CINCINNATI – The Bengals and their fan base are desperate to see a transformation in their offensive line.
It’s been the most repetitive, harped on, scapegoated topic of the offseason, and for good reason.
Everyone in stripes believes the team was one good offensive line away from being kings of the football world. And with Joe Burrow entering his third season, the time is now to make sure the most important player in black and orange is kept upright.
Think of what Burrow has been through in his first two seasons: Torn left ACL. Sprained right knee. Disfigured right pinky. Bruised throat. All of which resulted – directly and indirectly – from a lack of stability of pocket protection in front of him.
The Bengals added the three horsemen of protection in free agency in Alex Cappa, Ted Karras and La’el Collins.
They extended starting left tackle Jonah Williams by guaranteeing his fifth-year option entering this – his fourth – season with the team.
The biggest question mark remaining is the starting left guard between Karras and Williams. Enter Cordell Volson.
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) May 13, 2022
He was drafted in the fourth round by the Bengals out of North Dakota State. A dedicated glass-eating offensive linemen on a perennial FBS power, Volson is 6-foot-6, 315 pounds of rugged offensive line power designed to challenge Hakeem Adeniji and incumbent Jackson Carman or possibly supplant at the left guard spot, though he was the starting left tackle at NDSU.
“Yeah, definitely. I think guard is kind of my position, a physical position where you’re sticking your face in there every play,” said Volson, who played primarily at left tackle at North Dakota State. “So, definitely looking forward to that. I can’t wait to get to work and get pads on.”
Offensive line coach Frank Pollack has spent a good amount of time this offseason detailing exactly what he wants from his unit going forward. Glass-eating was one phrase. S&*t in the neck was another.
Pollack is looking for offensive linemen who are not just tough but dedicated to getting better with every practice, every game, every snap. Volson spoke clearly to that mantra on Friday after his first on-field work with Pollack and the Bengals coaching staff.
“(I’m) coming into a really good football team,” Volson said. “That’s just exciting in itself, blocking for some really good players and playing alongside some really good players. I’m just looking forward to it.”
Volson isn’t a guy that takes anything for granted. He comes from Balfour, North Dakota, a town of 20. He followed his brother, two years older, Tanner to NDSU. This first job out of college is a chance to show he belongs on an offensive line protecting one of the very best players in the game.
“When I was growing up… I didn’t have a personal trainer,” Volson said. “I didn’t have any of that stuff. My brother and I would go to the weight room and kind of make our own regiment. For the most part, a lot of who I am came from the blue-collar work that I grew up doing.
“That’s definitely something that’s helped me throughout my career, having that work ethic and that mindset where I’m not going to stop until the job’s finished.”
At North Dakota State, Volson was part of a program that has captured 17 national championships, including four of his six years at the powerhouse school. What appeals to Volson is a similar culture building with his first employer.
“Yeah, I can definitely sense that,” Volson told me of the Bengals. “I think it helps I was part of a winning culture in college. I feel like I have a good understanding of what it takes to win and be a part of that culture so that’s the most important thing, is winning. You don’t play the game to lose. You show up every day and compete and put yourself in good positions to win.”
Volson said there would be plenty of time for taking in all the sights, sounds and yes, steakhouses throughout his new hometown. Now, though, his focus is on the pigskin.
“At the end of the day, there’s one job, and that’s to play football,” Volson added. “Definitely looking forward to seeing more of the city going forward but my job right now is just to come in and compete and play football.”
Volson was one of five draft picks on the field Friday, along with 16 undrafted college free agent signees and five specially invited unsigned free agents looking to impress and earn a contract. The only one of the six players drafted by the Bengals not appearing was cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who remained in his hotel room as a precaution. Coach Zac Taylor said the second-round pick reported feeling “a little under the weather” and remained in his hotel room.
Taylor said Friday was a way for rookies to get their feet wet with their new coaches and start to process the communication systems.
“There’s a mixture of feeding them the base installs that we have but giving them a little extra to see how much they can retain, see who goes back and is really a pro about it,” Taylor told me. “They’re here to spend their time trying to put their best foot forward on the football field and not go out and enjoy Cincinnati. There’s time to do that stuff. But also, you want to make a strong first impression now. ‘Whatever the coaches told us in the meeting on the field, I can prove quickly I can retain that information and improve upon it the next day.”
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) May 13, 2022
Taylor said while it was great to have rookies on the field Friday, the real learning and downloading doesn’t begin until they’re in the meeting rooms with veteran players and staff next week as OTA practices begin.
“We just want them to understand our way of doing things,” Taylor said. “I can’t speak to where they all come from. We only care about our team compared to 31 other teams. On Monday, they’ll see first and foremost, what’s important to us when we get in team meetings and start our process that way, what’s important about our culture, how they can fit in, why they’re here. So that process really starts more for us next week and I’m excited to get into that with them.”