On Silver Anniversary Of His Draft, Bengals Legend Willie Anderson Checks Out Another Big, Young Tackle 

Penei Sewell: "Explosive, athletic."
Penei Sewell: "Explosive, athletic."

On a day people couldn't stop talking about Penei Sewell's arms, franchise legend and offensive line guru Willie Anderson praised his ankles. And pretty much everything else.

"It's an underrated trait for linemen," Anderson said.

The Bengals could mark the silver anniversary of their drafting of the 20-year-old Anderson with the 10th pick later this month with the fifth pick this year by selecting another massive 20-year-old in Sewell, Oregon's gifted left tackle.

So Anderson, who runs an offensive line academy and actually worked with Sewell at a camp when he was coming out of a Utah high school, has been catching glimpses of film as well as the measurables generated Friday by Sewell at his pro day in Eugene.

It turns out that Sewell's reach has stopped short of what some covet from a dominant NFL tackle. The CW seems to suggest the magic number for a tackle's arm sleeve is 35 inches. Sewell stretched to just 33 ¼ inches Friday to ignite a Twitter nuclear cloud, but Anderson crunched the other numbers as swell as digesting one screen pass.

"The kid had a great day," Anderson said Friday night as he mulled the numbers. "The arm length is the only serious question. He showed what he's showed on film. He's explosive, he's athletic and he matched that up with what they thought he'd run. Big dude. A great day for a big dude."

Big numbers.

Sewell stood in at 6-5 and 331 pounds. Various media outlets had him for 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and a 28-inch vertical jump. And, wait for it, a 5.09-second 40-yard dash.

"Damn," Anderson said.

The 9-foot-1 broad jump of a man that size caught the attention of Kent Lee Platte, creator of RelativeAthleticScores.com.

"There aren't a lot of 330 pound players who jumped 9'1" or better," Platte tweeted. "In fact, of the more than 20k players in my DB, that only describes 22 players, 15 of which are OT, including Penei Sewell. Includes Andrew Whitworth (334 lbs, 904 broad) and Jason Peters (336 lbs, 907 broad)."

"Damn," Anderson said.

Platte kept rolling out the numbers. Decent for a tackle. But ridiculous for a 330-pound man is his point.

Anderson has already seen this movie. He saw this screen on a screen.

"He swim moved the down guy and went to the linebacker," Anderson said. "The linebacker ran under him and he planted his left foot, turned back and dove out and knocked the linebacker off course and the back ran right by the linebacker for the touchdown. He does those plays all the time."

When Anderson saw Sewell stick his foot in the ground like that, he felt a twinge in his own ankle.

"That's a trait in itself," Anderson said. "Most guys that size would have broken their ankle when he put that foot in the ground like that. To have enough power to dive like that, that's athletic as hell. To be 330 pounds with that kind of ankle mobility is unworldly."

When it comes to arm length, Anderson isn't sure what it means. What we do know is that Anderson figures his own sleeve is 36 inches. And that when Bengals president Mike Brown names the two best tackles in club history, one is Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz and other is the should-be-Hall-of-Famer Anderson.

But does arm length play such a big role getting within reach of Canton? Just what does it mean for an NFL tackle?

"I don't know. I really don't know," Anderson said. "Does it give you extra push faster when guys get into your chest? Does it make you use a certain kind of technique differently? Maybe a guy with longer arms can be more patient and push a guy around the quarterback? I've heard guys say it doesn't matter. I've heard some line coaches say they live and die by it.

"But maybe he's just so athletic, it doesn't matter. Or maybe it's just a matter of using another technique."

Anderson knows this. Arm length doesn't matter in the run game or in space.

"In the run game, he's moving guys out of the way. You can see him do that," Anderson said. "He's so young, you look up and you say, 'Damn, what will we have in five years?"

The 6-5, 340-pound Anderson turned 21 the week before his rookie training camp began. Sewell turns 21 during the fifth week of the season. Anderson doesn't think his age should be working against him. What the Bengals had with Anderson in five years was richest tackle in the history of the game.

He knew Sewell had it a lot earlier than that. When he was 17, the summer before Sewell started at Oregon. Anderson was working with the best young offensive linemen in the country in Nike camps.

"We actually had pads on him. He was clearly one of the most dominant guys there," Anderson said.

He wasn't the only guy that remembered Sewell. It was a Cincinnati product that jogged Anderson's memory. Clemson tackle Jackson Carman, who played his high school ball at Fairfield High School, went to the same camp.

"Jackson had to remind me how well Penei dominated," Anderson said. "I said, 'Oh yeah,' and Jackson had a good camp, too."

Anderson isn't telling the Bengals who to draft.

But when a fellow big man has a big day, that's a good day, no matter what happens.

"They can't take that away from the kid," Anderson said.

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