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Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Bengals-Browns game.
Bengals OLG Nate Livings, C Kyle Cook and ORG Clint Boling vs. Browns DTs Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor
Keep an eye on the trenches in this game, especially when rookies Boling and Taylor square off.
The 6-5, 311-pound Boling gets the call in place of Bobbie Williams, who will serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Boling, personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki wrote in PFW's 2011 Draft Preview, is "(very) patient in his sets and shows good strength to lock out and stop a charge" and also has a "(great) understanding of angles, leverage and positioning and consistently outmaneuvers defenders." However, Nawrocki noted that Boling "tends to play a bit straight-legged and narrow-based and locks his legs once engaged" and is "(not) a physical, aggressive, drive-you-off-the-ball blocker capable of clearing wide lanes."
Taylor (6-4, 355) has an intriguing combination of size, strength and athleticism. He had some promising moments in the preseason, most notably at Philadelphia. On one play, he flat out beat fellow first-round pick and former Baylor teammate Danny Watkins with ease, proving too quick and powerful for the Eagles' right guard and sacking QB Michael Vick. The key for Taylor on the NFL level will be consistency.
Livings was a 16-game starter last season, but the Bengals would like to see him show improvement over this season. Cook, whom the Bengals recently signed to a contract extension, has good size for the position and has developed into a solid starter. Rubin could be matched up most against these linemen. Rubin is a strong, high-effort player whose impact is greatest vs. the run.
Per NFL statistics, the Bengals averaged 2.77 yards running off left guard, 2.68 yards up the middle behind the center (worst in the NFL) and 3.04 yards off right guard. Teams frequently ran behind the guards vs. Cleveland last season, having more success rushing off right guard. Teams also tested the middle of the Browns' line with success a season ago, averaging 4.06 yards a carry. However, the Browns have switched from the 3-4 to the 4-3 and have four new starters in the front seven, including Taylor.