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Hobson's Choice: First Training Camp Glimpses Of Bengals Roster

Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Cordell Volson (67) takes part in drills at the team's NFL football stadium, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Cordell Volson (67) takes part in drills at the team's NFL football stadium, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

It's been a while. Curious about Carmen v Volson and your observations. Hearing Carmen looks far better than last year. And what about 4th WR. I like Taylor and Stanley but am curious about the rookies and UDFA's and Pooka. Thank you! Bryan Molina, Milford, OH

BRYAN: Tough to have any conversation about this until the pads come on Monday, but here we go.

You're right. For now, at least, the cliché that players make the biggest jump from year one to year two fits for Jackson Carman.

People were peeved last year when he wasn't an instant re-incarnation of Max Montoya and seemed to forget he was moving from tackle to guard and left to right while coming off back problems. At 325 pounds he came in 15 pounds lighter than last year and, more importantly, where the coaches want him. All you had to do is listen to offensive line coach Frank Pollack praise him the first week of training camp to know how far he's come.

Plus, in the first four practices Pollack has kept Carman at left guard consistently with the ones while he's rotating rookie Cordell Volson at right guard with Hakeem Adeniji. That's typical for a rookie. Volson has looked the part (big, tenacious) and Pollack wants him to get work on both sides. You could definitely see an Opening Day scenario where both are starting, but let's see them play the preseason games first and if Carman can hold on at left guard, Volson can stave off Adeniji and someone else emerges. Have to put the pads on and then play the games.

We touched on the No. 4 receiver issue a lot last week and the conundrum. You'd have to say the best receivers behind the Big Three are Stanley Morgan, Jr. and Michael Thomas, guys that are terrific special teams players and locker room go-to-guys, but they don't have a lot of production from scrimmage.

You figure they dress six receivers on Sundays because they play so much 11 personnel and one of them is going to be a punt returner. So if you go and get a No. 4 late in camp, that's going to take a core special teams player out of the mix. With Tee Higgins (shoulder) not in team drills yet, Morgan and Thomas have got the chance to flash in the pass game. They have and seem to be making a push for the undisputed No. 4.

Veteran slot man Trent Taylor has a leg up if he continues to hold onto the punt return job and he's got an edge there on 2021 undrafted college free agent Pooka Williams Jr. and Kwamie Lassiter II from this year's group. But the kids are going to get a long look.

Lassiter impressed the coaches with his routes in the spring and Williams had a good day catching the ball last week in training camp. But like last year, Williams got nicked and had to sit out a few days. As special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said last week, the most direct way for Williams or Lassiter "to pass GO," is if they're the punt returner. If they don't, they could have an edge on the other undrafted rookie receivers for two or three spots on the practice squad. Depending how they play in the preseason.

People are acting like Cordell Volson is the only other option at LG. What about D'Ante Smith? Why is he not mentioned as a candidate for LG? Seems better built to play guard than Volson. Is there an issue with what he did this offseason? Michael O'Brien La Verne, CA

MICHAEL: Smith hasn't been mentioned at left guard because he's a candidate for the swing tackle job with Isaiah Prince. Last week, he rotated with Prince at right tackle with the ones. Although he impressed as a rookie last season at left guard, I think they see him more as a tackle because of his size and athleticism and they want to get him dialed in there.

He's a guy that could end up playing everywhere but center, yet right now it seems like Carman, Volson, Adeniji and Trey Hill are going to get the shots.

Geoff, as a lifelong Bengal fan and season ticket holder, I first want to say how much I like the White Tiger look! The Bengals have announced it will be worn on Thursday, 9/29. Will they potentially wear it for more games in 2022? And, what are your thoughts and expectations in the battle for touches and role size between Perine and Evans? Will Evans break out? Chris Ramsey, Lebanon, OH

CHRIS: Thanks for the support. Pretty sharp, isn't it? It's such a popular look I'm sure there are a lot of things on the table that are being discussed. But we're still in the early stages of the White Bengal Era. Let's see what happens.

