The Bengals fell just short of their first ever Super Bowl win in their third appearance in the league’s season finale. As the final seconds ticked away, analysts’ fingers started pointing, with many of them directed at Cincinnati’s lackluster offensive line.
In their loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Bengals fielded Trey Hopkins at center, Jonah Williams at left tackle, Isaiah Prince at right tackle, Hakeem Adeniji at left guard, and Quinton Spain at right guard. Hopkins and Spain are free agents, no longer on the roster. Adeniji and Prince retain their roster spots, but are no longer projected to start. Williams, perhaps the only bright spot on the line last year, will return as the blindside blocker.
The Bengals worked ferociously in the offseason to address their deficiencies on offensive line. They signed three free agent offensive lineman who are all expected to come in and start right away. Ted Karras comes to Cincinnati after starting experience at center in both New England and Miami. Alex Cappa comes to town after three strong seasons as the Buccaneers’ starter at right guard. La’el Collins is ready to bookend the line with Williams after years of starting experience at right tackle in Dallas.
With Karras at center, Collins and Williams at tackle, and Cappa at right guard, that leaves one position up for grabs. The current favorite to start at left guard is 2021 second-round draft pick Jackson Carman. Carman served mainly as a backup last year for the Bengals earning six starts on the year while playing in every game. The main concern with starting Carman is the fact that he couldn’t supplant any of the lackluster starters from last year. Perhaps with a year of NFL football under his belt now, Carman will blossom into a strong starter at left guard.
The other favorite to man the last spot on the offensive line comes from Cincinnati’s most recent draft class, according to Ben Baby of ESPN. The Bengals used one draft pick this year on an offensive player, bestowing that honor upon the 23-year-old tackle out of North Dakota State, Cordell Volson. Volson served as the Bison’s right tackle in his last college years, but had experience at all four guard and tackle positions during his time in Fargo. That versatility will certainly come in handy as many college tackles tend to move to an interior lineman position if they aren’t projected to dominate as a tackle at the next level. Volson is sure to give Carman a run for his money as the Bengals look to put the finishing touch on their full offensive line renovation.
All the players mentioned above are the favorites to contribute on the offensive line this year, but the following players will attend camp with the hopes of stealing a starting job. At center, Cincinnati also rosters Trey Hill, Lamont Gaillard, and undrafted rookie Ben Brown. At guard, the Bengals’ roster lists D’Ante Smith and undrafted rookie Desmond Noel. The only tackle on the roster that wasn’t already mentioned is undrafted rookie Devin Cochran.