Guard your grill.
It was the worst kept secret in the NFL that the Cincinnati Bengals needed to improve their offensive line this offseason. They made a couple of big moves in this area prior to the NFL Draft by hiring Frank Pollack as offensive line coach and run-game coordinator, then brought in veteran Riley Reiff to play right tackle.
Still, it was expected that their Round 2 selection would be an offensive tackle.
Indeed, after a trade back, they selected Jackson Carman, who played left tackle for the Clemson Tigers last season.
Carman is an excellent athlete. He has a great punch and gets movement in the run game. Where he struggles is with speed on the edge. He played half of last season with a herniated disk, which clearly made matters worse.
Later in the season, he played notably higher in pass protection, but with two weeks of rest between the final game of the regular season and the ACC Championship, there was a marked difference in Carman’s performance.
Still, even early in the season, pass blocking on the perimeter was not his strength. That’s why the pick made much more sense when Bengals head coach Zac Taylor made it clear that Carman will be playing guard as a rookie.
Reiff at right tackle and Carman at right guard gives the Bengals a huge upgrade on that side. Reiff’s experience will be an asset to Carman as he transitions to the NFL and there is always a chance that he could go the Andrew Whitworth route and bump out tackle in a year when Reiff’s contract expires.
For now, let’s focus on Carman’s potential as a guard.
One of the biggest problems the Bengals’ offensive line has had over the past two seasons, has been picking up defensive line twists. Carman demonstrates the movement and processing skills to adjust to defensive line movement.
Carman initially sets for the outside rush in this clip. As the defensive end breaks to the inside, Carman comes inside, not only with his body, but with his eyes. He steps down with his inside foot. Seeing the defensive tackle coming outside he picks up the block, passing the defensive end off to the left guard. As the defensive tackle continues to work to the outside, Carman maintains the block. This was a seamless pickup.
In this clip from early in the season, you can see how Carman can struggle with speed on the edge, and how he can make up for it. The defensive end gets to his hip quickly, but Carman’s strong punch nearly stops him in his tracks.
The defender rebounds and tries to use a pass rush move, but Carman relentlessly chops down on his arms until he falls flat on his face (aided by one final punch to the shoulder from Carman).
Carman’s ability to stop a pass rusher with his punch and his quick hands will serve him well as a guard.
Joe Mixon and the Bengals’ rushing attack will get a big boost from Carman. He is what I like to call a “people mover.” He locks on to defenders and drives them down the field.
In this clip he drives the defensive lineman across the formation even knocking the guard off of his block in the process.
This backside reach is the best block I’ve seen Carman make.
The guard comes off the ball and strikes the 3-technique, but he has his eyes on the linebacker the whole time and quickly releases. This gives Carman just enough time to get to the block. His first two steps are extremely quick. This puts him in position to engage the defender on his third step.
Next, he extends his inside arm, turning the defenders shoulder and opening the door. Carman gets his feet around, sinks his hips, and finishes the block.
This is an excellent display of his strength, use of leverage, and quick feet.
This clip pretty much speaks for itself. Clemson is running a screen with Carman releasing. He takes a step to the inside and then releases wide to the outside with incredible speed. Clemson’s roster listed Carman at 335 pounds and this is the kind of speed he has at that size. The linebacker gets in front of him, but Carman is able to get a shot on him and open up the play.
This athleticism will be on display not only on screen plays, but in the run game when he is asked to block linebackers or pull.
His acceleration was on display on that screen, but this one is the real eye-catcher.
Carman is in front of the ball carrier running down the sideline and absolutely flattens the first defender to come his way. Carman hits him so hard that the defender is actually knocked into another defensive player, giving Carman a two-for-one.
Zac Taylor was adamant after the Reiff signing that Reiff would play right tackle and Jonah Williams would be the left tackle. He was consistent with that message when the team drafted Carman. Jackson Carman played left tackle at Clemson, but for now, he is the right guard in Cincinnati. He could eventually make the transition to right tackle. but if he ends up being high-quality starter at guard and never plays a down at tackle, that was still a good pick.
Carman is an incredible athlete and fierce blocker. His strengths will be on display at guard where he should be expected to show quick feet in pass protection and level defenders in the run game throughout the 2021 season.