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Cincinnati Bengals Need Immediate Upgrade at Center

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COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Bengals actually boast one of the better offensive lines in the league in terms of pass protection. In fact, four of their five offensive linemen were given a positive grade for their 2012 performances by Pro Football Focus.

There is one position, however, that is by far their weakest link -- center.

Cincinnati had three centers start over the course of the 2012 season. All three players ranked among the lowest on the team in terms of pass protection.

This is not a good situation for the Bengals as they continue to face the monstrous AFC North powerhouse nose tackles such as the Baltimore Ravens Haloti Ngata.

Let's use Week 17 against the Ravens as an example for the current Bengals centers -- both participated in the game.

Trevor Robinson was hit with a negative-2.5 rating in pass protection during Week 17 -- by far the worst on the team. Kyle Cook was second-to-last with a negative-0.7 rating from Pro Football Focus.

Ouch.

The ratio of sacks allowed and hurries compared to the amount of offensive snaps the Bengals centers took in 2012 is frightening, and translates to some dismal ratings by Pro Football Focus. Robinson -- a rookie in 2012 -- was ranked dead last on the team with a negative-3.1 rating. Second last was Cook with a negative-1.9 rating and Jeff Faine was given a negative-0.4 rating.

There can certainly be excuses made for each of these players. Faine is no longer with the team. Robinson was a rookie and learning a new system. Cook was just recovering from injury. However, the play from the center position compared to the rest of the offensive line was inexcusable.

Top pass-protector was Andrew Whitworth with a whopping positive-27.2 grade. He is followed by Andre Smith with a positive-13.7, Kevin Zeitler with a positive-9.9 and Clint Boling with a positive-5.0.

Even running back BenJavus Green-Ellis and tight end Orson Charles were given positive grades of 1.5 each.

It is quite shocking that the Bengals decided to stick with the players they currently have under contract at the center position. The only offseason move that the team made was drafting T.J. Johnson with a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

A great amount of discussion has been placed on the addition of new offensive weapons for the Bengals, as well as an increased amount of pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton. However, if the team can not adequately protect their quarterback, this whole discussion could be a moot point.

Unfortunately, the Bengals really do not have an opportunity to upgrade this position for the coming NFL season. The centers left of the free-agent market are either untested or mediocre. The only chance the Bengals would have to solidify this position would be a trade.

However, that does not seem realistic for the team as they seem content with their current roster.

Hopefully, for the Bengals sake, one of these centers starts to pick up his play during training camp this year. If not, this could be the Bengals Achilles' heel throughout the duration of the 2013 season.

Sean O'Donnell is a contributor for Yahoo! Sports and a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the co-host of the Bengals Central podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network. You can follow him on Twitter: @SeanODonnellNFL

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