Carman ready to compete for Bengals’ left guard spot

Bengals rookie guard Jackson Carman has made six starts and appeared in all 17 games for Cincinnati during this season. He was drafted by the Bengals in the second round in April 2021. RYAN MEYER / CINCINNATI BENGALS

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Bengals rookie guard Jackson Carman has made six starts and appeared in all 17 games for Cincinnati during this season. He was drafted by the Bengals in the second round in April 2021. RYAN MEYER / CINCINNATI BENGALS

Fairfield grad entering second season in NFL

Jackson Carman feels like a different player than the rookie offensive lineman who walked into Paul Brown Stadium last year without a normal offseason regimen before the Cincinnati Bengals drafted him in the second round.

The Fairfield High School graduate and former Clemson left tackle played the final five games in his college career with a herniated disc in his back and underwent surgery Jan. 19, 2021. While he was still able to do pre-draft training and participated in the Bengals’ offseason workout program last year, Carman didn’t feel as fully prepared as he is now.

Carman also dealt with a back issue ahead of the Super Bowl and played just four special teams snaps in the game after rotating at right guard in the AFC Championship and starting five games earlier in the season. However, he is fully healthy and wasn’t limited this offseason. He looks forward now to trying to win the starting left guard job after competing for the right guard spot all of last year.

“I think compared to my first offseason,” he said, ‘coming off of surgery and stuff like that, I had this year a real offseason to be able to go down and train with coach Duke Manyweather in Dallas, be able to work with him, be able to do a lot of O-line specific stuff, and that really helped build my body. We have different things I’ve been working on.”

Carman said he “learned a tremendous amount” his first year about being a professional; how to prepare his body; on-field techniques; interacting with teammates and coaches and more.

Carman came in last year at a higher weight than the Bengals wanted but says he is right where the coaches want him now — around 323-325 pounds. He spent about a month in Dallas this offseason and focused on diet and nutrition, exercise, mobility and everything he could to get ready for the team’s offseason workout program and put him on track for a better second season.

A self-proclaimed “foodie,” the diet part wasn’t “that hard” because he enjoys trying new foods and cooking different recipes. Lately he’s enjoyed making a low-carb cauliflower pizza with spinach, plant-based sausage and low-fat mozzarella.

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Carman said he feels more athletic at his weight now, thanks to the work he put in this offseason — his best one in a while.

“At Clemson, you had the COVID year where camp was messed up right before the draft,” Carman said. “So, it’s been quite some time.”

A full season in the NFL also helps Carman feel more confident going into Year 2, and the Bengals expect him to make a big jump because of that.

Carman has been getting reps with the first-team offense at the left guard spot through the early part of the offseason workout program, which is now in its third week. He won the right guard job after Xavier Su’a-Filo went out with an injury, but after starting five of the next six games, he lost the job to Hakeem Adeniji.

“I didn’t really have any set expectations, but I obviously expected it to be difficult,” Carman said when asked if the NFL was more difficult than he expected. “It’s top-of-the-world competition so wherever you’re competing top of the world it’s going to be difficult.”

Although Carman rotated with Adeniji in the AFC Championship at Kansas City, Adeniji played every snap of the other three playoff games at right guard, and the Bengals signed Alex Cappa for that job this offseason —moving the competition to left guard.

Cappa is dealing with a “core muscle” issue now and will be out a couple of weeks, coach Zac Taylor said, and Adeniji was with the first-team in that spot Tuesday during the one day media was able to watch practice.

Carman said he is competing as hard as he can and is willing to do whatever the coaches want, but it does help being on the left side, where he is more comfortable after spending his college and high school career there.

“I’m working as hard as I can, doing everything I can at every spot,” Carman said. “Whatever my coaches ask me to do, wherever they want to put me at, I’m going to perform to the best of my ability. ... I feel like there’s definitely a familiarity with me being on the left side of the line. Five years of reps pressing off my right foot more than my left foot.”

Carman looks forward to the competition this offseason and in training camp.

“I’ve always liked competition since I was a little kid, just going against people and proving you’re the best,” he said. “Getting better, learning, growing.”

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