In an attempt to ensure the fortification of the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line for years to come, the Bengals decided to use their last pick of the 2013 NFL Draft to select South Carolina center T.J. Johnson.
Perhaps the one and only position on the offensive line (after the Bengals succeeded in re-signing RT Andre Smith) that could have done with a fresh face, the Bengals needed to draft a player that could be useable at this position right away, or within a few seasons. The Bengals decided to go for the latter option in this case by waiting until the seventh-round to draft Johnson. At least they got a pretty solid pick. A developmental pick, no doubt, Johnson still has a lot of starting experience and has not had any issues with making calls on the offensive line where necessary. Thanks to this leadership, he was named to the Coaches All-SEC second-team.
Johnson’s main problems lie where pressure is put on him; when the rush comes in towards him, he often panics at the initial release and often gives away a lot of penalties for holding when he goes to grab them anywhere he can. These are certainly issues that the offensive-line coordinator will be able to work on with Johnson. In the future, he may become a serviceable NFL center. But for the moment, the question will remain: who will be the starting center next season?
It’s likely that Johnson will get some time on the field next season, bringing up his confidence and allowing him to work up some experience. But the majority of snaps will not go to him unless the Bengals decide to pick up former Kansas City Chiefs Center (and a top-10 center last season) Ryan Lija. Then the likelihood is that the Bengals will go with the lesser of two evils between Kyle Cook and Trevor Robinson, the second year center, Robinson.
Although Johnson will not be the starting center next season, it’s very possible that they will use him in ever increasing roles over the season as they try to phase out Cook altogether.
Simon Greene – Cincinnati Bengals Writer. You can follow Simon on Twitter @simongreene88