Cincinnati Bengals: Andre Smith

CINCINNATI -- Much of this offseason has been spent highlighting the three major position needs the Cincinnati Bengals have ahead of this year's draft: offensive tackle, defensive end/pass-rusher and receiver.

Players from any one of those positions could be first-round options for the Bengals, depending on who's available when the 21st overall pick comes up.

But how often do the Bengals draft players that high from such "need" positions? Not as regularly as you might think.

Only once since Marvin Lewis became the team's head coach 13 seasons ago has Cincinnati selected an offensive tackle in the first round (Andre Smith, 2009). The Bengals have taken just one receiver that high since 2003, too (A.J. Green, 2011). As for true pass-rushers, they have yet to take one with one of the first 32 picks.

Does this provide a good template for where the Bengals might turn when their pick comes up April 30? Will this knowledge help predict which player they will end up taking? Probably not.

It is important to keep in mind, as defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said last week at the combine, that there are six more rounds beyond the first. It's typically been in the middle rounds where the Bengals have shored up their needs at all three of the aforementioned positions. When you consider the Bengals players currently at those spots, it would appear the team has done well with its mid- and late-round pickups.

"To me, in the draft, if you can win in Rounds 5, 6, 7 and free agency, to me that makes your draft," Guenther said. "You get past [the first three rounds] and you are in the last day and free agency, if you can pick up a couple guys who can make your roster, that's where you make hay."

Green, Smith, Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham were the first-rounders on offense this past season. On defense, only the five corners (Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Leon Hall, Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick; the latter three were Bengals selections) were first-round picks. Every other key contributor was a Day 2 or later pickup.

That takes us to the defensive ends. Excluding strongside linebacker David Pollack who went 17th overall in 2005, the highest the Bengals havetaken a true edge rusher was in the second round (Carlos Dunlap, 2010 and Margus Hunt, 2013). With such a deep class of players this year who can rush quarterbacks from outside linebacker or defensive end, and with the high odds the team addresses the pass-rush problem in free agency, the Bengals might be able to wait until then again to take one this year.

The problem, though, is the most talented pass-rushers will certainly come off the board early in the first round.

One could make a similar case about offensive tackle and receiver, too. Both positions are top-heavy in this class. Specifically with offensive tackles, the most talented prospects may be gone by the time the Bengals select at No. 21.

So which direction will the Bengals go in the first round this year? Only 65 days until we find out.

Positions the Bengals have drafted in the first round under Marvin Lewis (since 2003):

QB: (Carson Palmer, 2003)

RB: (Chris Perry, 2004)

WR: (A.J. Green, 2011)

TE: (Jermaine Gresham, 2010; Tyler Eifert, 2013)

OT: (Andre Smith, 2009)

OG: (Kevin Zeitler, 2012)

LB: (David Pollack, 2005; Keith Rivers, 2008)

CB: (Jonathan Joseph, 2006; Leon Hall, 2007; Dre Kirkpatrick, 2012; Darqueze Dennard, 2014)
CINCINNATI -- Before turning our full attention to free agency, the draft and the 2015 season, let's take one last look back at 2014.

We're doing that all this week through this position-by-position review of the Cincinnati Bengals' recent 10-5-1 campaign that ended with a wild-card round loss at Indianapolis.

Previous entries in the series. Now we continue with offensive linemen:

2014 cap value: $19.5 million total -- LT Andrew Whitworth ($6.2 million), RT Andre Smith ($5.2 million), RG Kevin Zeitler ($2.1 million), OG Mike Pollak ($1.8 million), LG Clint Boling ($1.6 million), OT Marshall Newhouse ($805,000), OT Tanner Hawkinson ($540,606), C Russell Bodine ($534,114), OG T.J. Johnson ($420,000), OG Trey Hopkins ($308,000), OT Eric Winston ($134,118).

[+] EnlargeAndrew Whitworth
Darron Cummings/Associated PressLeft tackle Andrew Whitworth didn't allow a sack all season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Highlights: Offensively, there wasn't a position group as complete and consistent as the offensive line. Bodine, the rookie center, may have been the weak link among starters, but he wasn't awful. As he set protections and made pre-snap adjustments, it helped that he had Boling and Zeitler alongside him, two young guards who had strong seasons. Zeitler's was better than Boling's but the left guard definitely earned the contract extension that could come his way when free agency opens in a month.

