CINCINNATI — Jackson Carman said being able to fill in at his natural left tackle position at the end of last season because of injuries on the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line was “a dream” and something that helped rebuild his confidence going into the offseason.
But now he’s got a new confidence booster in the form of an opportunity to win the starting right tackle job. That spot remains up for grabs while La’el Collins is working back from major knee surgery.
Carman has never had a chance to earn a starting role at a tackle position since the Bengals drafted him in 2021. He started six games at right guard as a rookie but couldn’t hold onto the job, then had a chance to compete for the starting left guard spot last season and lost out to rookie Cordell Volson.
The former Fairfield High School standout wasn’t even active for 13 of the final 14 games of the 2022 regular-season but replaced injured left tackle Jonah Williams in the playoffs and finished strong enough to earn a chance at right tackle. Now he sees a clear path forward to build off that.
“I’m really excited for this year,” Carman said. “Been playing this game since I was in third grade, so I need to be able to get a chance to have a full offseason where I’m getting to train, recover, I see clearly the direction it’s going. I’m really excited for it.”
Bengals coach Zac Taylor had said in a recent press conference that Carman is a legitimate candidate for the job.
As the roster stands now, Carman could be competing with Collins, Williams and free agent addition Cody Ford, among others, but he could earn a leg up in Organized Team Activities while Collins and Williams are both rehabbing injuries. Williams, who is being replaced at left tackle by Orlando Brown Jr., underwent surgery to replace a dislocated knee cap but will be in the right tackle mix when he returns.
Taylor said he saw growth in Carman last year and looks forward to seeing what he can do in Year 3.
“His number was called there at left tackle (in the playoffs), and now his number’s going to be called at right tackle to go over there and compete,” Taylor said. “Year three for Jackson, we’ve got high expectations for him. I really liked his approach over the course of last season. He really got a feel for what the NFL is like and what the process is like, and now going into year three, I think it’s a great opportunity for him to continue to show us that he’s got what it takes to be a full-time starter for us.”
The organization perhaps gave Carman a vote of confidence in not using a draft pick to add a reinforcement at right tackle, but Carman said he didn’t take it that way because “anything can happen, whenever.”
Carman is trying to prepare for whatever competition this year brings.
“I love the competition,” Carman said. “Competition is the only reason I’m here. I feel like my whole career, I just kind of followed the competition. Like when I was in high school, I went to Clemson because they had the All-Star D-linemen, and when I got here, you already know, so the competition is where it’s at.”
Carman has worked on adjusting his body composition and trying to become more athletic to give himself the best chance possible in the right tackle position battle. He’s doing water workouts, taking gymnastics lessons at a gym in Kentucky once a week, doing yoga at home, and focusing on getting into the best shape he can for training camp.
The work already seems to be paying off. He arrived for offseason workouts looking noticeably slimmer, though he says he’s only lost five pounds – down from 325 pounds to 320.
The need to take better care of his body has been one big lesson he’s learned since joining the NFL, but that’s come with some struggles finding a role. Switching around to different positions the past couple of years has helped him learn the need to be more diverse.
As for the actual position change, Carman plans to pull from what he learned at right guard and what he’s always known about playing tackle in order to be effective in his technique and positioning at right tackle. Asked if he is where he wants to be physically, Carman said “we’ll see come August.”
“I feel like I could play any position on the O-line, and I also feel like just supporting my body more like, as an offensive lineman,” Carman said. “People think of the O-linemen as big guys, big bellies, like, ah, but I feel like transitioning more to be like real athletes, that’s something I’m excited to show.”
Bengals sign backup quarterback
The Bengals on Wednesday announced the signing of free agent quarterback Trevor Siemian, adding a backup to replace Brandon Allen, who signed with San Francisco.
Siemian, a ninth-year player, originally was a seventh-round pick of Denver Broncos in 2015. In addition to the Broncos, he has spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, the N.Y. Jets, the Tennessee Titans, the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears. He has played in 35 career games (30 starts) and completed 621 of 1,055 passes (58.9 percent) for 7,027 yards and 42 touchdowns.
The Bengals had brought Siemian in for a visit earlier this spring.
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