CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals have enjoyed stability on the offensive line for the past several years. But, that will change this season.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth signed with the Los Angeles Rams after spending 11 years in Cincinnati. Guard Kevin Zeitler signed with Cleveland after five seasons in stripes. Those departures leave an already beleaguered line in flux, with three first-year starters and plenty of question marks.
The concern in Cincinnati is that it wasn't a very good offensive line to begin with, at least not last season. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked 41 times. The Bengals failed to establish a consistent rushing attack. All of which partly contributed to them not reaching the playoffs for the first time in six years.
With training camp underway this week outside Paul Brown Stadium, plenty of eyes are focused on Cedric Ogbuehi, a first-round draft choice in 2015 who's coming off a rocky season but will take over for Whitworth at left tackle, and Andre Smith who rejoins the team that drafted him after spending one season in Minnesota and will move to right guard, and Jake Fisher who made just three starts last year but will slot into the right tackle spot.
Russell Bodine has started every game at center the past three seasons. Clint Boling battled a shoulder injury last season, but is expected to see most snaps at left guard. Trey Hopkins has seen some time at right guard already during training camp.
"Early here in camp we're working with what we have," offensive line coach Paul Alexander told Bengals.com. "We're looking at this, we're looking there, we're looking at matchups. We'll move them around so that different guys get a different chance to go against guys. We have to see what we have."
Offensive line play is critical to the success of any NFL team. But, that's where the Bengals' hopes of returning to the playoffs for a sixth time in seven years might solely rest.
"The team goes as far as the O-line goes," said Ogbuehi. "We're the guys who have to carry the team. If we're doing well, the team's doing well usually."
Alexander will spend most of training camp putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Last week, he had second-year player Hopkins at first-team right guard and Smith backing up Fisher at right tackle.
Smith's natural position is tackle, but he has no intention of being a backup. Smith's familiarity with Alexander's techniques should help his transition.
"I try to implement Paul's techniques most of the time," said Smith, who spent seven seasons in Cincinnati.
Ogbuehi has had a decent start to training camp after being benched briefly last year due to poor performance. Alexander was seen during Tuesday's practice working on the side with Ogbuehi, Fisher, and tackle Eric Winston on technique.