With the Cincinnati Bengals set to open their training camp at Paul Brown Stadium on July 23, now is the time to start digging into the position battles that will help shape this year’s team and, hopefully, ultimately lead to a happy January in 2015. While much of the Bengals depth-chart is set, there is still plenty of maneuvering to be done between now and the season-opener at Baltimore on September 7. Between now and then, we’ll keep tabs on how the battles are shaping up, and center is our focus this time around.With new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson expected to emphasize the run, Bodine may be a better fit than Pollak. [/pullquote
]The center position has become an uncertainty for the Bengals over the last few seasons as veteran Kyle Cook has struggled with injuries. When the team released Cook in March, it looked like they were on the verge of transitioning right guard Mike Pollak to the center position, as Geoff Hobson detailed on Bengals.com. According to Hobson, Pollak spent his injury rehab time last season learning the playbook with Cook as a prelude to someday making this move.
All of that was before the Bengals selected Russell Bodine out of North Carolina in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Bodine is big (6’4″, 311 pounds) and physical, and projects as a strong run blocker who can provide solid protection up front. With new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson expected to emphasize the run, Bodine may be a better fit than a more agile player like Pollak.
In fact, that’s Hobson’s take on the matter, and he wrote after spring workouts that the Bengals looked to be leaning heavily toward Bodine as their starter. Also in the mix is Trevor Robinson, who filled in well for Cook went down in 2012 but took a step or two backwards last season. T.J. Johnson was drafted as a center in 2013 but spent the year on the practice squad.
I do think that, barring injury, Bodine will finish off the season as the starting center. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if the Bengals opt to make Pollak their opening-game starter (again assuming his health cooperates) but distributes the snaps between him and the rookie until they are comfortable with Bodine as the main man. Because he is the only one of the three with actual experience as an NFL center, Robinson should make the team as a third-stringer.
Prediction: Pollak, Bodine, Robinson to start, with Bodine shifting into the starter’s role before mid-season