The door has opened for rookie Cordell Volson to try to grab hold of the starting left guard spot with Jackson Carman out because of COVID, and Sunday’s game will be an important test.
It’s never a guarantee that starting a preseason game will put a player up against the opponent’s best competition because often teams value those snaps differently. But, whether the Giants use starters on their defensive line or second-string players, Volson likely will be seeing tougher competition than he did when he entered the game in the second half last week against Arizona.
Volson is expected to start after a strong debut last week, which helped push him into the first-team offense this week while Carman was out or limited. He has been out since Thursday but was hardly getting first-team snaps earlier in the week.
“He’s hungry, right type of guy,” right tackle La’el Collins said of Volson. “He’s made up all the right stuff. He’s physical, he’s tough. He shows all the great qualities and loves to learn. Definitely one of the great rookies I’ve been around. I knew since day one, I mean he could be whatever he wants to be, it’s all up to him.”
2. Depleted offensive line
The Bengals have just three offensive tackles available to play Sunday, as right tackle La’el Collins and left tackle Jonah Williams are expected to be among the starters not participating. Isaiah Prince was carted off with a biceps injury Thursday and is week-to-week, Taylor said, but D’Ante Smith returned from a back injury this week and should be among the three available.
Hakeem Adeniji and Devin Cochran are the other two tackles that will get playing time – and Taylor noted all three available guys will get plenty of opportunities.
Aside from injury, the depth on the offensive line remains a concern anyway as the unit struggled in the opener.
3. Progression for Dax Hill
With veteran Jessie Bates still not in training camp, the Bengals are preparing rookie safety Dax Hill to take his spot, but it’s a difficult balance of protecting a potential starter and also giving a first-year player the reps needed to be ready for the NFL.
Hill looked impressive in his preseason debut last week with two near-interceptions, but asked what the best way to progress him is before Week 1, Taylor said it’s not necessarily about stretching him out more in preseason games. The Bengals still have plenty of time to get him ready for a full game if needed.
“Practice next week with the Rams is helpful,” Taylor said. “…That’s going to be great work for a lot of these young players, to see different types of players that they’re going against, different schemes. I think that’s exciting for a guy like Dax to be able to see kind of a different group. This weekend with the Giants and next with the Rams are good opportunities to continue to accelerate his growth.”
4. Special teams battles
Special teams continue to be an area to watch in these preseason games. In the opener, neither punter Kevin Huber nor Drue Chrisman particularly stood out, and they rotated as holders on Evan McPherson’s field goals with no issues. Clark Harris still seems ahead in the long snapping competition with Cal Adomitis.
Pooka Williams was cut this week after he muffed a punt. The Bengals struggled with dropped punt/kick returns last year, and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons wants to be sure whoever handles those duties has good enough hands to hold onto the ball. Trent Taylor has the punt return job unless someone else can show better, and Chris Evans is looking like a solid option on kick returns.
5. Other injuries of note
Defensive end Khalid Kareem is expected to make his preseason debut after dealing with a shoulder injury early in camp.
Taylor said edge rusher Joseph Ossai won’t play that many more snaps than he did in the preseason opener (four), as he continues to be managed in his return from 2021 knee and wrist surgeries, but he will see some special teams and defensive snaps.
“It’s just his coming off his injuries from the past,” Taylor said. “He’s a guy that goes really hard, every single rep and so we’ll limit him in this game. He’s gotten a lot of reps. Just easing him into the game. We plan on a guy like that being critical for us this year, so you want to manage those guys in the games.”
Other players working through injury include cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (core muscles), tight end Drew Sample (knee) and linebacker Markus Bailey (hamstring). None of them will play Sunday, though Bailey should be good to go after that. Taylor-Britt is out for the remainder of camp after undergoing surgery Monday, but Taylor said he is optimistic about those results.
Bengals at Giants, 7 p.m., NFL Network, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7