Dave Lapham breaks down the Bengals right tackle battle between Bobby Hart and Fred Johnson
CINCINNATI — The Bengals most important position battle in training camp is arguably right tackle.
Bobby Hart is hoping to keep his job after making 32 straight starts on the right side of the Bengals offensive line. He's played in 2,180 snaps combined over the past two seasons.
Fred Johnson is hoping to take Hart's starting gig.
Dave Lapham broke down the battle with Dan Hoard on the latest edition of the Bengals Booth Podcast.
"Physically, I think they feel good about Fred," Lapham said. "Bobby's had problems with penalties. Now Fred has to show his poise, composure, those kinda things. And if he handles that a little bit better than Bobby has handled it historically, then that can give him a little bit of an edge."
Johnson played 136 snaps at left tackle in 2019. He didn't allow a sack and received a 78.4 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. Hart earned a 68.7 grade in the same area.
Johnson doesn't have the experience that Hart has, which gives the two-year starter an edge with the changes the league has made due to COVID-19. Johnson doesn't get four preseason games or joint practices with another team to show he deserves to be the starting right tackle.
Instead, he'll have to show it in practice and in team controlled scrimmages. The Bengals are banking on their young offensive linemen to develop and be better than they were a season ago.
"It's a challenge, but thankfully the whole league is going through that challenge," Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. "We're not the only team with young players who need reps. It will be hard, but they're up to the task. We do have a lot of practice time between now and the first game so I think it's enough time to get what we need to get out of those guys and get ready for the first game. It's not ideal. I would have loved to have had 10 OTAs and 17 padded practices and all the things we're supposed to get, but we don't, and that's where we're at. I think it's going to be plenty of time for those guys to develop. They've all worked really hard on their own in the offseason. Now it's just going to be coming together and playing together against a defense."
Hart is still the favorite to win the starting job. He has the experience that coaches love, especially during a unique offseason and offensive line coach Jim Turner holds him in high regard.
"His football IQ and overall IQ has been praised by coach Turner, praised by a very, very intelligent guy in Trey Hopkins. So you know the dude is smart," Lapham said. "Coaches and teammates like smart players. So Bobby Hart is not going to make assignment errors. Fred Johnson cannot make assignment errors. I think if he shows that mentally he can handle it, in terms of not making penalty mistakes and mental mistakes in terms of your assignment, I think those are things that you gotta be looking for."
For more on the Bengals, including the latest training camp news, go here!
Listen to Hoard's entire conversation with Lapham below.