- By Jay Morrison Staff Writer
If Cincinnati Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack saw anything in the first preseason game that will alter the starting lineup moving forward, he isn’t saying.
Then again, he doesn’t have to.
The starting unit Thursday’s night – left tackle Cordy Glenn, left guard Clint Boling, center Billy Price, right guard Trey Hopkins and right tackle Bobby Hart – remained in tact Saturday for the start of the team’s first practice since beating Chicago Bears 30-27.
Pollack insisted nothing is set, although Glenn, Boling and Price seem to be locks to be on the field for the first snap of the regular season Sept. 9 at Indianapolis.
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The evaluation at right tackle and right guard continues.
“It’s only been one pre-season game,” Pollack said. “Still have three more to go. It’s way too early to anoint anybody. A lot of competition.
“We won’t have a set lineup until the night before we play the Colts,” he added, before clarifying, “in the first game, not the last game of the preseason.”
Thursday’s first unit played four series – three with quarterback Andy Dalton and one with backup Matt Barkley – and cleared the way for three scoring drives, including touchdown marches of 64 and 75 yards.
“There were some good things I was excited about, some things from a technique standpoint we’ve got to get cleaned up, couple of assignment things we’ve got to get cleaned up,” Pollack said.
The Bengals rushed for 144 yards with a 5.1 average per carry, but those numbers were inflated by Clayton Fejedelem’s 49-yard rush on a fake punt. Take that out of the equation, and it was 95 yards at a 3.5 clip.
In the three series with Dalton, the run game produced 36 yards on eight carries (4.5 average).
“They did what we asked them to do, and that was to come off the ball,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “We asked them to run off the ball. Let’s get the run game going at a high rate of speed. I thought they did that.
If that was the No. 1 emphasis then I thought they checked that box off, but it wasn’t perfect,” he continued. “We got the quarterback hit on the first drive so we can’t do that. We have some things to do, but at least they ran off the ball and got it started.”
Pollack and Lazor were hoping to see more progress in the first practice following the game, but it didn’t happen.
With the session delayed 25-minutes by rain and lightning and moved inside Paul Brown Stadium, there were more false starts than any other practice of camp and maybe more than all the other sessions combined.
Pollack was understandably aggravated.
“Guys just have to focus no matter what the elements are, no matter what the external stimulus or distractions,” he said. “Whether we’re in the parking lot, on the grass or in the stadium or in the little gym area, it doesn’t matter. we can’t have false starts. They’re all unacceptable.”
While Christian Westerman didn’t start Thursday, he played more snaps – 44 of 65 (63 percent) – than any Bengals player on offense. And the third-year guard received the highest grade among all the linemen from Pro Football Focus, although that was of little interest to Pollack.
“No offense to Pro Football Focus, but I really don’t give a damn what they say,” Pollack said. “(Westerman) had the same as about everybody else. He did a lot of good stuff. He was physical. He’s got to clean up his technique. He got high at times. But he’s grinding on that. He’s got to work on better hand placement.
“He did a lot of good things, as did everybody,” Pollack continued. “But as did everybody else, he made some mistakes he’s got to improve. Typical Game 1 stuff.”
Pollack agreed that it would be helpful to see some of Thursday’s backups get a chance to play with the starters at some point. So if there are changes to lineup Saturday at Dallas, they will not necessarily indicate a depth chart shake-up.
“Chemistry is part of it,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see, see how these guys keep going and producing. Like I said before, the players will dictate who’s going to be the ones playing.”