Bengals’ rookie offensive lineman making a push for left guard job

CINCINNATI -- Cordell Volson knows his “welcome to the NFL” moment is coming. The Cincinnati Bengals rookie offensive lineman said he hasn’t experienced it yet, but at some point, a jarring hit or missed block on a rushing defensive lineman will open his eyes to how different this league is.

Perhaps that day will be Friday when the Bengals face an opponent for the first time in the preseason opener against Arizona. He’s hoping for a good showing, of course, as he is competing for a job at the left guard spot currently held by second-year player Jackson Carman.

The Bengals drafted Volson in the fourth round out of North Dakota State with the expectation he would push the competition as a blue collar, hard-working lineman that loves the game. e’s off to a strong start.

“Obviously, the game is faster, but for the most part, there’s a lot of things that have a lot of carryover,” Volson said. “But just you’ve got to be a little more detail with, you know, hand placement, footwork. I think it comes down to a lot more details here in the NFL than it did in college. But, you know, I think that’s all part of it, the same thing that happened when you went from high school to college, so it’s just really narrowing that focus and paying a lot of attention to the details, because those details are what’s gonna separate winners from losers.”

After a productive offseason workout program, Volson entered training camp as the player offensive coordinator Brian Callahan saw as the biggest competition for Carman. The first depth chart of the preseason confirmed that with Carman listed among the first-team offense and Volson second-team.

Volson has gotten some first-team snaps in camp, mainly when Carman finished a practice last week on the sidelines as a precaution after getting banged up in a drill, but he said he came into camp not necessarily thinking about where he would fit in on the depth chart.

“I guess that wasn’t something that I really thought about,” Volson said. “Coming into camp, I was just thinking about whatever opportunity I got to make the most out of it. So I think that’s the same mindset that I’m gonna just keep carrying with me because when those opportunities arise, you got to take full advantage of them. Because if you don’t, those opportunities are going to start to become more limited.”

Callahan had said Carman was “a little bit ahead by virtue of having a year,” but Carman has looked much more solid overall than last year when he didn’t seem ready to compete. He spent last year learning the right guard position after playing left tackle at Clemson and at Fairfield High School; however, he struggled and ended up losing the job in a carousel at that position.

Volson played all four tackle and guard positions in college, though mainly at right tackle, but potentially faces more of an adjustment to the league coming from a small school. He helped NDSU to four FCS national championships in his six years with the Bison, and the Bengals are confident in his abilities.

“He’ll have his moments where it won’t look very good -- that’s how young linemen go,” Callahan said. “As he settles in, he has a chance to be a really good player. Jackson by nature of experience has a leg up. That’s what training camp is for. We’ll see coming up at the end of August. I’m excited about that group of guys competing.”

With right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’el Collins both out of team drills to begin camp, there has been some shifting on the offensive line at times. Cappa is back now but was limited while coming back from a core muscle issue, but D’Ante Smith, who is listed as the backup for left tackle Jonah Williams on the first dept chart, has gotten reps at right tackle in Collins’ place.

That means Volson has played alongside different players on both the first-team offense and second-team offense, but Volson said the experience is good.

“We’re all coached the same technique and things,” Volson said. “Guys’ bodies work differently, so just whoever you’re next to, maybe knowing the nuance or the difference between them and the guy you were next to last is important, but there’s not a huge difference. You know, it’s just making sure we all communicate and we all communicate the same way.”

Volson said he looks forward to seeing it all come together for the first time in a game situation Friday.

“I just want them to see a guy that’s going to compete every single snap,” Volson said. “A guy that’s gotta a burning desire to play the game of football and that just wants to improve every single day. If I can do that. I mean, control what I can control and the results will take care of themselves.”

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