As Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was explaining the progress he had seen from rookie offensive guard Jackson Carman, he remembered answering the same questions about a different Bengals rookie earlier this year.
During training camp, Taylor answered questions about rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s drops and his ability to create separation against NFL cornerbacks. Then Chase caught two deep touchdown passes in his first two NFL games.
According to Taylor, Chase’s experience in training camp wasn’t dissimilar to Carman’s.
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“These guys got to make mistakes early on,” Taylor said. “It takes guys a minute to get adjusted to life in this league and how we practice and the competition we’re playing against. We sat here and talked about Ja’Marr for four weeks and the challenges he had in training camp. Every position is a little bit different, but you’ve got to be patient with him, and it’s going to come.”
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This could be the week that Carman gets that opportunity. Starting right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo missed practice on Wednesday with a knee injury, and Taylor said Su’a-Filo is day-to-day. Su’a-Filo has only started all 16 games in a season once in his eight year NFL career, and Carman is currently the first guard off the bench.
Carman received first team reps during the first week of training camp, but he slid to the third team offensive line before the first preseason game. During training camp, offensive line coach Frank Pollack said he was looking for Carman to “own the playbook, get in great shape, be able to move, climb to the second level and start mastering the techniques he’s going against.”
Carman used his reps in practice to develop his technique, and he often stayed after practice to repeat footwork drills. Pollack challenged Carman to be more detailed as Carman learned how to play guard.
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It took longer than the Bengals coaching staff was hoping for, but Carman supplanted offensive guard D’Ante Smith and former Bengals offensive guard Michael Jordan by the end of the preseason.
“We know he’s a big guy and stout at the point of attack,” Taylor said. “He’s also really athletic to be able to move in space. With the guards, they’ve got to get up to the second level, get backers cut off, be athletic enough to cut off some guys in the back side. He showed all those traits as a tackle on tape. He has a high football IQ, he processed it really well.”
When Carman was active for the Bengals season opener, he avoided joining an unrenowned group of interior offensive linemen. According to Football Reference, just four rookie offensive guards who were drafted in the first two rounds were healthy scratches in Week 1 between 2012 and 2020: Ezra Cleveland, Austin Corbett, Joshua Garnett and Cyrus Kouandjio.
Carman took the primary back up spot, and he’s in line to start on Sunday if Su’a-Filo isn’t available.
“When Jackson does play for us, it’s not always going to be perfect,” Taylor said. “We know that. Just don’t make the same mistake twice, keep learning, keep communicating with the guys around you and good things will come. He’s a smart football player, he’s got a lot of talent and he wants to do well. Good things will come.”
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