Williams penciled in as starter, Carman in backup role on Bengals’ offensive line

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — Bengals coach Zac Taylor says Jackson Carman remains in the mix at right tackle, although it seems clear Jonah Williams has been penciled in as the starter.

Williams watched the preseason opener from the sideline along with the rest of the offensive starters, and Carman began working as the second-team left tackle Sunday when the team returned to work following Friday’s loss to Green Bay.

Carman played 59 percent of the snaps at right tackle Friday, and only D’Ante Smith had more playing time on the offensive line, starting at left tackle. On Sunday, Smith and Carman had flipped spots with the second-team offense, but Taylor indicated the Bengals are just testing out different combinations.

“We will continue to work, continue to look at different things up front and really with all the positions, but it is still relatively early in the process,” Taylor said. “We have only played one game and have two left. There will still be some things we can look at.”

Taylor said he doesn’t need to see Williams at right tackle in a preseason game, but he will “keep considering” how he wants to use different players. He hasn’t made public yet if he plans to play the starters in this Friday’s game at Atlanta, only noting Monday that the two quarterbacks are expected to flip halves. Trevor Siemian will start, and Jake Browning will play the second half.

Williams is making the switch from left tackle and seems well in control of that job through almost three weeks of training camp. He was with the first-team offense in the joint practice against the Packers, and Carman hasn’t been with that group in more than a week.

“My plan is to do whatever my coaches as me to do to the best of my ability,” Carman said. “So whatever they want me to do, I’m there to do it as soon as possible and at the highest level as possible.”

Carman showed some good things in run blocking Friday but struggled in pass protection at times, particularly in the fourth quarter. On one play where two defenders blew right by him in the first quarter, it seemed there had been some snap-count issues with Trey Hill, who has been switching with Max Scharping as the backup center.

Asked about if the rotating centers impacted him, Carman said the snap count issues are among the things they are still ironing out to improve by the time the season rolls around. He called the preseason opener a “great learning experience” for himself, too.

“I want to work on not flipping as early in my sets and just staying longer in demeanor and being able to re-fit my hands sooner, especially on those outside moves and then also just being able to get more depth with my inside foot and being able to stay level in my base at the same time,” Carman said.

For now, it seems the Bengals are keeping Carman in mind as a swing tackle and he’s one of the better options as a depth piece while La’el Collins’ future remains unclear.

Collins has been making progress in his recovery from major knee surgery, which followed his Dec. 24 injury, and that was more evident Sunday when he took some pass sets against Tarell Basham on the rehab field. They weren’t wearing pads or helmets, but Collins dropped back in his stance and showed some power as a blocker, working through some different progressions.

The Bengals brought Collins in as their marquee free agent signing last offseason in their overhaul of the offensive line that allowed 71 sacks throughout the 2021 regular-season and ensuing Super Bowl run. However, he opened the 2022 campaign struggling through back pain and had just seemed to have turned a corner when his season ended with the knee injury.

Collins, who is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list, said he doesn’t know when he will be cleared to practice but he feels good about where he’s at in the process.

“Each and every day I’m getting stronger, so it’s all great signs,” Collins said. “I mean every day I come in and do a little more, and I feel a little better, I get a little stronger, so we’ve just been stacking good days on top of good days.”

There aren’t any specific benchmarks that Collins is targeting as an indication he would be ready to return to practice, but he said the important thing for him is knowing the knee feels stable. Seeing guys like Williams and Carman competing at his right tackle spot gives him “every reason in the world to want to go a little harder, even more.”

Collins said he has to be smart about not over-doing anything. He’s OK with the idea of having to start the season on the PUP list, if need be, but he still has the end goal of getting back on the field and starting games this season.

“I think the biggest thing for me is to continue to focus on where I’m at right now,” Collins said. “As much of a competitor as I am, I want to go out there every day and compete, but right now I’m here so I have to really focus on the small details so when I do go out there, there’s no holding me back.”


Bengals at Falcons, 7:30 p.m., 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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