If the pregame drills hold up as they almost always do, Hakeem Adeniji, working with the first group, becomes the Bengals' fourth starting right guard of the season in Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium game against the Browns.
Also, the Bengals activated rookie defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin for his NFL debut when rookie end Cam Sample (both knee and illness during the week) was inactive.
The Bengals have been bullish on Adeniji ever since they took him in the sixth round of the 2020 draft and never was that more apparent than before Sunday's game against one of the league's best all-around defenses when they lined him up for his first pro start at guard.
Adeniji just began practicing last week and officially came off injured reserve Thursday after missing all of training camp and the first seven weeks of the season with an injured pectoral muscle. He made five starts as a rookie last season, four at tackle and one as an extra blocker at tight end.
He replaced rookie Jackson Carman, deemed healthy enough to play by head coach Zac Taylor Friday at the end of a week Carman practiced full every day after being carted off the field with a back issue on the final series of last Sunday's game against the Jets.
Carman has made five starts in place of injured Opening Day starter Xavier Su'a-Filo (knee). When he ended up on the COVID list for the Oct. 17 game in Detroit, rookie Trey Hill got the start and when he struggled on the first two series, Carman replaced him. Then Hill came back early in the second half when Carman took ill.
The 6-5, 322-pound Carman, the second-rounder out of Clemson has had a typical rookie season, flashing his enormous ability and power at times while also struggling in spots to keep his balance. The 6-4, 302-pound Adeniji, who started all 48 of his games at Kansas at tackle, gets high grades from the coaches for his quick feet and ability to maintain balance as he continues to work on improving his strength.
No doubt he's going to get tested by NFL sack leader Myles Garrett, the Browns right end who has 10.5 sacks. But Garrett has been known to pick his spots up and down the line and when the Bengals' Fred Johnson made his first MNFL start at guard last year on the right side in Cleveland, Garrett went inside for a sack-strip of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
But except for right guard, the Bengals offensive line has been much more stable. Not only did they have four starting guards last season, Adeniji was one of three starting left tackles and four right tackles. They also had four starting left guards.
But this season, only right guard has changed as Adeniji took snaps next to center Trey Hopkins and right tackle Riley Reiff. Like Hopkins and Reiff, the left side hasn't missed a start.
"He's an extremely explosive, quick guy. He hasn't lost a step from what I've seen in practice," said left tackle Jonah Williams of Adeniji this week. "His ability to bend and be quick from a leverage position is really impressive. He has good use of his hands and he's a smart player."
They love Adeniji's versatility and don't want to categorize him as a tackle or a guard.
"He's got the strength to play inside. He's got the athleticism to play on the edge," said offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. "He's a guy that we were really excited about his trajectory at the end of (last) year and going into the offseason, hopeful that we could see what it looked like. Then he ends up with the pec injury. So, it's good to get him back and get him back on the field and see where he's at.
"The scheme's not unfamiliar so it's not new but he's done a good job so far. I like a lot of things about him. He can play either one well enough to play in this league. There's some value in having guys that can do that."
INACTIVES: Cam Sample couldn't answer the bell and so Shelvin, the massive 350-pound tackle from LSU drafted in the fourth round, got a shot.
With Adeniji up, Fred Johnson, a backup tackle, was inactive. So were two wide receivers. Auden Tate (thigh) missed his second straight game and Trenton Irwin was out at the Bengals went a little heavier on defense with freshly arrived cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III inactive.
CAPTAINS: Former Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi accompanied running back Joe Mixon to the 50 for the coin flip that the Browns won, giving Cincinnati the ball.