I'd say Evans had a break-out rookie year (two receiving TDs, 4.5 yards per 17 runs, nine postseason kick returns), but I hear you. No question Evans is going to get more touches, but I guess the battle is for the third-down back between Perine and Evans. Evans is going to get every shot, but don't push out Perine just yet. Remember the AFC title game and how his 41-yard touchdown catch-and-run jump-started their second half run. And his 118 Bengals carries for a 4.6 yards average. And Joe Mixon gets his share of third-down snaps, too. But, yes, at the very least you would think Evans has bigger receiving numbers this year. But maybe the guy he's competing against in that category is Hayden Hurst, the athletic new tight end they think is going to be a great fit in this offense.

Hi Geoff. I hope you're doing well. Do you think there's a chance the team goes all in on White Bengal by changing the field logo and end zones to white tiger colors too? How cool would that look? Thanks for the good work you do here. Doug Meece, Crittenden, KY

DOUG: Thank you and you too. There figures to be a lot of options with the White Bengal, which looks to be the most popular thing in Bengaldom since, well, Ja'Marr Chase hit GQ. I'm not sure how that would look on TV, but it's an interesting thought. Like I say, the White Bengal was just born. Let's watch it grow up.

Hey Geoff, If Jesse Bates returns to the field this year do you see DAX still being on the field with (Vonn) Bell and Bates in some kind of scenario? Rick Scott, Cincinnati, OH

RICK: I don't think it's an "if," Bates returns to the field, but when. And when he does, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo figures to find a way to match up Dax Hill in different defenses. In previous seasons he hasn't blinked in going to three-safety looks if the situation applies.

Hill has been used solely as a safety with Bates out and when he returns the assumption is he'll start taking some snaps at cornerback. In a December and January against Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Tom Brady, Hill should be up and running for a few plays on the corner. The Bengals love Bates and they love what they have seen in Dax. It's a good problem for Coach Lou to have so many good options in the back end of the defense.

How did Joe's appendix surgery go? What's he doing to recover? Will he play pre-season? Probably best to wait for season start. Rebecca Petheram, Wishkah Valley, WA

REBECCA: From all reports the surgery went well enough that the Bengals expect Joe Burrow to be back soon and have plenty of time to get all the reps he needs for the Sept. 11 opener at Paul Brown Stadium against the Steelers.

Playing in the preseason doesn't seem to be a pre-requisite for Burrow. He's become a face of the NFL in two seasons with a total of three preseason snaps.

Howdy from up North, Geoff! I seem to recall that Tee was planning on changing his number last season when the singular numbers came out, but decided to stay 85 until 2022. Is this still the plan? Chris Bobb, Gahanna, OH

CHRIS: Thanks for sending a wire down here. Since camp has opened with Tee Higgins wearing the iconic 85, it looks like he'll be wearing it all the way this season, including the Thursday night Isaac Curtis puts it in the Ring of Honor. Which is nice. How about a Higgins TD in that Thursday night game against the Dolphins and Tee salutes Isaac with his signature over-the-shoulder flip when he scores a touchdown?

After 2022, I guess he could still grab No. 5.

Anthony Munoz has been quoted saying Joe Klecko deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Do you plan to vote for Joe Klecko this year ? Mike vonOhlen, Somerset, NJ

MIKE: I'm a member of the 49-member Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, not the 12-member senior sub-committee that makes the nominations to the selection committee for players who have been retired at least 25 years. But most players that pass through the nominations make it through the big committee and I usually vote for the senior nominees because I trust the good work of the committee.

Klecko has a big hill to climb on this list of 12 senior finalists, three of which emerge as Hall finalists from an Aug. 16 meeting of the senior committee. Klecko had a nice career with selections to four Pro Bowls and two All Pro teams, but he's got a tough number. They all do. There's no more competitive spot in football than the senior committee finals.

Start with the Bengals' two Kennys. Riley's 65 career interceptions from 1969-83 are the most by anyone not in the Hall of Fame and fifth all time. Anderson is one of five quarterbacks who has won at least four NFL passing titles and the only one not in the Hall. Then there are two All-Decade players in Rams safety Eddie Meador and Falcons linebacker Tommy Nobis. Then there's nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker Maxie Baughan and five-time first-team All-Pro backer Chuck Howley, also a Super Bowl MVP.

Tough six to dent. But if Klecko emerges, I'll give him a long look.

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