After losing starters Clint Boling and Jonah Williams this offseason, the Bengals will have another new first-stringer up front. They are set to bench center Billy Price, a 2018 first-round pick, for veteran Trey Hopkins, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic tweets. This marks a setback in Price’s development. The Ohio State alum struggled as a rookie, playing in only 10 games and grading as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-worst full-time center. A sixth-year UDFA who has made 21 Bengals starts over the past two seasons, Hopkins fared better in 589 snaps in 2018. He graded as PFF’s No. 21 snapper and will parlay that into a Week 1 job.
Additionally, Price’s former Ohio State teammate, fourth-round rookie guard Michael Jordan, will be Cincinnati’s left guard starter. Should an injury befall Hopkins, Jordan or starting left guard John Miller, Dehner adds (via Twitter) Price will return to center.
Here is the latest out of southwest Ohio:
- Darqueze Dennard is expected to begin the season on the Bengals’ reserve/PUP list, according to Geoff Hobson of the team’s website. The recently re-signed cornerback underwent knee surgery before re-upping with the Bengals. While the team knew Dennard would need surgery after re-signing him, it is certainly a bad sign when a player on a one-year deal will be out at least six regular-season games. Dennard signed for $4.5MM in March.
- A.J. Green will join Dennard in being out for the start of the season, and it’s uncertain when the perennial Pro Bowl wideout will return. But Hobson adds the Bengals will still attempt to extend Green, who is entering his age-31 season. The Bengals already extended Tyler Boyd. Earlier this offseason, Green expressed a desire to stay in Cincinnati after his 2019 contract year. But that was before he suffered an ankle injury that is expected to keep him out of multiple September games.
- While Green recovers, a rookie UDFA will take his place. Damion Willis will start alongside Boyd, Zac Taylor said (via Dehner, on Twitter). Willis was part of Cincinnati’s initial post-draft free agent class, signing with the team out of Troy. He has certainly enjoyed a standout preseason.
- Ryan Finley has commandeered the Bengals’ backup job, and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Tyler Dragon expects this to push Jeff Driskel off the roster. Driskel has run into hamstring trouble and was making an attempt to show versatility by lining up at wide receiver recently. The former sixth-round pick started five games last season.