Bengals on guard for Sunday

Paul Alexander

The Bengals won't say if rookie Clint Boling is going to get the start at right guard in place of Bobbie Williams this Sunday in Cleveland.

But we do know the last rookie offensive lineman to start on Opening Day for Marvin Lewis is left guard Eric Steinbach in Lewis' 2003 head coaching debut, when Matt O'Dwyer was the last Bengal to start at right guard in an opener before Williams began his skein of seven straight Opening Days.

We also know that the Bengals are extremely pleased with the waiver-wire acquisition of Mike McGlynn, the guy that started at center for 14 games and in the playoffs for the Eagles last season and is also a guard that offensive line coach Paul Alexander says can pick up the offense "in about 24 hours," and he doesn't seem to be joking.

We also know that Lewis has said Boling is an option and, why not? The Bengals rotated him at left and right guard with that first group during the preseason and as Alexander said after Monday's practice, "Now you know why" in the wake of Williams' four-game suspension for violation of the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs.

"Boling is good. He's really smart. We saw this on the horizon. He's worked a lot with the ones," is all Alexander would say. "It's not fair to whoever it is to talk about it."

We also think we know that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden isn't going to steer away from his efforts at establishing the run to protect rookie quarterback Andy Dalton even though one of his big road graders is out.

At least that's what running back Cedric Benson senses.

"I think we're pretty confident and the team is kind of set in stone on its identity on how we're going to approach every Sunday," Benson said. "I knew that was his style coming in. (Gruden's commitment to the running game) was no surprise. Jay likes power a lot, just because you come off the rock and it's a smashmouth play. I think he gets a little kick out of that."

During the preseason Gruden ran the power play so much with left guard Nate Livings pulling to the right that it already became his signature run. How Williams' loss impacts that remains to be seen, but if Boling is the guy, he's got a lot of supporters in the locker room. The first thing they say is "smart."

"He's started since he was a freshman. He's smart, very technical," said rookie receiver A.J. Green, Boling's Georgia teammate. "He does everything right. He'll be in the right position. I feel like he'll do really well."

Whoever starts at right guard, center Kyle Cook feels he'll have the benefit of working between two guys—Cook and right tackle Andre Smith—that have played against the Browns. And if it is Boling, it's not like he's a stranger.

"He's a smart guy," Cook said. "Very athletic. He has a lot potential … whether it's games or practices or scrimmages or line drills, we've had a chance to work together, so I think we'll be all right."

As for the 6-5, 311-pound Boling, he said before practice he hadn't been told a thing.

"Bobbie is a huge locker-room presence, a big team leader and not having him around is going to be tough," Boling said. "I'm just going to go out and approach it like the job is mine and try to go out there and run with it. I feel comfortable with assignments and the playbook, but I just need a good week of practice to clean up some of the little things I need to fix."

Right away the Bengals observed that Paul Brown line about Boling. It hasn't been too big for him. At Georgia, Boling started 28 games at right guard, 12 at left tackle, and nine at right tackle, so there isn't much he hasn't seen.

And that's what his college offensive line coach said back in May as he reflected on the Bengals taking Boling in the fourth round.

"I'll never forget the first game Clint started," Stacy Searels told about his true freshman. "It was in Alabama and it was a big crowd, of course, and he went out there like he had played a lot of ball."

Boling smiled at the memory Monday. If he is The Man Sunday, he can only hope his pro debut is just as good. The Bulldogs won in overtime in what he remembers as his second college game. He also remembered that he had played in the first game and won the job.

"I was obviously a little nervous, a little anxious, but I was excited to play and go out there and prove myself," said Boling, who believes he's better prepared now. "I think so. Going into camp my ultimate goal was to come in and play and start and the opportunity is being presented to me now and I just have to go out there and compete and do a good job."

As Cook said, when Williams comes back "I'll have my arms wide open to welcome him back," but the Bengals could be offering a glimpse of the future this week with not only Boling, but with the arrival of McGlynn. He's another smart, versatile guy, but he comes from up north (Youngstown, Ohio) and is four years older than Boling.

The Bengals like how McGlynn played on tape last year for a division winner and the fact he played three spots in his final game for the Eagles Thursday night against the Jets at center, guard and tackle.

"I don't think we'll need him at tackle. We've got two pretty good backup tackles," Alexander said of Anthony Collins and Dennis Roland. "He'll play all three inside spots."

So McGlynn is already helping Alexander get more sleep. He said the other night he woke up every 30 minutes wondering whom he would put where is if someone got hurt with Williams on the shelf. Now McGlynn is here like some warm milk and picking up a Philly-like the West Coast offense very quickly.

"A lot of the play numbers and the play schemes and all those kind of things he knows, which is a big help," Alexander said.

Now all they have to know is the starter.

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