The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t gotten much use out of their first-round draft picks as rookies in recent seasons, and once again, they find themselves moving to Plan ‘B’ with this year’s top choice.
Rookie offensive lineman Jonah Williams is likely out for the season with a torn labrum, which surfaced earlier this month during the last week of Organized Team Activities. The team announced Tuesday he will undergo shoulder surgery but is expected to make a full recovery.
Williams had been working out at left tackle since arriving in Cincinnati, and Cordy Glenn moved to left guard as the Bengals attempted to get their “best five linemen on the field” together, according to coach Zac Taylor when he explained the position switches.
Now, the line likely goes back to a heavy resemblance of 2018, unless the Bengals look at possible trade opportunities or unless a backup emerges in training camp, which begins July 27 at Dayton’s Welcome Stadium. If past years are any indication, Cincinnati will just adjust with what it has, though the new staff could have other ideas.
The Bengals have seen injuries limit their first-round picks the past four years. Tackle Cedric Ogbuehi played just five games in 2015 after a long recovery from a college ACL tear; cornerback William Jackson missed his entire rookie season in 2016 because of a torn pectoral muscle suffered in camp; wide receiver John Ross was hampered by myriad injuries in 2017; and last year, center Billy Price suffered a foot injury in the opener and missed six games.
Ogbuehi never panned out and the jury is still out on Ross, but Jackson has potential to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and the Bengals are hoping for improvement from Price in his second season.
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Cincinnati had high hopes for Williams in Year 1, though, as he was expected to make an immediate impact. Upgrading the offensive line was a focus of the organization this offseason, and he was the biggest point of improvement.
Without him in the picture, it’s possible the only change on the line from last year will be John Miller at right guard. Cincinnati added the former Buffalo Bills guard in free agency, which seemed to be an upgrade from Alex Redmond. Glenn likely slides back to left tackle, and that makes room for Clint Boling to return at left guard, assuming he’s healthy from whatever mystery injury limited him to the rehab field this offseason. Price and right tackle Bobby Hart were both at their normal spots this offseason, and no one appears to be challenging Hart, despite his struggles last year with blocking and penalties.
Even before Williams’ injury, there were still concerns about the depth and strength of certain positions, and now that’s even more the case. The Bengals also drafted Ohio State guard/center Michael Jordan and added veteran John Jerry the final week of the offseason workout program, which Taylor at the time said was not related to Williams’ injury. Jerry was without a team the entire 2018 season and it’s unclear how he will fit into the picture in the future when he’s caught up on what the offense is doing.
Perhaps Jerry and Jordan will be ready to make more of an impact as the season approaches, but it doesn’t appear that is the expectation. The Bengals will have to hope Glenn can return to his old form prior to an inconsistent performance last year and that new line coach Jim Turner can help guys like Hart turn a corner.
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