CINCINNATI (AP) — With a linebacker they valued taken by their biggest rival, the Bengals went back to fixing their offensive line with their first pick in the NFL draft. They’ve been down this road before.
The Bengals took Alabama tackle Jonah Williams with the 11th overall pick Thursday night after the Steelers swooped in and got linebacker Devin Bush from Michigan just ahead of them through a trade with Denver. Bush would have filled the biggest hole on what was the league’s worst defense last season, as the Bengals need a linebacker to replace Vontaze Burfict.
Instead, they took an offensive tackle in the first round for the second time in four years.
The biggest intrigue with Cincinnati was whether new head coach Zac Taylor would push for a quarterback in the first round to develop within his system. Andy Dalton has two years left on his deal, and owner Mike Brown speaks glowingly of the 31-year-old quarterback.
The Bengals passed on a quarterback — for now — to upgrade a line that’s been a work in progress.
Cincinnati thought they were set when they drafted tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher with their first two picks in 2015, but they didn’t pan out and the Bengals parted ways with them after last season.
They solidified the line by getting left tackle Cordy Glenn from Buffalo last year and signing right tackle Bobby Hart, who got an extension after last season. They also drafted center Billy Price from Ohio State with their first pick last year.
And now they’ve got another tackle to join the mix and get in line for a starting job.
Cincinnati still desperately needs a linebacker after releasing Burfict last month, a turning point for the franchise. Burfict had a subpar season that included another suspension and various injuries. He had no interceptions or sacks in seven games, prompting the Bengals to finally part ways.
The defense was so atrocious last season that head coach Marvin Lewis fired coordinator Teryl Austin midway through the season and assumed the duties himself. A 6-10 finish — Cincinnati’s third straight without a winning record — led to Lewis’ ouster after 16 seasons in Cincinnati.