Bengals Roster: Super early 22-man starter projections for 2022
By Lee Metzger
LT: Jonah Williams
Jonah Williams is going to be the left tackle for at least the next two years, if not longer. There really aren’t any inspiring backups behind him, though it looks like D’Ante Smith might get the first crack at the backup role.
LG: Jackson Carman
For better or for worse, this is Jackson Carman’s job to lose. That much was preordained when the team spent a second-round draft pick on him last year. That is likely a mistake, as his 56.3 PFF grade doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any other in-house options that would appear to be major contenders for the spot, unless fourth-rounder Cordell Volson really shows out in camp.
The Bengals, for all the improvements they have made, don’t seem to be learning from their history. Joe Burrow’s first two seasons in the league have ended on sacks given up by the left guard. First, it was Michael Jordan in 2020 letting Burrow’s knee get torn up, and then it was Quinton Spain in 2021 failing to block Aaron Donald on the final offensive play of the Super Bowl.
Sadly, it appears that the weak link for this team, once again, will be left guard. This position may well determine how far this team can go.
C: Ted Karras
I’m a huge fan of Trey Hopkins. He gave the Bengals several good years and really solidified the pivot. He probably rushed back too soon from his 2020 ACL injury to make sure our franchise quarterback was protected in 2021.
The fact of the matter is, his play just substantially tailed off last season. Per Pro Football Focus, he had a 51.4-grade last season, and that just doesn’t cut it. He had to go.
While I’d love to see him back in a reserve role, Ted Karras was signed away from the Patriots to be the starter at center this season. Karras, for what it’s worth, received a 72.2 grade from PFF over 829 snaps – a significant improvement over Hopkins.
RG: Alex Cappa
The Bengals announced they were signing Cappa to a four-year, $40 million contract within minutes of the legal tampering period during free agency. It was pretty clear where they thought their biggest hole was – sorry, Hakeem Adeniji – and Cappa is all but assured to start if his health permits.
Recent reports are that he has suffered a core muscle injury, but he is expected to be fine for the start of the regular season.
RT: La’el Collins
Cincinnati has been searching for their right tackle ever since Andre Smith left town (or maybe since Willie Anderson retired, if you’re not an Andre Smith truther).
Enter, La’el Collins.
He only played in 12 games in 2021 but was a reliable starter for the Cowboys for the three seasons prior to that. He was a victim of numbers in Dallas, who had to make some tough decisions now that Ezekiel Elliott is making mega-money that his play probably doesn’t justify.
When Collins was cut, Cincinnati was the logical landing spot. Why wouldn’t you want to play for the AFC champs and block for the Tiger King? You’ve got to love a guy who referred to himself as Burrow’s “bodyguard” after inking his free-agent deal to play in the Queen City.