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Film Room: Cordell Volson looking like the starter

Volson is showing potential now that he’s a starter.

Cincinnati Bengals v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals went all the way to the Super Bowl last season despite poor play along the offensive line, but this offseason, they decided to do something about it.

They gave the right side a complete makeover, adding tackle La’el Collins, guard Alex Cappa, and center Ted Karras in free agency. They also return their best lineman, Jonah Williams, at left tackle. That only leaves one slot in question: left guard.

The team drafted Cordell Volson in the fourth round this season to challenge last year’s second-round pick Jackson Carman, whose rookie season dreadful. After a poor performance against the Cardinals and a positive COVID test, Carman stayed behind as the rest of the team headed to New Jersey. This gave Volson the opportunity to start against the Giants, and perhaps supplant Carman for good.

Let’s take a look at Volson’s performance last week.

Volson is the left guard in every clip and wears #67.

The Bengals have their leader in Joe Burrow, and priority one is keeping him safe.

Volson had a few issues giving up penetration in this game. In this clip specifically, #91 gets to his hip very quickly and is able to gain as much depth as the defensive end.

Now take a look at the still pictures below, which were taken from this clip.

The first picture is just after the ball has snapped and every offensive linemen except Volson has taken a step.

The second picture shows the defensive lineman, already on Volson’s hip

The defensive lineman is able to get the jump on him because Volson was late off the ball. This is a very correctable issue.

What stands out about Volson again and again is his tenacity. As Andrew Russell points out in the tweet above, Volson recovers very well despite a slow start to this play. Volson is a rookie. He is going to make mistakes, but he has the attitude to fight and make up for those mistakes. This will help him as he learns and develops through NFL experience.

That word, “develops,” is a scary one for Bengals fans, who have understandable doubts about offensive linemen developing based on past-experience. As we’ll see in the next two clips, Volson gives you a reason to believe that he can improve and develop throughout his rookie season. In fact, he can correct his mistakes during the course of the game.

This is a slide protection, so when the ball is snapped, Volson should be setting to the outside, expecting to block #90 in the B-gap.

When the defender stunts inside, Volson needs to keep his eyes on the outside gap in case another defender enters that gap. Again, he is responsible for the gap, not the player. The defensive end could stunt to the inside or, as it is in this case, there could be a blitz.

Volson not only steps down with the stunting lineman, he brings his eyes inside with him. As a result, he does not see the blitz until it is too late, and he is too far out of position to do anything about it.

Later in the game, Volson saw another B-gap blitz, and did an excellent job of picking it up.

Both the protection and the defensive look are different on this play, nevertheless it demonstrates that Volson learned from his mistake.

This time, it’s a play action pass and the defensive lineman is in the A-gap. This makes it a little easier, because pre-snap Volson knows that picking up the blitz is his responsibility.

Volson, once again, steps down, but this time he keeps his eyes on the second level. When the blitz comes, he is able to get on the defender’s hip and push him past the quarterback.

The biggest area that Volson needs to improve is his balance. He has a tendency to lean on defenders, which gives them an opportunity to use his strength against him.

That’s exactly what happens here, as the defensive lineman pulls Volson forward and takes the inside gap.

To avoid this, Volson needs to keep his weight over his feet. This will allow him to keep his balance and to move more fluidly.

Balance issues are common with highly aggressive, physical players, and Volson is certainly that.

He leads the way for this touchdown run, driving the defender into the end zone.

Volson can make a big impact as a run-blocker, but in the past he has not moved particularly well in space, and as a result struggled to block linebackers on the second level. That appears to be something that Frank Pollack and company have worked on with him.

In this clip, comes off of the combo block with his body in an awkward position, however, he recovers, and makes a great block on the linebacker.

In this clip, the Bengals are running the ball to the weak side. Volson and Hakeem Adeniji are on the strong side. They have a combo block and are responsible for the defensive tackle and the middle linebacker.

Volson engages with the defensive tackle until Adeniji is able to control the block. The linebacker’s alignment puts Volson at a disadvantage. The linebacker flows fast to the play side, but Volson is able to engage and push him past the play, allowing the running back to cut back.

In true glass-eater fashion, Volson finishes the block with the linebacker on the ground, then pushes the linebacker down again as he gets up.

Volson is a nasty, physical player with a high-motor. Although he will make mistakes, he has demonstrated that he will put in the work to improve and can adjust even during the course of a game. He will not be perfect, but his effort and demeanor will make up for his shortcomings in the short term and propel him to develop into a quality starter in the long term.