As offensive tackles go, none in the league were as good as Whitworth. That's according to Pro Football Focus and countless others in the league who studied tackles all season. Regularly Whitworth was praised by opposing defensive ends, linebackers and defensive coordinators after games. Per PFF, he didn't give up a sack, and allowed just 10 pressures all year.

Lowlights: Like most positions for the Bengals, injuries were the biggest issue confronting the offensive linemen. Specifically, the right side of the line couldn't stay healthy. Zeitler missed parts of five games with calf issues. Smith had an ankle ailment early in the year, and was lost for good in Week 12 when he tore his left triceps. His absence opened a void at right tackle. Newhouse wasn't very good backing him up. Boling was serviceable there but it wasn't ideal for the Bengals to take him off his usual left guard post. The position was a little unsettled until Winston's late-season signing.

Play of the year: It's hard to single out one particular play for an offensive line or offensive lineman, but there were two key drives that were the unit's best. The first came at home against Baltimore in Week 8 when the Bengals trailed by four with four minutes remaining. They marched 80 yards in three minutes. The drive was catalyzed by a third-and-10 conversion on a difficult 53-yard catch by Mohamed Sanu, but from there, quarterback Andy Dalton and the line took over. Eventually making it near the goal line, the Bengals ran three straight plays before calling a sneak on fourth down that got Dalton in for the pivotal go-ahead score. Against Cleveland seven weeks later in a 30-0 win, the line helped push back Browns defenders throughout a run-heavy, 14-play drive that took nearly nine minutes.

Necessary improvements: The most glaring issue for the Bengals' offensive line has to do with the swing tackle spot. After Anthony Collins signed with Tampa Bay in free agency last year, Cincinnati signed Newhouse to fill that role. He didn't play as well as the Bengals hoped, and it appears that with his one-year deal expiring, Newhouse won't be back next year. So the Bengals have to identify his replacement and start gearing up for the future at the position. There's a good chance Winston will be back to play swing tackle in 2015, but he and Whitworth are over 30, and Smith enters free agency next year. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Bengals drafted a tackle to start preparing for life without one or more of the veterans.
CINCINNATI -- Injuries affected much of what the Cincinnati Bengals could accomplish in 2014.

Still, they had to play around those who were hurt. As a result, several backups, even a couple of rookies, saw more playing time than they probably were expected to get. As we continue reviewing the season, we are spending the next few days briefly analyzing the snap-count percentages for individual players at specific positions.

Click here for analysis of other positions. We continue with the offensive linemen.

Attrition throughout the team, largely the product of all the injuries, forced the Bengals into fielding a young team. The ailments helped propel rookies Jeremy Hill and Ryan Hewitt into starring roles on the offense, for example.

In Russell Bodine's case, though, it was simply a lack of depth at the center position that vaulted him from fourth-round draft pick into every-down starter. Per ESPN Stats & Information, he was part of every Bengals offensive play except for one this season. The same happened with veteran left guard Clint Boling, who saw action at both guard and right tackle. Boling, who hits free agency next month, had to showcase his versatility as the Bengals worked to overcome the loss of tackle Andre Smith.

Thanks to a season-ending torn triceps injury in Week 12, and an ankle injury that flared up briefly earlier in the season, Smith was limited to just 458 plays. Marshall Newhouse was his primary replacement, but performance issues forced the Bengals into tinkering with putting Boling at the right tackle late in the season, too. As the Bengals realized they were better off with Boling on the interior, they signed long-time offensive tackle Eric Winston. It's not surprising Winston had the third-fewest snaps on the team because of his late arrival, but it is rather stunning that an off-the-street free agent played 172 snaps across the final four weeks of the regular season, and was effective.

Winston allowed one sack in the five games he played. It came in the playoff loss in Indianapolis.

Kevin Zeitler's snaps were considerably lower than he would have liked. He was only part of 714 plays because of calf issues that popped up two different times. He played in 12 games as a result, with Mike Pollak replacing him whenever he missed time. The veteran backup was in for more than 400 plays.

Despite the injury woes and fairly regular shuffling, the Bengals' offensive line was arguably one of the better units in the league. The group ranked fourth in the pass-blocking grades given by Pro Football Focus, and was third in sacks allowed with just 23.

Bengals sign OT Matthew O'Donnell

February, 2, 2015
Feb 2
CINCINNATI -- One day after the conclusion of the 2014 season, the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday signed a free-agent offensive tackle as they start assembling their offseason roster.

