Injuries to tackles Andre Smith and Cedric Ogbuehi likely will lead to some shuffling around on the offensive line, but Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis wouldn’t say if he was concerned about how productive the offense will be Sunday against the Lions.
With Smith going on injured reserve Wednesday and Ogbuehi watching practice in sweats, the Bengals could be putting out a line at some point that features a center and four guards.
Eric Winston is the only tackle available aside from first-year player Justin Murray, who was signed from the Saints practice squad Wednesday. Guards Clint Boling and Trey Hopkins also could potentially slide out to the tackle spots, and that leaves youngsters Christian Westerman and Alex Redmond as candidates inside.
“We’ve just got to do it,” Lewis said when asked if he was concerned about how the offense will move forward.
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The line had finally found some consistency after a rotation at tackle through the first half of the season, but the offense has stalled the past few games with the starters scoring seven points through the last 10 quarters.
Smith injured his knee on the last play the Bengals ran in a 34-7 loss to the Vikings on Sunday — a deep ball from AJ McCarron to Josh Malone that fell incomplete on fourth-and-five with 2:06 remaining. Ogbuehi appeared to aggravate his shoulder at the end of the first quarter, and his status is unknown.
Cincinnati already has been without tackle Jake Fisher, who went on the reserve/non-football injury list in early November, and backup center T.J. Johnson was put on injured reserve Saturday after injuring a pectoral muscle.
“We’re not going to say who’s playing where, that’s only the fair thing to the players that are doing that,” Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander said. “These guys have been around the system so they know what to do and they’ll just go do it. It doesn’t matter how tough it is, it’s just got to get done.
“We’ve got enough guys on the roster to play. It is what it is. We have a game to play and guys have to get out there and play.”
That means putting inexperienced players in position to get extended snaps for the first time.
Westerman, a fifth-round draft pick out of Arizona State in 2016, has been active for just one game in Week 2 and didn’t get any playing time after sitting all of last year. Redmond, a 2016 college free agent signee out of UCLA, has appeared in three games with 24 total snaps on offense.
Winston has experience but at age 34 has lost a step and has played 45 snaps since rejoining the team on Nov. 8. Undrafted free agent Kent Perkins is another possibility but would be coming off the practice squad.
“You’ve always got to be ready for when that time comes, and it’s that time,” Westerman said. “It’s something I think the coaches prepare for and are ready for, so it’s like, ‘OK, that moment came and we’re prepared for this.’ They’ll just move around the pieces and make it work.”
While Westerman is coming in cold, Redmond has at least gotten snaps in recent weeks to build from, including at the end of Sunday’s game. He spent last season on the practice squad but made his debut against Cleveland on Oct. 1, and in addition to some time on offense the last two weeks, he even has played five snaps at defensive tackle.
Redmond said he could play every position on the offensive line except left tackle.
“I’ve already been there, so it helps (having some snaps),” Redmond said. “That’s one of the stronger parts of my game is my approach. I’m just going to come ready. I’m not worried about it. I’ll protect my guys and make sure we’re all good. … It is what it is, and we all just have to step up and adjust.”