The Bengals and sixth overall pick Andre Smith are rightly excited to have finally agreed to terms. The 31 day holdout, however, is going to need considerable time before he can positively impact the Bengals' offensive line. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander was quoted by Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com about Smith's potential to earn back his starting spot at right tackle immediately.
Smith is "not going to start anytime soon," Alexander said... "It's impossible," Alexander said of getting Smith in there quickly. "I'm not afraid to put rookies in there, but this guy is so far behind, he's got so much work to do ... it's going to be an intense year for him.
Smith had been viewed as the Day One starter at right tackle for the Bengals. His selection cleared the way for the Bengals to let long-time bookend tackles Levi Jones and Willie Anderson go over the off-season. Andrew Whitworth has taken over at left tackle and in Smith's absence, 2008 second round pick Anthony Collins has been starting at right tackle. Though Collins has been a bit inconsistent, coaches have been positive about his improved play in his second season.
It remains to be seen just what kind of shape Andre Smith is in. Alexander sounded concerned about Smith's current weight and his history of allowing it get out of control. Rumors had circulated that Smith's weight had ballooned to over 380 pounds in the past, though at the Combine Smith told the media he had never been over 345. He weighed in at 332 at the Combine and claimed he played at 330 while with the Tide.
Smith worked out with the team in Sunday's afternoon practice, but was limited to mainly conditioning drills. As Hobson noted in his blog posting, Smith started every spring practice, was sent daily notes from the classroom sessions from training camp (as well as tests), and watched the Bengals' first three preseason games while poring over his playbook.
It will take time for Smith to acclimate. Given the length of his holdout and the relative security the Bengals are feeling with Collins at right tackle, it may not be until midway through the season that Smith begins earning consistent playing time. Eventually, however, his ability to knock defenders off the line of scrimmage in the running game will likely prove to much to keep him off the field. For a Bengals team that struggled running the ball last season and thus far this preseason, Smith's emergence would be welcomed.