CINCINNATI -- If you see Cincinnati Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander around town, do him a favor, OK?
Don't ask him about Russell Bodine.
Alexander was trying to get his haircut recently at a popular downtown Cincinnati barber shop when he was jokingly harassed about starting Bodine at center. Now entering his third season, Bodine has been the Bengals' starting center since his rookie year. Although he hasn't really had them in games, snap issues have overshadowed Bodine's previous offseasons. He's also been criticized by Pro Football Focus for his problematic protection skills.
Like many in the Bengals fanbase, the men in the barber shop that day tried to convince Alexander it was time to draft a new center.
"I finally had to tell one to F-off. I mean geez," Alexander said, laughing. "I can't even get my haircut."
Expletives aside, maybe the barbers got their wish Saturday?
With the fifth-round selection of Arizona State offensive lineman Christian Westerman, the Bengals added to their locker room a player who has experience playing offensive tackle and guard in college. Westerman was also worked out at center during the pre-draft process, and the Bengals project him as an interior lineman.
"He's tougher than hell," Alexander said. "He's the toughest kid in the draft.
"When he's the toughest guy in the draft, I put a nice box around [his name], and in this division, you have to. It's not for the feeble."
So what does the selection of tough, non-feeble Westerman mean for Bodine? Could he one day take Bodine's job?
The short answer? No.
"Let me tell you about Bodine," Alexander said. "He's better than [Bengals guard Clint] Boling was after two years. He's similar to what [fellow Bengals guard Kevin] Zeitler was. Zeitler didn't start out all that great."
Pro Football Focus credited Bodine with a rather massive drop in pass-blocking efficiency between his first and second seasons. In 2014, he was 14th in pass-blocking efficiency, per PFF. In 2015, he was 25th. He allowed 30 pressures on 571 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF, and he also registered nine penalties, which was the third-most among league centers.
Still, Alexander is standing by his man.
"This is a young player who's playing with a bunch of veterans who are very good offensive linemen, and he's the last one right now because he's the youngest," Alexander said of the 23-year-old. "But I don't care what anyone else says.
"I think Bodine's going to be a hell of a player."