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Is Andre Smith the Key to the Cincinnati Bengals’ Turnaround?

October 20th, 2011 at 9:44 AM
By Chuck Chapman

By now you've probably seen the still photos or the YouTube video of an overweight, out of shape Andre Smith at the NFL combine. Smith was laboring to simply complete the 40 yard dash and his jiggling cleavage was straight out of the Baywatch intro. The Cincinnati Bengals took Smith sixth overall in the 2009 draft and almost immediately pundits were labeling Smith another of Mike Brown's busted first round selections.

Smith did his part to live down to those expectations his first two seasons. First he held out during his first training camp and then suffered a foot injury, most likely caused by his lack of conditioning, that ended his rookie season just six games in. In 2010, Smith was beginning to make some progress, but again was lost to injury after seven weeks. Andre's performance was so poor the Bengals declined to pick up the option years on his contract, making 2011 a make or break year for his career.

Smith has responded, and by beginning to resemble the dominant force he was during his career in Alabama, he's provided some much needed stability on the right side of the Bengals' offensive line. Assuming he starts next week in Seattle, Smith will have equaled his number of career starts before the midway mark of 2011. His performance, though not exactly Pro Bowl worthy to this point, is encouraging for both him and the Bengals.

Joe Goodberry of CincyJungle.com did a thorough analysis of the Bengals offensive line performance after the first four games. What Goodberry found was Smith was second only to Andrew Whitworth in "positive/winning blocks" in which the lineman controlled his defender. Out of 254 blocks through week four, Smith had won 50 of them. More importantly, he'd only "lost" (permitted his defender to win the block) only 25 times. This 2:1 ration of positive to negative blocks is a huge advancement in Smith's progress. 

It's gotten better. Early on, Smith was having difficulty with the snap count, racking up four false start penalties in as many games. He's not been whistled since. Perhaps most impressive was his performance this past Sunday against Indianapolis. We didn't hear Smith's name called a single time. Ultimately, that is the mark of a good performance for an offensive lineman.

Lineman usually only get noticed when they commit a penalty or allow a sack. Smith committed no penalties, and while facing Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, still perhaps the leagues preeminent tandem of pass rushers, neither came close to sacking Andy Dalton.

At one time, Andre Smith was closer to becoming Freddie Childress than Anthony Munoz. While he's still a long way from Munoz's stature, the young Bengals lineman appears to have matured and attained some measure of the immense potential in his 6'4" 335 pound frame. If he can continue to advance, along with Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals will have tremendous bookend tackles on the offensive line. Andy Dalton will certainly appreciate that.

Tags: Andre Smith, Andrew Whitworth, Andy Dalton, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, NFL

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