 13-9 loss.
On December 22, 2019, he made a career-long field goal of 57 yards against Miami, the longest in Bengals’ history.
According to The Draft Network, Cincinnati is one of several teams looking at Florida kicker Evan McPherson.
The five-foot eleven inch, 185-pound junior has had a magnificent career with the Gators. He hit on 149 of 150 extra-point attempts and connected on 51 of 60 field goal tries. He is accurate from beyond mid-field as he has converted on five of eight tries.
However, he did struggle last year and in 12 games, he put 21 of 26 field goal attempts through the uprights.
Bullock is 31 years old while McPherson is a junior in college. The Bengals could look to a younger kicker with long-term plans.
With all the needs the Bengals have, they should only be focused on the offensive line first and foremost. Without protection for their Heisman Trophy winning QB, no other position takes precedence.
Cincinnati has a history of making questionable draft picks. But everyone knows they must take an offensive tackle immediately – for Joe’s sake.
Del Duduit covers the Bengals for the Daily Times.