TDBH: Andre Smith makes rare first-round return

Posted Mar 13, 2018

This Day in Bengals History - March 14, 2017

What happens today has never happened in Bengals’ history when Vikings right tackle Andre Smith signs a one-year deal. Smith becomes the club’s first former No. 1 pick to play for another team and return for a second stint in Cincinnati. First-round wide receiver Tim McGee does it in 1994 and first-round safety Darryl Williams does it in 2000, but they are the second players the Bengals take in the top round. Smith is the sixth player taken in the 2009 draft and with the Bengals offensive line grappling with the loss of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler, Smith offers a nice veteran ballast that conjures up the good old days that now suddenly seem so far away. In Bengals’ history, only Whitworth’s six post-season appearances are more than the five of Smith, wide receiver A.J. Green, quarterback Andy Dalton, and wide receiver Brandon Tate on the offensive side of the ball. He has played two years with center Russell Bodine and five years with left guard Clint Boling while helping Jake Fisher, a rookie in 2015 groomed to take Smith’s job.

There’s a twist, though. Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander wants to take advantage of Smith’s brute strength and put him at right guard to team him with Fisher even though all of his 86 NFL games have been at tackle.  “I’m excited about it,” Smith says. “I told them if you need me to play tackle, I’ll play tackle. If you need me to play guard, I’ll play guard. It’s not going to hurt me. It will help me become more versatile. And it’s going to help the team.  They won’t have to move a lineman from one spot because I can play both.” He says all the right things but he doesn’t take to guard during training camp and it’s just as well. The kid tackles, Fisher on the right and Cedric Ogbuehi on the left, struggle. Smith does end up at starting one game at a new positon: his first NFL start at left tackle.

Smith turns out to be the best addition of the offseason as their highest rated tackle when they turn to a three-tackle rotation. When Fisher is sidelined for the last half of the season with an irregular heartbeat, you wonder what would have happened if they didn’t have him. “He’s a good offensive line athlete,” Alexander says. “He’s not going to run the decathlon or anything, but he gets off the ball well and moves in space well.”

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