It’s safe to say that my partner on the Bengals radio broadcasts did not expect the team to select an offensive guard with one of its two first round selections.
“I’m not sure that Mike Brown values a guard at 17 or 21,” said Dave Lapham on our draft preview show on 700 WLW. “I’m not sure that he values a guard at 117 or 121. I think the guard position is going to be addressed, but I’m not sure that it’s going to be addressed in that first round.”
But while Lap was stunned – and thrilled – when the Bengals traded down in the first round and selected Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler with the 27th overall pick, the current leader of the Bengals offensive line says that he was not surprised when Cincinnati selected a guard in the first round for the first time in franchise history.
“It wasn’t really a shocker to me,” said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. “From everyone I’ve talked to, the guy is very impressive – as a person and as a player. Anytime we get a guy in the locker room that is a great person and player, I’m excited about it.”
Zeitler – and fellow first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick – arrived in Cincinnati for an introductory news conference on Friday and met Whitworth shortly after meeting the media as they had dinner together at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse.
Whitworth informed Zeitler that he hosts the offensive lineman at an annual mini-camp at his home in Louisiana and said that his new teammate made a good first impression.
“I see a guy who is serious about what he is going to have to do,” said Whitworth. “He’s not overwhelmed and seems pretty determined. I like that. He’s definitely a guy that has a lot of character – that’s the first thing that you realize after a short conversation with him. I’m excited about his future here and I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help be a part of him being successful.”
Offensive line coach Paul Alexander has made it clear that Zeitler will be a candidate to start at right guard, and Whitworth says he would not be worried about having a rookie start on the offensive line.
“I think it needs to be a realistic expectation for any player that is picked that high,” Whitworth told me. “That needs to be your goal. You don’t set the bar low – you set it high. When I was a rookie, I can remember telling the media whenever they asked me that I was not trying to play like a rookie – I was trying to play like a veteran. That’s what he has to do – set the bar high and go after it.”
Picking a guard in the first round might have been out of character for the Bengals, but the team is confident that it selected the right one.
“He fills a major need for us,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. “He’s one of the top guards on the board, in our opinion. He’s tough, he’s strong, he’s physical, he’s smart — guys like that can only help your football team. It’s not a popular pick sometimes to take an offensive guard, but last time I checked, they play a lot of snaps on Sunday.”
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