Just be good enough. Average enough, even. That’s been the hope for Cincinnati Bengals rookie left guard Cordell Volson. At least, that’s been the hope on the outside looking in.
Through his first seven starts, Volson has been along for the usual rookie offensive lineman roller coaster. Pass-rushers of elite caliber have taken advantage of him, and more suitable matchups have gone in his favor. He’s a long way from FCS football in the plains of the midwest, but sure enough, he’s looking more and more at home in Bengals stripes.
In his last three games, Volson ranks ninth out of 19 starting rookie offensive linemen in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking grade. When looking just at guards, he’s third out of seven starters.
Volson’s fulfilling the hope, and making worthwhile impressions on those who truly matter.
“Every week there is something new he, maybe, hasn’t seen that is new for him,” Offensive line coach Frank Pollack told The Athletic. “But he’s tough. He’s not wavering at all. He’s got the right mindset. He’s never down. He’s never up. He’s even-keel every day. He’s the same guy on every day and every play. He doesn’t waver when he does have a bad rep. He learns from it, he assesses and moves on and gets better from it. He’s improved every week. I’m excited for how he’s trending.”
The fact that we’re here at this point is a standalone achievement.
In the offseason, the Bengals were forced to start fresh at four different o-line positions. No matter the quality of the eventual replacements they would find, this is typically a recipe for a rough acclimation period. We saw that firsthand during the team’s 0-2 start.
Once free agents Alex Cappa, Ted Karras, and La’el Collins were in the fold, attention was turned to the final vacancy. There was still an upper echelon thirst to fill the left guard void. Re-signing Quinton Spain appeared to be an acceptable option, but fans wanted more. Go get J.C. Tretter and convince Karras to play left guard instead of center. Pounce on Tyler Linderbaum if his NFL Draft experience does last until the end of the first round. Do what you can to make this line as great as possible.
Who would’ve known the final piece of this seemingly impossible puzzle was a left tackle from North Dakota State.
The drastic jump from college to the NFL is hard enough, and Volson made it at a position he hadn’t played since 2020 (it was just for one game). Most importantly, he’s been able to work symbiotically with two veteran teammates on each side of him in Karras at center, and Jonah Williams at left tackle.
Karras and Williams may be veterans, but they’ve each been accustomed to new surroundings in their own way. Karras hasn’t been on the same team in consecutive years since 2018-19 with the New England Patriots. He bounced from New England, to the Miami Dolphins, back to New England, and now resides in Cincinnati in a four-year span. Even when he made his return to Foxborough, the Patriots had him play left guard instead of his normal spot at center.
Williams’ experiences have involved a constant revolving door at left guard. In his first two years of starting, FIVE different players manned the position next to him. That’s just too much turnover to establish any kind of meaningful chemistry, but Williams has carved out a decent start to his career regardless.
Williams likely expected one of those five, Jackson Carman, to retain his position as offseason programs began, but Carman couldn’t make it through training camp before Volson became left guard No. 6. The process would start all over again.
That process may very well still be ongoing, but it has indeed reached a functional stage. Volson and his brothers in arms provided some pleasing examples in their latest game against the Atlanta Falcons.