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Film Room: Can Cordell Volson be the Bengals’ LG?

Volson’s film shows massive upside.

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line had issues long before last season, and fans are desperate for the team to do whatever they can to protect Joe Burrow.

That’s why no fan base gets more hyped about drafting an offensive lineman than this one, even on Day 3 of the draft.

The Bengals drafted almost exclusively defensive players in the 2022 NFL Draft. Their one departure from this strategy came in Round 4 when they selected North Dakota State offensive lineman Cordell Volson.

Volson played mostly tackle in college, but is projects as a guard at the next level. Let’s take a look at what he brings to Cincinnati.

The Bengals are trying to recreate their offensive line. That’s not just about their skill level or athleticism; it’s about their demeanor.

Volson is the right tackle in this clip (the farthest player in white to the left). The defensive end who he is assigned to block steps inside as the ball is snapped. It takes Volson a second to get himself into position to make the block, but once he does, he drives the defender down field and finishes the block.

This is the attitude the Bengals are looking for.

Of course, there is a big adjustment going from any college program to the NFL, but Volson is from a small school in the Division-1 Football Championship Subdivision. That’s certainly a bigger jump than going from the SEC, ACC, or Big10 to the NFL, but it’s not as big as you might think.

Volson played for the North Dakota State Bison, who have won 9 National Championships since 2011. He was able to play five seasons, including the Covid spring season, and was a member of four of those championship teams, including two undefeated seasons. NDSU plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, which is sends multiple teams to the playoffs every season and had nine players drafted in 2022.

In the clip above, he stops one of those draftees cold.

Volson is the right tackle (third player in green from the left). The Bison are running a pin-and-pull scheme where he blocks down, allowing the right guard to pull to the outside. This is an excellent demonstration of his strength against Indianapolis Colts’ 5th Round selection Eric Johnson.

In this clip, the Bison are trying to run the ball to the outside.

For that to happen, Volson must reach block the defensive end (#94). His first step sets up the perfect angle to make the block. Next, he engages and swings his hips into the hole. The defender gets some penetration, but it is too late and not in the right gap. Volson has successfully reached the defender, creating a running lane to the outside.

Volson is an extremely aggressive blocker, but he is inconsistent with his technique. Blockers need to keep their knees bents and their pad level low. This gives them a mechanical advantage. At times, Volson stands straight up and loses his leverage.

It’s also important for an offensive lineman to keep his feet under his body, so he doesn’t fall on his face. This is another problem that Volson has, as he throws his body into blocks and sometimes leans on the defender.

Volson is the right tackle (the furthest player in green to the right) in this clip. He starts off strong, but because he is high and leaning, the defender is able to toss him aside and get involved in the tackle.

This is an issue that can definitely be coached out of him, but it will need to be addressed before he can become a quality starter in the NFL.

Volson is the right tackle in this clip (the second player in green from the left). He and the right guard are combo-blocking the three-technique and the linebacker.

Volson comes out low and gets a good push on the three-technique. This puts the guard in a good position to make the block and allows Volson to work up to the second level. Unfortunately, when he gets to the linebacker, he’s off balance. The allows the linebacker to quickly disengage and throw Volson to the ground.

Volson has a tendency to be out of control when he gets to the second level, and as a result, he misses a lot of blocks.

When he is able to get to the block under control, watch out!

On this play, he drives the defender ten yards down field before knocking him down.

He has some things to clean up, but plays like this show you what he can be when he puts it all together.

A few things about this play are fascinating.

First, this is an unbalanced, tackle-over, formation. Volson, who is normally the right tackle, lines up outside the left tackle, like a tight end (the farthest player to the left in green).

The second is that he and the left tackle are combo blocking, but the linebacker he works up to is standing up on the edge.

He blocks the defensive end just enough for the left tackle is able to take over. Then kicks out the linebacker to open up the running lane just in time.

He has much better body control here than in the previous clip.

Although he improved at his pro day, Volson did not test well at the combine.`On the field, he demonstrates the requisite athleticism to succeed in this offense.

In this clip, he is once again the right tackle (second player in green from the left).

He pulls to the outside and kicks out the force player. He gets there with speed and with his body under control. This is an excellent block.

Although we all like to see Joe Mixon run wild, it’s the other Joe that we are really concerned about.

Cordell Volson made 41 career starts for the Bison and did not allow a single sack. This is a bit deceptive because they run a lot of full slide protection and don’t put their tackles on an island as often as many teams do, but zero is still zero.

In this clip, he lines up at right guard (second player in white from the left). He does a great job moving his feet to stay in front of the defender. He also shows a great anchor, holding his ground and not getting pushed back into the pocket.

Missouri Valley defensive coordinators seem to love running twists on the defensive line. Volson saw them constantly and consistently picked them up.

In this clip, Volson is the right tackle (#67). He takes a step to the outside, preparing to block the defensive end. When he sees the end loop to the inside, he steps inside, getting hip-to-hip with the guard. This allows the guard to come off and pick up the looper, while Volson takes over the block on the defensive tackle.

This is absolutely text book.

Twists are very common in the NFL, and the Bengals offensive line has struggled with them in recent years. It takes a high level of processing to see and react to a twist, and excellent athleticism to pick it up. Volson has both.

Volson is a fierce run blocker, but his technique is inconsistent, particularly late in the play. He gets too high and leans, which can cause him to fall off blocks. He can also get out of control when he climbs to the second level and miss linebackers completely. His pass blocking is impressive, and one area where he is incredible consistent is picking up twists. He is extremely impressive in this area. If he can clean up his technique and control issues, Volson has the potential to become a quality starter for the Bengals.