The Cincinnati Bengals’ grand plans of seamlessly rebuilding their offensive line would seem to have hit a bump in the road, and a scary one at that. Their primary starting right tackle this season, 2015 second-round draft pick Jake Fisher, finds himself in a worrisome situation at the moment, and his season over.
Fisher left the Bengals’ last game and went to the hospital with an undisclosed illness. Earlier this week, Cincinnati placed him on the non-football injury list. Yesterday, head coach Marvin Lewis said that he is experiencing an irregular heartbeat, and that he is going to have surgery in the near future to attempt to correct the problem.
It is a scary health issue that, I think it goes without saying, transcends football, and certainly transcends sports rivalries. The causes of an irregular heartbeat are varied, and I’m not Melanie Friedlander, to be sure, but I feel I can say with confidence that it’s generally not ideal when it reaches a point at which surgery is the most viable course of action for the individual.
Hopefully, on a human level, Fisher can come back next year and resume his career, but for the time being, the game, and the team, must move on, and they have. The plan going forward is to have Andre Smith fill in and take over the starting right tackle job.
If you know anything about the Bengals’ recent history, you should know that that is not exactly a surprise. Himself a former first-round draft pick of the team, Smith spent nearly the entirety of his career as their starting right tackle. He joined the Vikings in free agency last year, but suffered an injury and was released.
Cincinnati re-signed him this year with the idea of him taking over the starting right guard job to replace Kevin Zeitler, but instead he has been rotating at both tackle spots, including Fisher’s at right tackle, as well as the left tackle spot of Cedric Ogbuehi.
If the team intends to continue that rotation, they certainly can, because they just brought back veteran-of-veterans Eric Winston, who has spent the past few years with the team before he was not re-signed this year. He spent time already last year in the role of a rotational tackle, and has a good deal of starting experience under his belt.
It was really the most logical move for the Bengals to take, and likely something that they always understood was on the back burner—that is, to have Winston available to re-sign if necessary. The circumstances under which that development occurred are lamentable, however.
I sincerely hope that all goes well with Jake Fisher and wish him the best in his recovery. I will be looking for him on the field twice a year again starting next season. In the meantime, the Pittsburgh Steelers will see some familiar faces in Smith and Winston.