Really. If the Cincinnati Bengals wanted to endear themselves to an old grizzled Bengals fan, who has promoted unfathomable fandom behind a Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz and Willie Anderson, they would simply draft an offensive lineman every year. Need a running back? Draft a 300-pound lineman to pound idiot safeties crashing the hole (despite being a defensive lineman, think Domata Peko). After all, offensive linemen are football; the swords that clash in the midst of battle, the tanks that charge through the front lines; beasts that muscle hapless defenders so players like Andy Dalton can stand comfortably in the pocket, or (the flavor of the moment) running back squeezes through a lane big enough to gain steam and break the big one.
A momentary and welcomed exodus of departing offensive guards occurred during the offseason, perhaps at the expressive joy of fans celebrating underneath Kings Island fireworks booming in the background with a sound not unlike mortar during a WWII battle. Nate Livings is gone. Mike McGlynn snuck out of the city like the Baltimore Colts -- except no one really noticed -- to Indianapolis. Bobbie Williams used the Bengals facilities and personnel to rehabilitate a broken ankle. And then signed with the Baltimore Ravens not a week later.
Yet Cincinnati rebuilt the offensive guard, starting with Carolina Panthers guard Travelle Wharton during free agency. Still the Bengals lacked a right offensive guard, and all indications were that the position would be addressed during the draft.
And boy, was it?
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Not long after selecting Kevin Zeitler No. 27 overall during the 2012 NFL draft, his name was quickly tabbed as the starting right guard. It was like Al Pacino offering Keanu Reeves the keys of vanity and saying, "go get 'em kid." If a rookie were projected to start the first game of the regular season this year, the horse to bet on is obviously Zeitler. Not Dre Kirkpatrick, who may face his own position battles as well as developmental progress. Tapping out of the conversation early are Devon Still and Brandon Thompson, introduced to a position strongly held by Domata Peko and Geno Atkins.
One could argue Mohamed Sanu. Fine by us. Based on predraft reports and offseason workouts, Sanu could be one of the best draft picks from this class. Yet there's a battle for Sanu also. Will he start as a No. 2 receiver? Brandon Tate and Armon Binns appear to up for the challenge. Similarly will the slot position be available for open competition, even with Jordan Shipley close to recovery? Marvin Jones? Perhaps. But we're viewing Sanu over Jones without the proper vision of seeing two starting rookie wide receivers.
Though the potential for three rookies starting the regular season opener against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football (queue the opening theme song) is possible, Zeitler is the one guaranteed. He's facing the least amount of competition and comes in as perhaps the most ready-made as designed a power-rush boulder with a pass blocker pedigree that reportedly didn't allow a quarterback sack in three seasons at Wisconsin.
Really. It has to be somewhat of a foregone conclusion. Or are we missing something here?