Veteran Offensive Linemen Have Early Lead in Key Bengals' Training Camp Battle

The vets are hoping to keep the rookies on the bench this season.
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CINCINNATI — The Bengals are hoping second-round pick Jackson Carman can push for the starting right guard job this preseason. Right now the Clemson product is on the outside looking in on what could be a veteran laden starting line. 

Jonah Williams, Quinton Spain, Trey Hopkins, Xavier Su'a-Filo and Riley Reiff (from left to right) have continued to line up with the first group during the early stages of training camp. 

There isn't a depth chart, but it's clear that the 46th overall pick is going to have to beat out Spain or Su'a-Filo to earn a starting spot.

"Own the playbook. Get in great shape. Be able to move," offensive line coach Frank Pollack said when asked what he's hoping to see out of Carman over the next few weeks. "Climb to the second level. Start mastering the techniques he’s going against and we’ll get more exposure when we put the pads on, really for everybody. He’s as rookie, so he’s got to build a bigger learning curve."

Carman has lined up with the third group this week. Learning the playbook and getting comfortable at guard is important—especially with the Bengals scheduled to practice in full pads on Tuesday for the first time. 

Much like Pollack, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan can't wait to see the young rookie in pads.

"He's still a young player that's moving from a tackle position to a guard position and really the amount of volume for those guys up front is a learning curve. And just like all young players, he's going through it," Callahan said. "I'm excited to see the pads on because at the end of the day, when he gets his hands on people and he comes off the ball, he's big and powerful and strong. So I'm looking forward to seeing him kind of ascend as we get going. He's still trying to get his feet under him. There's a lot to learn, a lot going on, but I'm very optimistic that he's going to help us this year and keep ascending from where he's at. But there is a learning curve, and just like most rookies anywhere you go, they've got to earn it, too. We've got some veteran players that have played a lot of football that are starting out with our first unit, with Xavier and Quinton Spain. So you've got to earn those. You've got to earn the right to take one of those guys' jobs. They don't just give them up for free. But I'm optimistic about where he's headed and what he's capable of doing."

Spain, 29, appeared in nine games for the Bengals last season. He spent time at both guard spots and lined up at right tackle after the offensive line room was decimated by injuries. He's made quite an impression on this coaching staff.

"We got to know Quinton just a little bit last year, but he's got a great, veteran presence. He is all business, he's all ball," Callahan said. "He works really, really hard. He's got some physicalness and some presence to him. He's nasty. The guy likes to play football. He's done everything we asked him to do and he's an excellent pro. So he's earned the right to be able to come in here and try to keep a job. I'm very excited about what's done. He's been very good so far in camp."

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Spain is the favorite to be the Bengals' starting left guard. Carman will have to beat out Su'a-Filo at right guard in training camp. It'll be much easier said than done, but the rookie has plenty of time to show Pollack, Callahan and the rest of this staff that he deserves to be a starter. 

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