By Joe Kay
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Cedric Ogbuehi breaks the huddle with Cincinnati’s starting offense and heads for the right side of the line. He’s trying to make up for a year of lost time.
The Bengals’ first pick in the 2015 draft has moved up to starting right tackle. Cincinnati’s decision to take Ogbuehi (oh-BWAY’-hee) with the 21st overall pick last year was a big surprise — he’d suffered a significant knee injury only four months earlier.
They projected him as their starter this year, and things are going as planned.
“It was tough, but I’m ready for the challenge this year, ready to show why they got me, and show I’m a great player,” Ogbuehi said.
Ogbuehi represents the biggest change in the offense. He takes over for Andre Smith, who was allowed to leave as a free agent.
Ogbuehi was considered one of the top tackles available in the draft until he tore the ACL in his right knee during Texas A&M’s game in the Liberty Bowl. Doctors projected it would take most of a year for him to recover. The Bengals drafted him in the first round anyway, relying on projections that the knee would fully heal and he’d be ready to start this season.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound linemen appeared in six games at the end of last season, getting on the field as an extra blocker on some plays. He was given the spot at right tackle when training camp opened last week.
“I have to earn it, obviously, but it’s my job,” he said. “My athleticism, I would say, is rare, unique. I can block a lot of different players.”
For now, he’s got to learn the finer points of blocking some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
“He has every talent and ability you need to be a great offensive tackle,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “But the reality is that there’s probably been a lot of guys over time that have had that. It’s going to be putting his head down and working through the ups and downs of playing that position and keeping that mentality and that confidence that he can do it.”
Ogbuehi is lined up against end Carlos Dunlap during practice, facing a player who made the Pro Bowl last season after getting 13½ sacks. Former Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson, who is helping coach linemen during camp, considers that a benefit for Ogbuehi.
“You’ll be surprised at how much that helps guys out, facing a Pro Bowler every day,” Anderson said. “It gives them something to work on. You’re not just working against some scrub guy. You’re working against top-notch guys every day.”
Notes: A storm pushed back the start of the afternoon practice and prompted the team to move from the public grass fields to inside Paul Brown Stadium, which has artificial turf. Fans weren’t allowed inside. The Bengals don’t have a covered field. … WR James Wright was cleared for practice for the first time since 2014, when he suffered a knee injury as a rookie. He needed all of last season to rehab. “I can’t even remember, it was so long,” Wright said. “It felt like forever.”