When the Bengals ran their first play from scrimmage during the opening practice of OTAs, rookie Kevin Zeitler was the starting right guard.
“I think it’s good that when we went out for the first huddle he was in there,” said quarterback Andy Dalton. “Up front it’s all about getting a feel for everybody.”
But Zeitler didn’t put much stock into being part of the starting lineup in the first full-squad practice of his NFL career.
“It’s cool to be up there getting some reps, but I have a long way to go,” Zeitler told me. “If they did put me with the first unit – great. If they didn’t, I would have just tried to work my way up. I just try to do my job and try to get better.”
The Bengals drafted the former Wisconsin standout with the 27th overall pick in this year’s draft with the expectation that he would compete for a starting spot as a rookie. As a result, Zeitler drew plenty of attention from teammates and coaches when practices began on Tuesday.
“He did pretty good for a rookie, but that’s a loaded comment,” said offensive line coach Paul Alexander. “He obviously is going to be a good player but has a lot to learn.”
“He’s trying to do all the right things.” said Dalton. “He doesn’t want to mess up right now and once he gets it all down and gets into the groove, I think he’s going to be just fine.”
“This was his first time working with the first unit as a whole and he’s doing a tremendous job,” said right tackle Andre Smith.
“It’s a starting point and I know that I can only get better,” said Zeitler.
The Bengals will hold 10 practices over three weeks during OTAs, giving Zeitler an opportunity to learn the playbook while growing comfortable with the other members of the offensive line.
“Every play that we run here, we basically had the same thing at Wisconsin – the only difference is terminology,” said Zeitler. “It’s just good to work on communication with the other offensive lineman and work on seeing different looks and different blitzes. I wish we could have had these in college. A couple of practices during the summer would have been nice.”
“Every day, me and him are going to get better together,” said Smith. “There are growing pains because we all do things a certain way and have to adapt to each other.”
And while it’s hard to draw too many conclusions based on one limited-contact practice in helmets and shorts, Zeitler is off to a good start.
“He is as smart a young guy as I’ve ever been around,” said Alexander. “He scores A-plus in effort and toughness and he’s going to be fine.”
“He’s really powerful and he’s smart too,” said Smith. “He is going to be a tremendous offensive lineman I think.”
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