Former Bengals practice squad player Matthew O'Donnell was the addition, joining the Bengals after spending the last two seasons playing for the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos. O'Donnell was last in the NFL in 2012, when the Bengals waived him off their preseason roster.

A 6-foot-9, 340-pound lineman, the 25-year-old brings a measure of size to a position for the Bengals that is in need of bodies. Cincinnati got so depleted at offensive tackle during the season that starting left guard Clint Boling was forced to move over to play the right tackle spot. The starter there, Andre Smith, tore his left triceps Week 12 at Houston. After surgery to repair the injury, Smith is expected to be healthy by training camp.

O'Donnell can give the Bengals another edge protector as they gear up for minicamp season in May. He also could be necessary if the Bengals don't re-sign veteran Eric Winston, who arrived in Cincinnati the week after Smith's injury. The free agent ultimately started at right tackle and played well in the final five games. It's possible the 31-year-old returns next month when teams are able to negotiate with players eligible for free agency.

It has been expected the Bengals also may add an offensive tackle in the draft this spring. Given the depth issues at the position and the advanced age of 33-year-old Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth, it seems time the Bengals think of the long-term future of the position. Whitworth, who is coming off arguably the best season of his career, will be a free agent next offseason. He has shown little signs of slowing down, but the Bengals still may want to begin preparing for life without him.

O'Donnell originally was signed by the Bengals as a college free agent in 2011. He played in college at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada.

Nine other Bengals also officially were placed under reserve/future contracts Monday. Each had already been signed, but their contracts just went into effect now that the season officially ended with Sunday's Super Bowl.
During an appearance Thursday afternoon on ESPN's "NFL Insiders," Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis gave a couple of quick injury updates.

Three key injured offensive players are "all progressing well," Lewis said.

Specifically, he was referring to offensive tackle Andre Smith, tight end Tyler Eifert and receiver Marvin Jones. Each of them ended up on season-ending injured reserve after dealing with a series of serious injuries.

Smith was lost after Week 12 following a triceps injury he suffered while trying to block the Houston Texans' JJ Watt. Eifert originally was designated for return after dislocating his right elbow in the season-opening win at Baltimore. He remained on IR throughout the season, though, because the elbow took longer to heal than expected. As a result of that, the Bengals felt it was wise Eifert eventually be shut down and for him to undergo shoulder surgery to clear another injury that had nagged him as far back as last offseason.

Eifert told reporters the day after the Bengals' Jan. 4 playoff loss that he thought he doubted he would be 100 percent by minicamp, but he expected to participate fully in training camp.

Unlike Smith and Eifert, Jones didn't suit up at all this season after suffering an ankle injury while training last offseason. He ended up breaking a foot later in the year during training camp. Once the foot injury cleared, though, the ankle still was enough of an issue in the middle of the regular season that the Bengals shut down the player who was their second-leading receiver the year before.

The Bengals are hopeful injured linebacker Vontaze Burfict can progress as well as it appears these others have so far. The Pro Bowler underwent microfracture surgery earlier this month. It's a procedure that doesn't have a great track record as far as allowing athletes to get back to their same level of production once they recover from it. Some can. In order for Burfict to be among the fortunate few, he will have a long and grueling several months of rehab.

Earlier this week, the doctor who performed the surgery expressed optimism Burfict could be back by training camp.

"He's got a hard road," Lewis said on "NFL Insiders." "As I've said publicly, because I keep putting it in his ear, he's got to work his tail off. He worked hard to get to the NFL, he's got to work harder to get back to that level."
CINCINNATI -- Free agency is right around the corner for the Cincinnati Bengals, who have 15 players with contracts that expire in March.

Of the 15, 13 are unrestricted free agents and two are restricted free agents. To help you understand the decisions the Bengals must make, we're taking a daily look at the respective free agents and the reasons why they will or won't be re-signed.

Click here to see the other free-agency breakdowns.

We continue with offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse:

Year signed: 2014

Length of previous deal: One year

2014 cap value: $805,000

2014 role: Backup right tackle

Why he will be re-signed: There are very few reasons as to why the Bengals might bring back Newhouse after his mostly poor lone season in Cincinnati. Signed as a lower-tier free agent last year, Newhouse had been expected to serve a pressing need for depth at the tackle positions behind Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. With Anthony Collins having signed with Tampa Bay, the Bengals were without a swing tackle -- a position whose importance was understood fully in 2014. After Smith was lost for the remainder of the season with a Week 12 triceps injury at Houston, the lack of a solid swing tackle became glaring. Depth at the position would be the only reason Cincinnati would welcome him back.

Why he won't be re-signed: It's not very likely that depth alone will be enough for Newhouse to stay. The Bengals have been rather disappointed in the overall drop-off at the position under Whitworth and Smith. Tanner Hawkinson hasn't inspired much confidence, either. While Newhouse (and some crafty schematic maneuvering by Bengals coaches) kept J.J. Watt from getting to quarterback Andy Dalton for the remainder of the game against the Texans, the backup struggled most of the season when he relieved Smith. It got so bad that the Bengals went out and signed veteran Eric Winston, who ultimately ended up starting ahead of Newhouse. Newhouse's worst game was in Week 10, when he was consistently turned around by Cleveland's linebackers and defensive ends, who put solid pressure on Dalton all night. Dalton had arguably the worst game of his career with a career-low 2.0 passer rating, completing just 10 passes.
CINCINNATI -- Free agency is right around the corner for the Cincinnati Bengals, who have 15 players with contracts that expire in March.

Of the 15, 13 are unrestricted free agents and two are restricted free agents. To help you understand the decisions the Bengals must make, we're taking a daily look at the respective free agents and the reasons why they will or won't be re-signed.

We started with quarterback Jason Campbell. Then looked at running back Cedric Peerman, receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, receiver Brandon Tate, tight end Alex Smith, tight end Jermaine Gresham and offensive guard Clint Boling.

We continue with offensive tackle Eric Winston:

Year signed: 2014

Length of previous deal: One year

2014 cap value: $134,118 (was signed late in season as a free-agent addition)

2014 role: Starting right tackle.

Why he will be re-signed: A late-season add out of necessity, there really is little reason for Winston to be re-signed by the Bengals in March. There's a very low probability of that happening, particularly with Andre Smith expected to return fully from triceps surgery. But, for the sake of this exercise, if Winston was re-signed, he would give them another veteran on an offensive line that was regarded one of the best in the league this year. He also would give them quality depth at the left tackle position behind Smith.

Why he won't be re-signed: It's more likely that Winston will be looking for another team come March as Cincinnati looks to shore up much-needed depth at outside tackle with younger talent. This isn't a good time for the Bengals to get older at the tackle position, especially considering how much older Andrew Whitworth and Smith are getting. Both linemen will be free-agency eligible next offseason. In the case of the 27-year-old Smith (he'll be 28 on Wednesday), that could mean a massive contract depending upon how this season goes. With the way Whitworth played this year, the 33-year-old isn't showing any signs that retirement is on the horizon, but Father Time will eventually make the r-word a reality. It's for that reason the Bengals need to start identifying his eventual replacement now. At the very least, they need to look this offseason for a swing tackle who could be a reliable backup in the event disaster strikes again much like it did in 2014. When Smith was hurt, the Bengals initially had a tough time replacing him. Eventually, Winston did, and could help do so again. But given where he is in his career, it's not likely.
CINCINNATI -- The waiting game has begun for Clint Boling, the Cincinnati Bengals' starting left guard who now becomes one of the team's 13 unrestricted free agents.

The four-year veteran entered the NFL the same year as quarterback Andy Dalton, and has been valuable in helping protect Dalton's left side and open holes in the running game. He also proved this season he could be versatile, after being moved to right tackle in the immediate wake of starting right tackle Andre Smith's season-ending triceps injury.

Boling, who had ACL surgery around this time last year, hopes his comeback and the play he has exhibited the last four seasons will be enough to bring him back.

"I'm going to go back home and work out and see what happens," Boling said. "There's not a whole lot I can control right now. We'll see how the team feels. I'd like to be here. I like what's going on here. We have a good foundation."

Following a 4-12 showing the year before he was drafted, the Bengals have been to the playoffs each year since Boling's arrival. Each season, however, finished with a wild-card round playoff loss like Sunday's 26-10 defeat at Indianapolis.

Boling is one of three Bengals offensive linemen to hit free agency this offseason. The other two, tackles Marshall Newhouse and Eric Winston, were one-year signees. Newhouse was brought on last offseason to replace Anthony Collins as the swing tackle, but he mostly disappointed. There's a chance Winston is retained for another year, but it's likely the Bengals will want to use the draft to shore up their backup tackle positions -- Smith should be healthy before camp. It's about continuing to build the foundation for the future.

While he wants back in Cincinnati, Boling admitted he is curious what the open market will say about his value when free agency begins March 10. The former fourth-round pick who earned more than $1.3 million this season would like to see how his worth to the Bengals compares with other teams.

Bengals shake up offensive line

December, 7, 2014
CINCINNATI -- As the Cincinnati Bengals continue navigating life without starting right tackle Andre Smith, they shook up their offensive line ahead of Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, giving a starting guard his first career start at Smith's old spot.

One week after keeping just two true offensive tackles on their active game-day roster, the Bengals kept three true tackles this week, while also deciding to move left guard Clint Boling to right tackle. He'll be starting in place of Marshall Newhouse, the backup who had played parts of the last two games at right tackle in place of Smith, who was lost for the season two weeks ago with a triceps tear.

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, Boling played parts of two drives at right tackle. Until its finish, the first of the two drives was one of the Bengals' better series of the game. They moved the ball efficiently for 58 yards to the Bucs' 20 before quarterback Andy Dalton threw an interception while targeting A.J. Green in the end zone. That drive also included three straight misdirection type plays that included a direct-snap run by a receiver, a sweep screen to another and a reverse.

Boling's move also comes after the Bengals signed veteran tackle and NFL Players Association president Eric Winston earlier in the week. He hasn't played since training camp when he was with the Seahawks. Winston likely wasn't considered to start at the position because he hasn't yet had time to fully learn the Bengals' offense, although he and coaches contend he's made rapid progress since signing Tuesday.

With Boling switching to the right edge, Mike Pollak is slated to come off the bench to play left guard.

In addition to those changes, the Bengals also declared another tackle, Tanner Hawkinson, inactive. It's the fourth straight game he's been inactive. A pair of receivers also aren't playing in Dane Sanzenbacher and James Wright. The latter suffered a knee injury at Tampa Bay and didn't practice all week. Wright arguably just had his best game, too. He caught three passes for 59 yards against Tampa Bay. Each of them resulted in third-down conversions.

Here are the full lists of inactives for both teams:

Bengals inactives
WR Dane Sanzenbacher
CB Chris Lewis-Harris
LB Vontaze Burfict
LB Chris Carter
OT Tanner Hawkinson
WR James Wright
DE Margus Hunt

Steelers inactives
RB Dri Archer
LB James Harrison
OT Marcus Gilbert
WR Justin Brown
CB B.W. Webb
DE Clifton Geathers
QB Landry Jones
CINCINNATI -- I can admit when I'm wrong. This past Sunday, I was.

At one point in the middle of the Cincinnati Bengals' close road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a Bengals fan asked me why his team hadn't signed veteran free-agent offensive tackle Eric Winston.

He had a point. Cincinnati needed another right tackle after Andre Smith's season-ending triceps injury the week before, and Winston, the NFL Players Association's president, was the best available free agent at the position. At 31, he also wasn't really at retirement age. So why not take a flier on him?

That was my thought seven days before the fan's question, when Smith sported a sling in the Bengals' locker room in Houston hours after his injury, and one day before an MRI revealed the feared triceps tear.

But since the Bengals avoided Winston last week when they instead signed journeyman Jamon Meredith in the wake of Smith's injury, it suggested they didn't think Winston was ready. So, in the middle of Sunday's game, as the fan and I went back and forth, I told him it seemed to me that with the playoff push now here, the Bengals must not have thought Winston would be a fit. Conditioning would be an issue for any free agent, and they needed healthy bodies at the position ASAP.

In fairness, my response came before I watched the full display Smith's replacements, Marshall Newhouse and starting-left-guard-turned-backup-right-tackle Clint Boling, had showcased Sunday.

Both had clear struggles that were masked by a series of smart play calls by offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, and better second-half rhythm passing from quarterback Andy Dalton. Upon further review of game film, it was evident: the Bengals needed serious help at right tackle if they were going to get the playoff berth they have been so desperately seeking.

With Winston, they got that help. They were right to finally sign him Tuesday.

So kudos, Sean Walls, for the call and the persistence -- with me, at least -- about bringing Winston into the fold.

Jackson said Monday that he didn't deem the right tackle spot to still be in evaluation mode, but he did indicate there were "candidates."

"We'll go through the week and see what is going to give us the best opportunity to play at the highest level," he said.

When he is fully conditioned and ready to contribute, Winston should give them exactly that. That's not all. From a locker room standpoint, you can't go wrong in adding another player with the breadth of experience and leadership, both on and off the field, that he can provide. With a mostly young line and a young team hungry for the franchise's first playoff win since the 1990 season, having a player like Winston added so late can be a nice jolt.

Although he has appeared in the playoffs once (2011 with Houston), Winston is like any veteran who hasn't made it to the NFL's championship, and who knows the end of his career is beckoning: he wants a Super Bowl ring. Don't be surprised if he immediately spreads his Lombardi Trophy desires to his new teammates.

That said, a postseason win or two would certainly show the Bengals were right to finally bring him on board.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Cincinnati Bengals may be dancing with danger Sunday afternoon after naming two backup offensive tackles among their inactives against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With Tanner Hawkinson and Jamon Meredith among the seven not playing, the Bengals are only going with two true tackles. They have to hope starters Andrew Whitworth and Marshall Newhouse remain healthy.

Newhouse will be making his second start for the Bengals when he fills in for Andre Smith, the right tackle who was lost for the season last week at Houston after suffering a left triceps injury blocking Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. While Newhouse didn't allow Watt to record a sack or pass deflection on quarterback Andy Dalton, he had a lot of help. The Bengals probably will revert back to using additional blockers in the form of guards, tight ends and fullbacks to help Newhouse chip Tampa Bay's defensive ends and linebackers.

In the event Newhouse goes down, the Bengals likely will move left guard Clint Boling to the right tackle position, much like they did for two plays last week when Newhouse got poked in the eye. If Boling moves over, Mike Pollak will come off the bench and play his old left guard spot.

It wasn't too surprising that Meredith was declared inactive. The NFL journeyman was added to the roster last Tuesday help address the position's depth following Smith's injury. Hawkinson has been a regular scratch this season, appearing in only three games.

Along with the two linemen, the Bengals also made receiver Greg Little inactive for a third straight game.

Here's the complete rundown of inactives for both teams on Sunday:

Bengals inactives
RB Rex Burkhead
CB Chris Lewis-Harris
LB Vontaze Burfict
OT Tanner Hawkinson
OT Jamon Meredith
WR Greg Little
DE Margus Hunt

Buccaneers inactives
CB Crezdon Butler
LB Lavonte David
C Evan Dietrich-Smith
TE Brandon Myers
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
TE Luke Stocker
DT Clinton McDonald
CINCINNATI -- When Andrew Whitworth saw fellow Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse hunched over in pain on the field last week in Houston, he felt like he had been punched in the gut with a bowling ball.

"I was nervous," Whitworth said.

He wasn't the only one.

Several other faces on the Bengals' sideline looked aghast for the few brief moments trainers jogged out to examine Newhouse's right eye. The eye had just been poked while Newhouse was blocking the Texans' J.J. Watt in the second quarter. Already down one tackle following Andre Smith's left arm injury that proved to be season-ending, the Bengals couldn't afford to lose Newhouse.

But if they had to, they were ready.

For the two offensive plays Newhouse missed, starting left guard Clint Boling was moved to the newly vacated right tackle position and backup Mike Pollak came off the bench to play left guard. It wasn't the most ideal setup, but it worked nonetheless. It's also a lineup that could be used Sunday at Tampa Bay if the Bengals find themselves in another emergency situation.

Boling has spent all four seasons of his NFL career playing guard, but he played tackle on occasion in college at Georgia. He also has practiced at tackle in the preseason and at other random times of the year, so the skill set remains, if it's needed.

"It's something I would feel comfortable doing," Boling said this week, when asked about playing right tackle in a pinch.

In addition to Boling, the Bengals also have Tanner Hawkinson, who likely will be part of the 46-man game day active roster the rest of the season. He's only been active for six games this year.

Newhouse wouldn't say if the vision had fully returned to his right eye, but he did say it was well enough that he "could play a football game."

Regardless how the Bengals ultimately replace Smith, a veteran who, despite his struggles this season, gave the line stability, they have to make sure his understudies keep the unit afloat.

"We're obviously not going to replace Andre, but we've got to replace the productivity," coach Marvin Lewis said, "and Marshall's got to continue to grow and fit into us and our system, and it do it our way, the way he's coached to do it time in and time out, and everybody around him has to really bolster things and pick up the pace."

Newhouse was a free-agency addition in the offseason, coming to Cincinnati after four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Signed after former Bengals tackle Anthony Collins rejected their offer in favor of Tampa Bay, Newhouse was the best regarded swing tackle on the market when he signed with Cincinnati.

