Overshadowed by Andy Dalton’s career-high four touchdown passes and the defense’s four sacks and four turnovers against the New York Giants last week was the performance turned in by the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line.
Playing against one of the better front fours, the offensive line held the Giants without a sack for the second time in 19 games, and the Bengals did it with an undrafted rookie making his second career start at center.
Trevor Robinson, who played guard at Notre Dame, has been a quick study at center and has wrestled away the starting job from 10-year veteran Jeff Faine.
“From day one when he got here, I think guys were impressed with him,” offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said of Robinson. “He’s one of these guys that has a demeanor that he belongs.”
Robinson made his debut Oct. 14 in Cleveland, playing one series. The following week Faine suffered a hamstring injury, and Robinson took over in the second half against the Steelers. And he’s started against the Broncos and Giants since the bye.
“My comfort level just keeps going up,” Robinson said. “I’m a long ways from having seen it all. Obviously you get the practice reps and you feel prepared, but you don’t really know until you get out there and go full speed. I was pleased with how (Sunday) went, but I obviously have some stuff to work on.”
And he’s not alone. The Bengals are not running the ball as well as they would like, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. But they have shown some improvement of late as Robinson continues to get comfortable with a pair of guards who don’t have much more experience than he does.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler is a rookie, and left guard Clint Boling is a second-year player who played in five games in 2011.
“I can remember being in that position from a guy that played really early,” Whitworth said. “Every game you have like this is a stepping stone, it’s a building block for them and gaining confidence in what worked and what doesn’t against guys. There’s a big difference between film and doing it live.”
No matter how well Robinson performs the next few weeks, his days as the starter could be numbered because Kyle Cook is getting closer to returning from the ankle injury that has kept him out since the third preseason game.
“I can’t let that affect me,” Robinson said. “I’ve got to control what I can control. The advice I got from Whitworth right when I got here was ‘don’t worry about being better than Cook or better than anybody. Just be better than you were yesterday.’ I can only control what I do, so that’s what I’m trying to focus on.”
Injury report: Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins suffered a knee injury in practice Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in Kansas City. He will be re-evaluated today.
Wide receiver Marvin Jones (knee) and safety Reggie Nelson (hamstring) are listed as doubtful, while Faine (hamstring) is questionable.
Five players are listed as probable: linebacker Vontaze Burfict (elbow), defensive back Nate Clements (knee), cornerback Adam Jones (calf), safety Taylor Mays (knee) and defensive tackle Devon Still (back).