It's been a year since Cedric Ogbuehi went No. 21 to the Bengals and he looks headed to the starting gate.
It's been 360 days since the Bengals took Texas A&M tackle Cedric Ogbuehi with their first-round pick and now as they line up another one Thursday in the NFL Draft (8 p.m.-NFL Network, ESPN) it looks like Ogbuehi is heading to join the other former first-rounders in the Opening Day lineup at right tackle.
As offensive line coach Paul Alexander observed Monday, head coach Marvin Lewis is in charge of those announcements. But since Lewis has no depth chart until training camp, we won't see a starting lineup for another month, when the Bengals take the field for the first time. Until then, Ogbuehi continues to do first-round things.
"He'll be one of the five," is all Alexander says. "He's got rare quickness and athleticism and he's got ideal physical, athletic and competitive traits. He's the real deal, the real package."
If anyone knows what a solid NFL right tackle is, it is Pro Bowl Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth. He broke in opposite the franchise's greatest right tackle (Willie Anderson) and teamed with Andre Smith to start together on six post-season teams before Smith left last month in free agency to Zimmesota. He also played left guard in 2008 when Stacy Andrews started for the first time at right tackle as the team's franchise free agent.
Andrews ended the season tearing his ACL and then signed a deal in Philadelphia a few months later that was, at the time, the richest ever for a right tackle. A year later he was traded to Seattle for a seventh-rounder and played only 32 games and three years after leaving Cincinnati.
"I think right or left (Ogbuehi) has the potential to be one of the greats," Whitworth said. "He's got that kind of feet, athleticism and power.
"Unfortunately for the injury, I think Stacy might have been a special one," Whitworth said. "A guy like Willie was an all-timer. A guy like Andre played the position well for a while. He's got good guys to watch film. Andre, Willie, and big Stacy and I'll help him with what I can help him with. (Ogbuehi) is just like them. Big, strong, long arms, good feet. He's got all that. Now it's going to be putting his feet in the ground, working and grinding with his head down and putting in the time."
The Bengals wiped their brow when they took Ogbuehi with the 21st pick last year. Since he was still relatively early in his ACL rehab after tearing it in his final A&M game in the Liberty Bowl, they thought they had a pretty good chance to get him. How many teams can afford not to play their first-rounder until November?
But they also knew before he got hurt he was a slam dunk top ten pick.
The pick proved a couple of things. When computing a prospect's grade the Bengals rely more on college game film rather than workouts. And they are deep.
"We felt good about the way he was coming back from surgery,' said director of player personnel Duke Tobin. "And we knew we didn't need him to play right away. We had a luxury that way. Guys don't play right away for a lot of reasons. They're stacked behind guys or whatever. The injury was his reason."
After the Bengals heaved a sigh of relief when was on the board, Ogbuehi flashed why when he first began to practice last November and then played 68 snaps in the last five games, primarily as an extra tight end.
"His quickness was even more impressive live," Alexander said. "I never saw him in front of my eyes. I don't think we ever drafted a guy I didn't see in front of my eyes. He was obviously on crutches."
Ogbuehi knows the score.
"It's a good feeling this year not just rehabbing," he said, "and preparing to be the starter."
The 6-5, 310-pounder has no qualms about playing the right side. He did it as a junior at College Station before moving to left tackle. And before then he was a guard on Johnny Manziel's Heisman Trophy line. And now he's had a year of getting in a three-point stance, which he hardly ever did in college.
"I was in a stance pretty much all of my rehab, so this is the most I've ever done it," Ogbuehi said. "I've just got to get use to the speed of the game and the strength of the players. It helped me playing at the end of the year because I got a chance to feel it. Feel the speed. They're all strong and fast. You have to be ready for it."
Ogbuehi is looking at replacing another first-rounder, Andre Smith.
That's about all you're going to get out of Ogbuehi, who may eventually become the A.J. Green of this offensive line. A guy who plays elite while saying as little as possible.
"I don't think (talking) is one of his things. I think he wants to go out and prove himself on the field," said Whitworth, who doesn't mind offering advice. "Knowing what to do only helps you so much in our position. It's learning how to block who you're blocking.
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"For him, whether it be (Elvis) Dumervil, or (Justin) Houston or all the different guys, he has to find out the different leverages he has to use, what kind of technique he has to use to protect himself. You have to want to be good to figure that stuff out . . . Only time will tell, but I'm excited about the guy's potential. He's big and powerful."
So have been the other first- and second-round tackles selected by the Bengals since they chose Anderson No. 10 in 1996 and he went on to become the best right tackle in franchise history.
Left tackle Levi Jones was the 10th pick in 2002 and could have gone to some Pro Bowls before knee injuries curtailed his Bengals career after the 2008 season. When he had Carson Palmer's blindside, the Bengals allowed their fewest sacks ever with 17 in 2007 and 21 in 2005.
Whitworth arrived in the 2006 second round and while going to two Pro Bowls he joins Anthony Munoz as the only left tackles in Bengals history to start for three division champions. Andre Smith came with character and weight issues with the sixth pick in 2009, but buried them with a solid career consisting of 73 starts, four in the postseason, on the right side.
Now there is Ogbuehi, who has been able to work under both Whitworth and Smith. Like Whitworth, who learned under Anderson and Jones.
"I watched both guys," Ogbuehi said. "How to prepare, how to be a pro. The approach to the game."
Ogbuehi figures to be the fourth first rounder to start on offense, joining wide receiver A.J. Green, tight end Tyler Eifert and right guard Kevin Zeitler. On defense they have three in cornerbacks Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick and linebacker A.J. Hawk.
And, yes, these guys remember where they're drafted. On Monday, Whitworth saw a reporter wearing a Senior Bowl shirt.
"You know this is a tough week for me," said a smiling Whitworth. "I didn't get drafted in the first round and I didn't get invited to the Senior Bowl. You're wearing that shirt to give me a hard time."
Whitworth was joking and the guy just pulled the shirt out of the closet in the dark.
But he remembered.
Alexander remembers that second-round fondly.
"We collect tackles," he said with his own smile. "It's just a theory, but having tackles is the best way to protect the quarterback."