When the Cincinnati Bengals hit the field for organized team activities next week, the rookies won’t be the only ones experiencing something new.
Left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi is heading into his third season, but this will be his first offseason. The 2015 first-round pick missed all of the spring and summer work as a rookie due to a torn ACL in his final college game, and a sports hernia derailed his 2016 offseason.
“It’s something I’m really excited to do,” he said. “It will be good to get out there and get reps and have that camaraderie with everybody and not have to be with Nick (director of rehabilitation Nick Cosgray).
“Being able to work with (offensive line coach Paul Alexander) and learning and getting reps will be big,” Ogbuehi added. “The more reps you get the better you become.”
Despite missing the 2016 offseason and most of the preseason after suffering a toe injury in the opener, Ogbuehi began last year as the starting right tackle. But he struggled from the start and was a big reason why the New York Jets sacked Andy Dalton seven times in season-opening tone setter.
The Bengals went on to allow 41 sacks. Ogbuehi was dropped into a platoon with Eric Winston before eventually benching him after Week 12.
But the departure of Andrew Whitworth via free agency give Ogbuehi a chance to move to left tackle, where he excelled at Texas A&M.
“Playing left tackle, it’s a place I love to be,” Ogbuehi said. “I’m excited to go out there and just play.”
Ogbuehi is one of three offensive linemen who will be playing new positions this year, along with right tackle Jake Fisher and right guard Andre Smith.
That could be a worrisome formula for a quarterback coming off a 41-sack season, but Dalton said he’s confident the Bengals can reduce that number in 2017.
“I can get the ball out of my hands quick. I can find ways to get incompletions,” he said. “But I totally expect them to get their job done. I’m not going in saying, ‘Oh I’ve got to be completely different.’’ They’re going to be just fine.”
The team’s success depends on it, and it especially hinges on the ability for Ogbuehi to improve. He said he knows his position is one of the most critical on the team, but he doesn’t feel any pressure because of that.
“The only pressure is on myself to be the kind of player I know I can be and to keep working hard and go out there show everything, show that technique I use in practice on the field on game day,” he said. “But right now I’m trying to concentrate on slowing it down and trying to get my technique right and getting the feel for everything.”