Jump to content

Hard-working center has tight grip on the middle


Recommended Posts

Hard-working center has tight grip on the middle

By Kevin Goheen

Post staff reporter

No one will touch the football more in a game for the Bengals than Eric Ghiaciuc this season. Ghiaciuc is Point A for the Bengals' offense. He's the new Point A.

Ghiaciuc is taking over as the full-time/everyday/first-team/Rich Braham-isn't-here-anymore center this season. Technically Ghiaciuc did that last season, but now there is no doubt about whose job it is to get the ball safely to Carson Palmer on every play and then keep the defensive players with the shortest path to Palmer from getting there.

The job belongs to Ghiaciuc. He was first in line for it when Braham retired at the end of last season and he made sure no one could jump in front of him.

Braham was the Bengals' starting center the last eight seasons and had spent 13 seasons with the team. When Palmer became the stating quarterback in 2004, one of the helps he was going to have transitioning into his role would be Braham. First-year starting quarterbacks are going to make mistakes - that's a given - but with veterans like Braham around those errors can be minimized.

First-year starting centers, be that perception or reality, don't have the luxury of relying on others to cover up for their mistakes. They aren't the ones picked first overall in the draft; they're hired to protect those guys.

Ghiaciuc has taken that job seriously.

"He's a tough-minded person with a lot of pride and he didn't take for granted that Richie wasn't here," said Palmer. "He didn't think, 'I'm going to sit back and rest and slowly let this come to me.' He attacked it and went after it because he knew he wanted to and he didn't want to take it easy. He's a hard worker, a blue-collar guy, kind of like Richie in that way."

The offensive line was one of the most stable position groups on the team a year ago heading into the season. All five starters were returning for a third consecutive season for a team coming off its first playoff appearance in 15 years.

That all changed in the first two weeks. Left tackle Levi Jones missed the first game with a bad ankle. Then in Week 2 against Cleveland, Braham went down with a knee injury. It was termed as a bone bruise at the time but that didn't fully describe the damage Braham had suffered. His leg had been fractured and, as it turned out, he would not play again.

The job was Ghiaciuc's for better or worse, and at first it wasn't so good. The Bengals weren't pleased with Ghia- ciuc's play the first couple of games after Braham was injured so when the bye week came in Week 5 they moved Eric Steinbach from left guard to center and put Andrew Whitworth in at left guard. Ghiaciuc went to the bench.

That switch lasted less than one half. In the first game after the bye, at Tampa Bay, Jones went down with a knee injury forcing a re-shuffling of the line. Ghiaciuc was back in the lineup. This time it was for good. Braham's retirement ceremony on the field at Paul Brown Stadium last New Year's Eve was also the green light for Ghiaciuc for this season.

"I knew going in that the job was mine if I did what I was supposed to, do what the team needed me to do by making the right decisions so that the offensive line plays better," said Ghiaciuc. "I've did everything I could and I'm still doing everything I can to keep this job. I'm doing what I have to do by watching extra film, spending extra time in the weight room, doing things at home, all of those things. I've talked to the guys, tried to hang out more. I'm trying to do as much as I can."

The Bengals selected Ghiaciuc in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He made one start that season before playing in 15 games last season with 13 starts. Each previous start was also accompanied with the question of when Rich Braham would be back. There are no such questions this season.

"He's gotten better, he's more confident, he feels more confident making the calls and getting everyone into the right protections and in the run game," said Palmer. "Experience is everything for you, especially in positions like quarterback, center and corner- back. Those are experience positions and it's tough to just get thrown in there and not have experience playing against NFL guys. But once you have experience it does wonders for you confidence and for your abilities.

"He knows what blocks he can get to, he knows what blocks are tough for him, he knows how to attack certain defenders whether it's (Pittsburgh's) Casey Hampton or a second-string guy from wherever. Whether he's playing the best in the league or the worst in the league he knows how to react and knows how to play them and is more confident doing that."


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...