One of the biggest questions surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals when they return from their bye week will be whether the rotation on the offensive line continues.
The question within the question is, ‘Do the coaches even know the answer at this point?
“We’re just trying to find what’s successful in everything we do, in whatever it is,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “I can’t tell you whether it’s two, or four, or three, or whatever it is.”
The rotation began in Week 3 at Green Bay, the team’s first game with Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator. At the time Lewis said the decision was based on the heat, with the temperature at kickoff a record 89 degrees for Lambeau Field.
But the rotation continued in Week 4 at Cleveland and Sunday against Buffalo, when the temperature was a more seasonal 63 degrees for both games.
“I think it was the rain,” Lazor joked. “Guys get waterlogged.”
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It’s obvious why Bengals coaches wouldn’t want to divulge which players will be on the field, and when, and for how long.
The system began in Green Bay with Cedric Ogbuehi starting at left tackle and Jake Fisher at right tackle, the way they had in the first two games, with Andre Smith taking turns spelling each of them.
At Cleveland, Smith started at left and Fisher at right. Against Buffalo, Ogbuehi was back to starting at left with Smith at right.
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In each case, Smith played on both sides with Ogbuehi sticking to left and Fisher to right.
Ogbuehi made it clear he’s not a fan on the rotation and he doesn’t think it’s helping him, even though he played one of his best games Sunday against the Bills.
“I think true helping is when you’re playing,” he said. “Every snap you learn. But you’ve got to do what you’re told.
“I think consistency is the key,” he added. “Over the years we had (Andrew Whitworth) and Andre. So me Jake are still new to the position. I think we’re getting better. The past few weeks we’ve gotten better.”
Lewis said he thinks that improvement is a result of the competition created by the rotation.
“I think they’ve responded well,” he said. “This is an opportunity-based situation. You’ve got to take full advantage of your opportunity all the time. I think we’d be cheating (someone) if we weren’t doing that.”
There also has been a rotation at right guard, to a lesser extent. After starter Trey Hopkins went down with an injury, T.J. Johnson took over. In Cleveland, the Bengals spelled Johnson with Alex Redmond. But after Redmond allowed a sack, the Bengals went back to Johnson for the rest of the game.
Hopkins returned to health this week, but Johnson got the start. He played the first 23 snaps, while Hopkins played the final 43.
“It was good to get (Hopkins) back in there and get going,” Lewis said. “I think he’ll continue to move forward and pick up where he may have been, but I do think playing real football against some big, good players was great.”
Lewis said the split time was more of a conditioning thing after Hopkins missed three games.
“To get back to playing football,” he said. “That was a little bit of a concern. And we want to make sure we have the right guys playing.”
Figuring out who the top guys are will be one of the top priorities after the bye.
““I’m sure that’s what they want,” Ogbuehi said. “I’m sure they don’t want to rotate.”