The Bengals’ 2017 offensive line will undoubtedly be one of the team’s largest looming question marks as camp gets underway in Cincinnati. The starting-five will feature fresh faces, both old and new, and pundits will hone in on their consistency like a cast of hawks.
Undrafted free agent Dustin Stanton was recruited by Oregon State as a tight end. Not far into the season, injuries forced the Beavers’ hand, and Stanton was asked to move to offensive tackle. Several years later, the 305-pound lineman has seen time at tackle, guard, and has practiced as a center and long snapper.
Not bad for a tight end.
Rewind to early April for a moment, when the Bengals brought him in for a workout and where they successfully tried him out at every one of those positions.
“I feel ready to go at any of those three positions, anywhere on the line, and just that versatility, that athleticism, and really knowledge of the game, I think, is huge,” Stanton said. “It opens up a huge window of opportunity and I’m excited just to keep learning the game.”
The Bengals are no strangers to versatility. In fact, they thrive off of bringing in players based on talent as much as need. And when a lineman comes along with significant experience at three different spots, it’s hard to turn a blind eye.
The April meeting seemed to be, by all accounts, a good fit.
“We were talking and getting to know each other and they showed a lot of interest in me coming out and having that workout, which went great,” Stanton said. “Coach Couch came out, we did some film, got on the field for an hour, went out to lunch. It was a great workout, great meeting. They knew I could move, they knew I could play football, and they liked the film they watched, so they wanted to get to know me as a person.”
Stanton described the organization as a comfortable fit throughout the entire process. He and the team have kept in contact, so when the Bengals gave him a call as the Draft drew to a close, it was a natural next step in the relationship. The Bengals get a good character guy and a gifted athlete. Stanton gets a new home.
“When I look at the O-line, I think I see opportunity and a dogfight,” he said. “I think there will be a lot of competition, and I’m ready to go. I think there are some big holes to fill there, some big holes to step in. And I think everyone that’s coming in – all of these new faces or guys that don’t have a ton of experience under their belt – are ready to go, ready to get after it. I think we’ll be able to put together a good starting five and give Andy Dalton some time and open up some holes for those running backs.”
The Bengals are hoping so, too.