Right now about the only person that is not excited to have first-round draft pick Andre Smith signed and at practice is his flabby stunt-double – Gus Parrish.
In training camp, Parrish sat in Smith’s seat in the meeting rooms, took Smith’s reps in practice and played the role of him in the rookie talent-show, imitating Smith’s shirtless, floppy, 40-yard dash run at the Scouting Combine. But with the real thing in town, Gus’ chances of not making the final cut become much more likely.
Parrish was a long-shot anyway, but Smith is here to stay for at least four years, or until the Bengals organization folds, whichever comes first. The 330 pound, baby-faced mastodon, labeled a powerful, run-blocking mauler, will find a place along the starting line someday, but how soon and on which side is up to the Bengals brain-trust.
O-line coach, Paul Alexander has already made it clear that Smith won’t be handed a starting job right away. The promising play of right tackle Anthony Collins has taken some of the urgency out of Smith’s development, and Whitworth got the nod as the starting left tackle before training camp even began. How fast Smith catches up is anyone’s guess, but at some point this season he’ll be a valuable substitute or possible starter once injuries begin to pile up.
When he does eventually start, Smith will likely take over for Collins on the right side, keeping the rest of the line in their starting spots. When the Bengals first drafted Smith, I thought it made the most sense to put him on the right side, with Whitworth at left guard and Collins at left tackle. Now that the Bengals have prepared and practiced with Whitworth at left tackle, Smith should stay on the right side when he does crack the line-up so as to not disrupt the cohesion between the rest of the line.
Collins knows that Smith is after his job and will have to continue playing well to fight off that pressure. He proved himself a capable starting tackle late last season, and Marvin Lewis has said some positive things about Collins to the media this preseason. Even if Collins does lose his starting job to Smith this season, he would become a quality backup with starts at both ends of the line.
Any way you work it out, having Smith adds beef and talent to the most vulnerable aspect of the team. The offensive line needed to be addressed more than anything else this off-season and the Bengals have finally landed their future centerpiece in the rotund, shapeless, sagging form of Andre Smith.