CINCINNATI — Plenty of people questioned the Bengals when they made the decision to insert Hakeem Adeniji into the starting lineup ahead of their Week 9 matchup against the Browns.
Adeniji replaced second-round rookie Jackson Carman. The coaching staff opted to play a former sixth-round pick coming off of a torn pectoral injury over a National Champion that they spent the 46th overall selection on in April's draft.
It was easy to question the decision in the moment. Even if Carman is below average right now, isn't he the future? Shouldn't he get the reps needed to become a successful right guard?
Instead of relying on the rookie, the coaching staff opted to play the second-year lineman out of Kansas.
Adeniji is the Bengals' fourth starting right guard this season. Xavier Su'a-Filo suffered an MCL injury after playing just two games. Carman showed flashes, but was inconsistent and rookie Trey Hill might have more penalties than quality blocks in limited snaps this season.
He may not be as flashy as Carman or as established as Su'a-Filo, but Adeniji appears to have stabilized the right guard spot for the Bengals ahead of what they hope is a fruitful December at Paul Brown Stadium.
"I’ve been very pleased with what he’s done so far. He’s settled in every game. He’s gotten better. You see him playing with better technique, better leverage, pads are playing lower, all those things that go into playing offensive line at a high level," offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said on Thursday. "He settled it down. He’s really smart, he’s done a good job taking all the things because he’s got experience from the year before. He’s played multiple positions. He’s got tackle athleticism, so you can see he can him climb to the second level. He can move on his feet really well in pass protection. And he’s got strength. He’s a strong guy. He’s really athletic. Each game that goes by, you see him getting more comfortable, playing with better technique. Playing more under control. He done a good job settling down the right guard spot for us."
Adeniji has been on the field for all 217 offensive snaps since he was inserted into the starting lineup. He hasn't been called for a penalty and hasn't allowed a sack according to Pro Football Focus.
The Bengals have 357 rushing yards in the past two games. Joe Mixon has carried the ball 58 times for 288 yards and four touchdowns over that span. Adeniji is a big reason why they're having so much success on the ground.
"He’s able to move people off the line of scrimmage and he’s got the athleticism to climb," Callahan said. "So a lot of things on the back side you see Hakeem climbing and covering people up really pretty well. He plays under control, plays with good speed and strength."
Adeniji will make his fourth consecutive start on Sunday against the Chargers. The Bengals will likely try to exploit a run defense that is ranked dead last in the league. The 23-year-old will continue to play a huge role in determining how much success the Bengals have on offense.
Adeniji is off to a good start, but he has plenty to prove starting with Sunday's game against the Chargers.
"He’s certainly got a ways to go. He’s not a perfect player by any stretch," Callahan said. "Nobody is [perfect]. But he’s done a good job and he’s gotten better every week he’s gone out there, which I think is the key and I think he’ll continue to ascend because he does possess traits that you feel really excited about what his full potential could be when he realizes it."
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