Bengals still see competition at left guard

Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Jackson Carman takes part in drills at the team's NFL football stadium, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

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Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Jackson Carman takes part in drills at the team's NFL football stadium, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor noted this week a veteran could still be added on the offensive or defensive line if the team sees a need. That could be the case at any spot, but depth is especially important in the trenches, and the Bengals still have two spots open on the 90-man roster they will take into training camp this summer.

On paper, the Bengals have one starting position up for grabs at left guard, but Taylor said “certainly there’s still competition” and left room for the possibility of an outsider assuming the role if the young linemen competing there aren’t deemed ready.

The team finished Organized Team Activities on Thursday and now is on break until late July when training camp begins.

“This is just the warmup to the competition,” Taylor said of the left guard spot during the offseason workout program. “This is more getting our feet underneath us, getting back into the groups and the schemes and the language that we use. Once training camp hits and you actually put pads on, and we’re practicing against ourselves, we’re playing preseason games against opponents, we’re practicing against the Rams, that’s the time you can truly see the level of consistency that’s needed for guys to win starting jobs. I think there’s been great attention to detail right now with guys that are involved in competitions like that. But you have to see that consistency over the course of training camp leading up to that first game to really know where you’re at.”

Jackson Carman spent the offseason workout program with the first-team offense at left guard when media was present and seems to have the inside track to that job. Hakeem Adeniji, also an option, filled in at right guard while Alex Cappa was unavailable because of a core muscle injury that should be healed by training camp. D’Ante Smith, Trey Hill and rookie fourth-round pick Cordell Volson, who signed his contract this week, are also in the mix, but the other four spots on the offensive line have been filled by three free agent signings and returning left tackle Jonah Williams.

The hope has been for Carman to be able to transition more easily to left guard than he did right guard last year, playing on the other side from the left tackle position he played in college and high school. Asked if Carman showed what the coaches would have wanted to see from him in the OTA period, Taylor said he has “been pleased with the focus of the entire group.”

“We have a lot of new faces in there, over half probably are new to us,” Taylor said. “And that’s a credit to (offensive line coach) Frank (Pollack) and (assistant) Derek (Frazier) keeping those guys focused and getting a lot out of them during these periods. Some people could view the OSP (offseason practice) phases as pretty monotonous for O-line and D-line but I think Marion (Hobby) and Frank have done a great job squeezing every ounce of work out of minutes that we have on the field even though you’re not going 11-on-11 full speed against the defense.”

The Bengals brought in Cappa, Karras and right tackle La’el Collins to overhaul an offensive line that contributed to quarterback Joe Burrow facing heavy pressure from opposing defenses the past two years.

Burrow joked on Instagram about his “security detail” with a photo posted early in the offseason program showing Cappa and new center Ted Karras simulating pass blocking in front of him. The new line hasn’t really been tested yet without live action but Burrow said the young guys competing for open jobs or backup roles came ready to do so this offseason.

“We have a lot of pride in those guys,” Burrow said. “It seems like they had a great offseason. They worked really hard. They came in shape and ready to go. So I know they’re excited to compete for that job. I have the utmost confidence in all those guys to be able to do that job to the best of their ability. We’ll see what happens in camp, but I know we’re all ready for it.”

One thing Burrow did get from the offseason workout program was a chance to see how comfortable he and Karras could get working together on snaps. Burrow noted Karras is “a loud leader up front,” which is what is needed out of a center, and Karras has “been above and beyond what you could ask for.”

Karras said the exchanges have gone well so far and the two enjoy working together.

“It’s a small thing, but probably one of the more important things of the play,” Karras said. “It’s been good so far and smooth with Joe. I’m going to keep working every day. We want it to be a smooth operation and my job is to make him feel comfortable. And that’s what we’re setting out to do.”

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