Bengals new left guard up to the challenge Week 1

CINCINNATI -- Cordell Volson said although he didn’t play in the preseason finale, like the rest of the Cincinnati Bengals starters, he didn’t assume he had won the left guard job.

The Bengals were giving Jackson Carman another chance in the final exhibition against the Rams after he missed the second preseason game because of COVID, but in the end, Volson stood out as the most consistent player in that competition.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor named him the starting left guard Wednesday, before the team began preparations for the Sept. 11 opener against Pittsburgh.

“Obviously, I was excited and very fortunate for the opportunity, but at the same time, I’m just gonna continue to get better every day and focus on each day,” Volson said Thursday. “I’ve been fortunate to have been blessed with this opportunity.”

Cincinnati selected Volson in the fourth round of the NFL draft in April, but Carman went into the team’s offseason workout program with the edge because of his experience last year. The Bengals had placed a great deal of faith in Carman as a second-round draft pick in 2021, but this was the second preseason he had a chance to win a starting job and couldn’t do it.

Carman opened his rookie season as a backup right guard, then was thrust into that role in Week 3 because of injuries and couldn’t retain the job. He started six games, but only one of those came in the second half of the season – the regular-season finale at Cleveland when all the usual starters sat.

Volson came into training camp as the second-team left guard but after Carman struggled in the preseason opener, the rookie from North Dakota slid into the first-team offense and earned the job.

“He ascended throughout the whole training camp period,” offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. “He played well, he practiced well. I think what gets lost sometimes is the evaluation of practice included. It’s not just the games. It’s all the practices from the OTAs through now. It’s all part of the process. He continually got better and he showed all of the things that we want to see from a guy who is going to start at guard for us. He’s tough, he’s physical, he’s dependable, he’s consistent, all the things we’re looking from those linemen, he’s exhibited. He earned that job.”

Callahan said it wasn’t necessarily a disappointment that Carman wasn’t able to do more after the organization saw enough promise in him to use a second-round draft pick on him last year. The Bengals still see a future for him as well, but he has to work harder for it.

“I think it’s a good lesson for him that your job is never solidified, especially if you don’t perform the way that you need to perform at this level,” Callahan said. “Your job is always open and you have to fight for it. You have to fight for your job every day and you have to perform at that level every year that comes around. If you don’t, there are guys who are willing to take it and I think that’s a good lesson for Jackson. He’s still a developmental player. He’s still someone we’re going to have to count on at some point this year, because that’s how this league works. Cordell is the one that played better and more consistent.”

A polite individual off the field, Volson brings a bit of a nasty side to the field. Callahan said not to “sleep on that aw-shucks thing he’s got going on” because Volson is a “tough dude.” Volson said he wants to be known as someone who “plays extremely hard, physical and just wants to continue to learn.”

“I think when you step across those white lines you’ve got to have that switch you can flip and be ready to play football,” Volson said. “The competitor comes out in you and that’s the big thing, just being a good person off the field and when when you step across the white lines, it’s all about business.”

Volson will have a tough task when he officially makes his NFL debut Sept. 11. The Bengals will be facing a solid interior defensive line from division rival Pittsburgh, and both teams look to get off to a good start in AFC North competition.

Taylor has faith Volson will be up to the task.

“He’s a physical player, and that’s a very good quality for him to have going into Week 1 against Pittsburgh, because Cam Heyward is one of the best in the business, Larry Ogunjobi is one of the best in the business, Tyson Alualu has done it a high level for a very long time,” Taylor said. “Their D line is one of the best in all of football. We know about their edge guys, but their interior guys probably don’t get the credit that they all deserve. We give them a lot of credit. It’s a dogfight in the trenches when we played the Pittsburgh Steelers and we feel Cordell will be ready for that.”

NOTES: The Bengals re-signed free agent wide receiver Mike Thomas, who had his contract terminated by the organization Tuesday, and also signed three players to their practice squad on Thursday with the addition of tight end Nick Bowers, safety Yusuf Corker and cornerback Marvell Tell IIII. Cincinnati also placed defensive end Khalid Kareem (hamstring) and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (abdomen) on the Reserve/Injured list.


Sunday, Sept. 11

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 1 p.m., Ch. 7, Ch. 12; 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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