In terms of starting lineups, there isn’t a lot that is unsettled—for the Cincinnati Bengals, that is. The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t even sure who their quarterback is, while the defending AFC North champions have a young quarterback who just brought them to the Super Bowl a few months ago.
That would be Joe Burrow, the 2020 first-overall pick, and the team spent a chunk of change this offseason bolstering his protection, bringing in as free agents an entirely new right side of the offensive line, with Ted Karras at center, Alex Cappa at right guard, and La’el Collins at right tackle.
Former first-round draft pick Jonah Williams returns at left tackle, but the left guard position is less certain—even if they have certain expectations for it. Specifically, they are anticipating that 2021 second-round draft pick Jackson Carman will come in this offseason and earn that role. He has the same expectations of himself.
“I feel like I’m just competing as hard as I possibly can”, he recently told reporters, via Jay Morrison of The Athletic. “I’ve always liked competition since I was a little kid, just going against people and proving you’re the best. Getting better, learning, growing. I’m ready to prove it”.
The Clemson product did start six games last season and was active for the entire season, but he often struggled when called upon. His NFL debut (offensively) was a Week 3 start against the Pittsburgh Steelers, resulting in a 24-10 win, and he started four of the next five games after that, but it was Hakeem Adeniji the rest of the way.
While he dealt with some issues, he was ultimately benched, but he believes that he grew through the experience, and has taken that in as guidance for how to improve himself and his game to better perform at this level. He also now has a bevy of experienced veterans upon which the lean and from whom to learn.
“Alex and Ted and La’el are all guys that have been through a lot of adversity and had a lot of challenges throughout their careers”, he told Morrison. “And they all overcame those things and they’ve all done great things, Super Bowls, top of the league”.
“Just being able to learn for those guys, just even the things that they don’t necessarily tell you, just like how they walk around and being able to learn the little things like how they take care of their bodies, how they study, how they do all those things are really good to be able to learn”, he continued.
Will Carman be the final piece of the puzzle for a Bengals offensive line that allowed 74 sacks through 21 games last year? As Steelers fans…let’s hope not.