Cedric Ogbuehi as he nears end of first spring work.
If there is one topic that has kept Bengaldom up at night this offseason it has been the prospect of quarterback Andy Dalton protected by the first new pair of book-end tackles in eight years.
But with Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander reporting Wednesday "I got eight hours of sleep last night," maybe it is time to take a long winter's nap when the Bengals break for summer vacation after Thursday's final mandatory minicamp practice.
"You can't really be for sure until the pads come on," Alexander said Wednesday. "But I'm feeling pretty good."
Cincinnati Bengals host Minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium.
The pads don't come on until the July 28 start of training camp, but left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and right tackle Jake Fisher showed enough in the last month of practices to give the Bengals some encouragement until they meet again. When they walked off the field after Wednesday's workout Ogbuehi and Fisher were in a place they've never been in three years as pros.
Ogbuehi, prevented by injuries to take even a snap in his first two springs, has gone all the way at left tackle after his experiment last season at right tackle ended after 11 games and a benching. For the first spring in Fisher's career he has played one position. In that first one he played everywhere but center. He got that in last year, but got hurt before he could finish the last spring.
"I like where they're both at right now," Alexander said. "I wouldn't put one ahead of the other one."
Alexander isn't alone in his optimism. Clint Boling, Ogbuehi's left guard, is buoyed by the amount of time they've been able to work together.
"Our communication between the two of us has been straight," Boling said. "He's a big, strong, physical kid. I think more than anything it's a lot of technique things and actually getting reps. Now that he's actually getting an opportunity to do that I think he's starting to transition into some good things."
Long-time Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, who played every spot on the Cincinnati offensive line for ten years, predicts Ogbuehi responds in major fashion.
"I really think he's going to have a huge bounce-back year," Lapham said. "It's hard not to like Ced, he's a class guy that wants to do things right. He's a team guy."
Lapham believes both guys have impressively re-configured their bodies over the offseason. Ogbuehi, punished by a bull rush that accounted for most of his NFL-leading nine sacks allowed last season, has arrived with a more powerful set of shoulders. The 6-6, 305-pound Fisher has slapped on about five to seven pounds of more slate.
"He's bigger and he's not sloppy. It looks like he's going to be more stout," Lapham said of Fisher. "You have to like what Ced did in the offseason. The first thing you have to do when you have a problem is realize that you have a problem and Ced went and did something about after getting tossed around. He's paid a price."
Jake Fisher, if you can believe it, says he's more driven.
Lapham is referring to Ogbuehi's stint this winter at Jay Glazer's camp in Los Angeles that goes by the ominous moniker of "Unbreakable," a grueling gym where MMA tactics are applied to football and has featured guys like Andrew Whitworth, the man Ogbuehi is trying to replace.
Like Glazer told Bengals.com in March, "If you can go five three-minute rounds with one minute off in between, you can go for eight seconds in the NFL. It's demoralizing what we do. It's so tough physically that it's the mental game that's so important. Getting the crap knocked out you by short old guys. Some of these guys leave here after two days, four days. But Ced's been there for a month. I'm proud of him … "This (training) is all between the ears and behind the rib cage and it takes time to click in … Last week was a big week for him. You can see it click in. Whit said the same thing … He's showing toughness and fighting back."
But the Bengals won't see that until the pads come on. Fisher is already wearing some padding. It's the tattoo over his heart that says, "The greatest motivator in life is the ones closest to your heart."
"I'm healthier than I've ever been," Fisher said. "Mentally I'm more focused. More driven then I've ever been."
That's hard to believe because the relentlessness is one of the reasons they drafted him. When Fisher came on a pre-draft visit for Oregon, the coaches loved his gritty personality and their only regret was they wouldn't be able to get both Ogbuehi and Fisher since they assumed Fisher would be long gone at No. 55 in the second round.
But there he was and Fisher says the last two years have been formative, where's he's learned "that your health is everything. You can't be accessible if you're not healthy.
"It's understanding the old mentality vs. the new mentality and combining the two to create more power, more strength, filling out my frame and being the best I can be mentally and physically."
Boling is a mental note for Ogbuehi. There is life (not to mention a second contract) after a benching. It happened to Boling his rookie year in 2011.
"To have a year to evaluate, to think about what I did wrong and this is what I need to fix, it's the chance to move past it," Boling said. "I didn't have a good experience my rookie year. That's the real test. Bouncing back. He's had a good offseason. Once he irons out a couple of things with technique, I think he can be a good player."
And they can take heart in Ogbuehi's daily matchups with rookie pass rusher Carl Lawson, a duel where Ogbuehi is showing up against a guy that has the traits he'll be facing every week.
"Lawson is killing everybody. Ced has been a much tougher matchup for him," Lapham said. "I think (Lawson) has won some, but Ced has won a lot of them. That will be very interesting to watch … (Lawson) is quick, has really strong hands, he's got great hand placement. I think the only guy giving him a run for his money is Ced."
No one may be buying until the pads come on. But until then, their stock is holding steady.
Cincinnati Bengals host Minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium