Grading Andre Smith

What's wrong with Andre Smith and why isn't he starting for the Cincinnati Bengals?

We get this question often in our AFC North inbox. The former No. 6 overall pick came to the Bengals last year with high expectations but hasn't produced because of issues with weight, health and lack of performance.

But on Sunday, Smith received extensive playing time, rotating series with starting right tackle Dennis Roland in Cincinnati's 23-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The AFC North blog went back to study film of each Smith snap to grade his performance.

Points were awarded or deducted on a five-point scale, depending on how good or bad Smith performed on each play. Here is what we found:

Smith is out for the first and second offensive series. Roland is in.

Smith enters game on third series at right tackle.

  • Unbalanced line, Bengals run a stretch play left for 2 yards. Smith looks a bit awkward in space trying to find someone to block away from the play. (-1 point)

  • On his second play from scrimmage, Smith allows Browns defensive end Kenyon Coleman to bull rush and get under his pads. Coleman shakes Smith off easily and sacks Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. (-5 points)

  • On third down in an obvious passing situation, Smith does a decent job on Browns linebacker Matt Roth. But Palmer throws incomplete and Bengals go three-and-out. (+2 points)

Grade for drive: -4 points

Smith in for Bengals' fourth series.

  • Browns linebacker Scott Fujita brings pressure on the right side and Smith picks it up. Palmer finds receiver Chad Ochocinco for a 42-yard catch on the right sideline. (+3 points)

  • Bengals go with an unbalanced line. Browns blitz and Smith gets mixed up on who to pick up and doesn't block anyone. Pass incomplete. (-3 points)

  • Cincinnati calls a screen left and Smith blocks Browns defensive end Brian Schaefering on the backside. After making his block, Smith hustles to the action to get another block but doesn't get there in time. Solid effort. (+2 points)

  • Browns linebacker Marcus Benard puts a spin move on Smith and blows right by him. Palmer moves in the pocket to avoid Benard and completes a 12-yard pass to receiver Terrell Owens for a first down. (-2 points)

  • Smith puts a good block on Schaefering, then goes to the second level to hit Fujita to pave the way for Bernard Scott's 5-yard run. Good play. (+3 points)

  • Smith holds his ground against Schaefering for a 2-yard run by Scott. (+1 point)

  • On third down, Smith blocks Roth. Palmer rolls to his side but throws an incomplete pass. (+1 point)

Grade for drive: +5 points

Smith is replaced by Roland on Cincinnati’s fourth and fifth series.

  • However on special teams, Smith allows Fujita to penetrate on his left side to block a 44-yard field-goal attempt before halftime. The play cost Cincinnati points it could've used. (-5 points)

Grade for special-teams play: -5 points

Smith replaces Roland in the sixth series.

  • Palmer fumbles on an odd play where he second-guesses a throw and tries to pull his arm back. Smith, with his back to Palmer, is unaware the ball is on the ground and the player he's blocking (Coleman) recovers the football. (-1 point)

Grade for drive: -1 point

Smith in for seventh series.

  • Schaefering is stuffed by Smith as Palmer has time and finds Owens for a 17-yard gain. (+3 points)

  • Smith tries to block Roth but fails miserably. Roth stands Smith up, then impressively throws him to the ground and makes a tackle on Cedric Benson for a 3-yard run. (-3 points)

  • Smith crashes line to help with pass protection. Palmer finds receiver Jordan Shipley for a 9-yard reception. (+1 point)

  • Smith tries to move in space but quickly loses footing on a nice Benson run to the left for 12 yards. I notice a trend with Smith struggling to block in space and on the move. (-1 point)

  • On a passing play, Smith tries to engage Schaefering. But Schaefering quickly sheds him and puts pressure on Palmer, who throws the ball away. (-2 points)

  • Fujita blitzes again on the right side and Smith gets in good position to stop it. Palmer finds Owens for a 19-yard reception. Good blitz pickup. (+3 points)

  • Smith continues to have trouble with Coleman, who sheds Smith again and pressures Palmer. Roth eventually gets the sack. Smith is having trouble stringing two and three good plays together. (-2 points)

  • Schaefering beats Smith to assist on a tackle of Benson for 2 yards. (-2 points)

  • Smith whiffs at blocking Roth who forces Palmer to check down to running back Brian Leonard. Smith's footwork wasn't good. (-2 points)

Grade for drive: -5 points

Smith sits out eighth and ninth series.

Smith's game grade: -10 points

AFC North blog's analysis: Smith still has a long way to go in his development. There are several flashes that you can see above, but too often Smith makes negative plays and mistakes. The Bengals are giving Smith every chance to win the starting job at right tackle. But Cincinnati's offensive line is already struggling and it could be risky to insert Smith full time while he's learning on the job and making this many errors. Smith needs to improve rapidly and be more consistent to make a bigger contribution.