CINCINNATI — Don't look now, but D'Ante Smith could end up being a day one starter for the Bengals.
The fourth-round rookie out of ECU has impressed his coaches throughout camp and topped things off with a successful debut against the Buccaneers on Saturday night.
"D'Ante had a nice showing to start out," Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. "He's a young player and made a lot of young player mistakes, technique-wise and targeting, things like that, but as far as raw ability and getting off the ball and climbing to the second level and getting on guys and covering them up, really positive first step for a D'Ante playing a position he hasn't played a lot. He's going to keep getting those reps and keep competing."
Smith caught Zac Taylor's eye early in training camp and has slowly worked his way onto the field over the past few weeks. He was expected to be a tackle, but has had success at left guard throughout camp. He's currently battling Quinton Spain for the starting job, but there's a chance both guys end up becoming starters.
The Bengals haven't put Smith in at right guard yet, but it may be worth looking into after a successful debut. He played left guard for the first and second-team during Monday's practice, but that could change anytime. The coaching staff wants him to be comfortable on both sides.
"Ideally you'd like to have him play one spot, but the reality is even he is your interior swing off the bench he's got to be able to play both sides," Callahan said. "All of those interior guys are always going to flip-flop sides to be able to get a chance to rep both sides. Ideally you'd leave him in one spot, but the reality is he's going to have to play be able to play both to have value for our offensive line as a starter or a backup."
Smith would have to beat out Michael Jordan for the starting right guard job. Xavier Su'a-Filo and Jackson Carman are also in the mix. It doesn't sound like the Bengals are going to declare a winner anytime soon.
"I've said it before the interior competition is going to go well to the beginning of the season," Callahan said. "There are going to be a lot of rotating and shuffling as we move through these next two games and next few weeks."
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