Pro Football Focus hasn't been kind in grading Newhouse this season. He has an overall minus-11.8 grade. That's PFF's 17th-worst grade among offensive tackles.

Still, there's no denying that even with help, once Newhouse entered last Sunday in place of Smith, he kept Watt in check and didn't allow him to sack quarterback Andy Dalton or deflect one of his passes at the line.

"I would hope that Marshall really would be able to build off of that," Whitworth said. "He's had limited snaps in a game, but every time he goes out and plays for us, he's going to play a little better. ... Playing against a guy like J.J. Watt, I'm sure it will slow down for him a little bit."
CINCINNATI -- Two Cincinnati Bengals were feeling ill Wednesday and another had a tooth ailment, according to the injury report issued by the team.

Each of the three missed the practice, the Bengals' first of the week ahead of Sunday's road game at Tampa Bay.

Receiver Mohamed Sanu and long snapper Clark Harris were the ill players, and cornerback Adam Jones was sidelined with a tooth problem. All three were listed on the injury report with non-injury related issues.

In addition to their absences, the Bengals also were without Margus Hunt, Tyler Eifert and Andre Smith. Hunt has an ankle injury that ran him from the Bengals' win at New Orleans two weeks ago. He isn't expected back all that soon. Eifert still hasn't been cleared to practice from a dislocated elbow, despite having practice eligibility all this month following a stint on the short-term injured reserve. Smith was added to the season-ending IR on Tuesday, following a triceps tear suffered in Sunday's win at Houston.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict also missed the workout, although coach Marvin Lewis indicated he might be back to work later in the week.

"He continues to get closer to being able to practice, and we'll see if we can get some practice out of him at some point later in this week," Lewis said.

If Burfict misses this week's game, it'll be the fourth he's been out since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Nov. 3. It can be common for athletes to return fully from that type of knee surgery within three weeks of the procedure being done. In Burfict's case, the Bengals have been taking his recovery slowly. Since last Wednesday, he has spent the practice sessions working out on the side rehabbing and trying to maintain conditioning.

OT Andre Smith (triceps)

DE Robert Geathers
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
LB Vontaze Burfict (knee)
CB Adam Jones

George Iloka (groin)
CINCINNATI -- Andre Smith had just gone to the ground, resting on his knees as trainers rushed out to check his left arm.

As soon as he saw the starting right tackle felled by the injury, Marshall Newhouse pulled on his helmet and jogged into the Cincinnati Bengals' huddle, preparing for his biggest challenge of the season.

When Newhouse finally dipped low into his stance on the right edge, standing opposite him was J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans' revered defensive end whose resume of SportsCenter Top 10 moments is exhaustive. Routinely, Watt had abused the linemen facing him with a series of bull rushes and ball swats. In fact, on the very play Smith had been injured, Watt disengaged from the lineman before jumping and knocking down his only pass of the game.

It was a typical Watt play.

But once Newhouse started building his snap count Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston, Watt wasn't recording very many of his hallmark deflections and stops.

"I don't think I blocked him perfectly, but I did pretty well," said Newhouse, who, according to Pro Football Focus, played 73 of the Bengals' 83 offensive snaps in place of Smith. "There's some things I can correct. I can try to stay patient and try to stay within myself. That's the best I could do given that situation.

"Definitely feel like I could block him better than I did, but we still won and he didn't make that many impact plays."

Watt, who entered with 9.5 sacks, had none Sunday. He also had no other pass deflections after the tip over Smith, and generally found getting into the Bengals' backfield difficult. Only once did he seem to truly bug Newhouse, and that was when one of his fingers accidentally slipped into Newhouse's facemask, poking him in the right eye.

Newhouse's performance impressed his teammates.

"He put on a hell of a performance dealing with probably the MVP of the league," said right guard Kevin Zeitler, who played next to Newhouse. "All the credit in the world to him for what he did."

Newhouse said his eye should heal OK. He is expected to see an ophthalmologist Monday.

Smith also is expected to get evaluated Monday, undergoing an MRI the team hopes will come back with a favorable result. FOX Sports' Mike Garafolo reported during the game that Smith had a "significant tear to his triceps." After the game, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis called it a biceps injury. A Bengals source also said the team wasn't yet sure of the severity of the injury, but would have a better idea about it following Monday's MRI.

After his own injury scare, Newhouse only missed one offensive play. Fueled by adrenaline, he somehow battled through blurred vision.

"For a while, it was in and out and blurry," Newhouse said. "I was probably at like 70 percent vision."

Newhouse had other motivations for making it through the game. He was playing in front of an aunt who lived in Houston, and a Naval officer friend who was watching him play for the first time in the NFL, on a day when the Texans were honoring service members. When he realized he had to block against Watt, Newhouse took a simple approach.

"I wasn't going to break down and cower or anything," Newhouse said. "He's a football player and he's a good one. But if you do what you're taught and how you're taught, play hard and finish plays, then things will work out."

Behind the Bengals' Week 12 snap counts

November, 24, 2014
After rookie Jeremy Hill's impressive performances in two of the previous three weeks, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said last week he thought the running back "deserved" more chances to prove his worth in the offense.

With starter Giovani Bernard out nursing multiple injuries, the Bengals for three games turned to Hill, who rushed for 361 yards in the brief stretch.

Just before Bernard returned Sunday, making his first appearance in nearly a month against the Houston Texans, one of the biggest questions revolving around the Bengals concerned the division of playing time for the two backs. Would Bernard get back to having snaps and touches that made him appear to be the team's No. 1 back? Or would Hill continue shining in the offense as Bernard got slowly worked back into the rotation?

One look at snap counts reveals the Bengals weren't shy about getting Bernard back in the mix. He was part of more plays than Hill.

One look at touch counts, though, reveals the Bengals were adamant about making them both an exact equal part of the game plan. Hill had 19 touches (18 carries, one catch) and so did Bernard (17 carries, two catches). With Hill appearing on just 31 plays, his use of playing time was more efficient than Bernard's, who was part of 52 snaps Sunday.

From a percentage standpoint, Bernard appeared on 62.7 percent of the snaps; close to a normal load for him. Hill saw action on just 37.3 snaps, a number that was dramatically lower than his combined 70.9 percent snap count in the previous three games.

Along with the intrigue that surrounded the Bengals' running backs, it also was interesting to see that starting right offensive tackle Andre Smith lasted only eight plays before suffering a left arm injury as he tried blocking Texans defensive end J.J. Watt in the first quarter. In his place came Marshall Newhouse, who played 73 of the Bengals' 83 offensive snaps.

Defensively, the Bengals enjoyed one of their healthiest games of the year. Only cornerback Adam Jones missed one play due to injury. Most members of the Bengals secondary played nearly every snap.

Here, with help from our friends at Pro Football Focus and the NFL's Game Statistics and Information System, are this week's complete Bengals play counts:

OFFENSE (83 plays)*
OG Clint Boling (83), OT Andrew Whitworth (83), OG Kevin Zeitler (83), C Russell Bodine (83), QB Andy Dalton (83), WR Mohamed Sanu (81), WR A.J. Green (76), TE Jermaine Gresham (75), OT Marshall Newhouse (73), RB Giovani Bernard (52), WR James Wright (43), H-back Ryan Hewitt (41), RB Jeremy Hill (31), OT Andre Smith (8), TE Kevin Brock (8), WR Brandon Tate (6), OG Mike Pollak (2), RB/DT Domata Peko (2).

DEFENSE (68 plays)*
S George Iloka (68), CB Leon Hall (68), S Reggie Nelson (68), CB Terence Newman (68), LB Vincent Rey (66), LB Emmanuel Lamur (65), DE Carlos Dunlap (58), DE Wallace Gilberry (51), DT Geno Atkins (50), DE Robert Geathers (36), LB Rey Maualuga (34), DT Domata Peko (34), CB Adam Jones (32), DT Brandon Thompson (18), DE Will Clarke (8), DE Devon Still (7), LB Nico Johnson (6), LB Marquis Flowers (1).

SPECIAL TEAMS (29 plays)**
LB Jayson DiManche (21), S Shawn Williams (21), S Taylor Mays (18), Flowers (18), Johnson (18), RB Cedric Peerman (17), CB Darqueze Dennard (15), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (14), Wright (14), Hewitt (13), Brock (9), Jones (9), K Mike Nugent (9), LS Clark Harris (8), P Kevin Huber (8), Nelson (8), Peko (7), Clarke (5), Gilberry (4), Dunlap (4), Lamur (4), Rey (4), Zeitler (4), Boling (4), Whitworth (4), Gresham (4), Newhouse (4), Pollak (4), Hall (3), Thompson (3), Tate (2), Newman (2), Iloka (1), Still (1), Atkins (1).

Note: *Counts come from PFF. **Counts come from NFL's GSIS.