Hey, did you know that Andre Smith remains a hold-out? (Alvin Keels wants to use this silly new-age thing called the "slotting system." What?)
Last week I made an argument that the offense's success in '09 depends primarily on the line's progression, and Bob Bratkowski's ability to adjust to it. One would assume the presence of Smith would be vital going by this logic; some, however, don't. The reason? Anthony Collins.
Collins, a fourth round pick out of Kansas, started the final six games last year, performing admirably compared to his blocking colleagues (Gh...Sorry, it's too painful to name them). While I admire his performance amongst a group of misfits, I can't help but look further into his apparent success.
In starting six games, Collins allowed 2.5 sacks, roughly a tad below average spread out over a full season for a tackle. This came with some holds (two), which would be expected from a rookie. Overall, it was a nice start to a fourth rounder's career, especially considering the great peril and change the line underwent.
On the surface, Anthony was fine. But let's take a look at the defenses the Bengals played against in the final six weeks, along with their Football Outsider's adjusted sack rates (sacks per pass attempts, adjusted):
- At Pittsburgh Steelers- 3rd, 8.7%
- Baltimore Ravens- 16th, 6.2%
- At Indianapolis Colts- 22nd, 5.5%
- Washington Redskins- 29th, 4.7%
- At Cleveland Browns- 30th, 4.5%
- Kansas City Chiefs- 32nd, 2.9% (Holy S***!)
Other than the Steelers, every single defense faced was average or below average at rushing the passer (average is 6.2%). The performance of Collins -- only average, if we're being generous -- was much worse than it appeared, if his numbers are adjusted for competition.
I don't say this to insult Collins; I still am happy with the work he did for a rookie. However, for those asserting that the Bengals have no need for Andre Smith, and that Collins is comparable are wrong. Collins is not a first round talent, and at this stage in his career, I'd project him to be a slightly below average to average starter at best. He's fine for depth and/or as the last piece on a solid offensive line.
The Bengals, though, do not have such a unit. Their line is in a rebuilding state, with two veterans (Bobbie Williams, Andrew Whitworth) mixed in. Right tackle happens to be a key position in a pass-heavy offense, if Brat continues to lean that way; consequently, someone better -- hopefully, as long as he develops, Smith -- needs to fill the position for the offense to work. Collins may very well be at the same level as Smith right now, if not better. The difference is that over time, Smith should be a significant improvement over Collins, ready to support all of the three-wide sets Brat likes.
Unfortunately, the window for this to happen in 2009 is closing quickly. Sign him, Mikey Boy, or Pumpkin; keeping Collins at right tackle for the entire season will not support much offensive improvement. I guess they could compete but...wait, now I get it