Alex Redmond thought he blew his chance at a starting job when he was called for two penalties in the Cincinnati Bengals’ third preseason game at Buffalo.
The Bengals saw beyond those mistakes, though, and pushed him into the starting right guard spot heading into the season-opener at Indianapolis on Sunday.
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The entire right side of the line was up for grabs this preseason, but Redmond, a third-year player, and tackle Bobby Hart came out on top. Redmond supplanted Trey Hopkins, who started 12 games there last year and spent the preseason with the first-team offense.
“He has shown a consistency and physicality that’s important,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said in his press conference Wednesday at Paul Brown Stadium. “He’s shown a steadiness and understanding of what things we are teaching up front. I think he’s had a comfort and steadiness at that. He’s continued to grow. You’ve seen a maturation of his whole personality that way. His physical upside is that way. We just now have got to fine-tune the little things he may have struggled with from time to time.”
Redmond’s competitive edge won him the job, but he walks a fine line between his physicality helping and hurting him.
A high school state wrestling finalist in California, Redmond has a meanness to him by nature, and he is still learning to harness some of that energy when it comes to avoiding penalties.
“There’s definitely a fine line,” Redmond said, noting he new he had to make up for his mistakes quickly to earn the starting job. “It’s hard to ride that edge, that razor’s edge. But I definitely try to ride it as close as possible. There is a very fine line, so I’m still working on that this week and I’ll have it corrected by Sunday.”
Quarterback Andy Dalton called Redmond an intense player who “has a nastiness about him.”
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound lineman wasn’t always that way, though. When Redmond first started playing football, he had to learn to play bigger than his size.
“My first year of football I was just getting beat up, like everyone was just hitting me super hard,” Redmond said. “I was a little kid and I was getting tired of getting beat up. I said ‘I’m tired of this. I’m going to go out there and I’m going to be doing the hitting’ and all that kind of stuff. So I guess it started early, getting tired of getting ran over.”
That mentality took him far, but upon reaching the NFL, Redmond’s opportunities were limited because of his overzealousness and lack of maturity displayed when he would get into scuffles at the end of plays in practice.
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An undrafted free agent out of UCLA, Redmond spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad in 2016 and appeared in just five games last year. The majority of his 104 offensive snaps came during the team’s final three games when injuries shuffled the offensive line. Both starting tackles went down with injuries in mid-December, and the line quickly became a guard-laden unit.
“This isn’t WWF,” Lewis said. “We’ve had talks, many talks. I think when you don’t play it sinks in very quickly, that’s the point. … It’s OK to have an edge. We want him to have an edge. … By nature, he is just a physical person. If I were to go down an alley, he’s the first person in the locker room I’m going to find to take with me. That’s what you want because he’s going to go down with you and he’s going to go down swinging. We’ve just got to go within the framework of what we’re asking him to do technically.”
After his two early penalties at Buffalo, all it took was taking him out one series for the Bengals to see him turn it around.
Redmond had gotten off to a slow start as a whole, allowing slight pressure when Andy Dalton threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to John Ross on Cincinnati’s opening drive and then getting called for a false start and holding penalty on the first three snaps of the next series.
Hopkins came in after that but Redmond returned with the second-team offense.
“I think he settled down and played,” Lewis said. “We put him back in there. We took him out for a little bit and put him back in the next series. Sometimes you just have to stand and watch and you figure it out, but it’s important to him.
“Alex has grown more than any player in this building as a person and it’s great. The staff here and many, many involved have done a great job with Alex and he’s very appreciative of that. It’s a great story.”