Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Bengals minicamp, Day 1: Gresham there
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- Since Tuesday ended up being a more news-filled day on the Cincinnati Bengals beat than anticipated, the following observations from the first day of the Bengals' minicamp are coming a little later than anticipated, too.
But here they are, in all their glory. In no particular order, a few observations from Cincinnati's first minicamp practice:
As Leon Hall enters the final stage of the rehab process, tight end Jermaine Gresham was at the workout, albeit as a spectator. According to our Field Yates, Gresham has been missing the past few weeks because he's been recovering from hernia surgery performed earlier this offseason. He had previously missed the first two organized team activities, both open and voluntary, with an injury coach Marvin Lewis declined to give specifics on. His sighting at the minicamp was his first since he was spotted during voluntary workouts in early May.
Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert runs through drills on the sideline during Tuesday's minicamp.
Fellow tight end Tyler Eifert returned to practice after missing the last open OTA with a shoulder injury. He was limited for part of Tuesday's workout, though. After beginning the session in uniform, he shed his jersey in the final hour to conduct conditioning exercises off to the side. Along with him, Hall went through a conditioning circuit. Injured left guard Clint Boling also went through his share of rehab exercises to help his ACL get back to 100 percent.
Another tight end, unrestricted Bengals free agent Alex Smith, not only re-signed Tuesday, but he practiced. It was his first practice since December, when he dislocated his wrist during a start he made for both Gresham and Eifert who were out with injuries.
The only absence was defensive tackle Devon Still, who was cleared to leave last week to attend to personal matters. Still announced via social media last week that his young daughter was recently diagnosed with cancer.
As far as on-field notes, the phrase of the day was "Dalton to Green" (or "Dalton to Jones," worked, too). Showing off what offensive coordinator Hue Jackson says are real improvements, quarterback Andy Dalton was right in sync with receivers A.J. Green and Marvin Jones. He completed several difficult passes to them in one-on-one, seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills. Arguably his best throw of the day was a cross-field bomb to Green that was thrown from the left hashmark to the right sideline. He had a couple of other deep passes to Green that turned heads, too.
The moment when Dalton caused the most audible "ohhs" and "ahhs" among his teammates, though, came during the rushing portion of an 11-on-11 drill. Dalton faked an option pitch that completely duped the nearby defender, and the quarterback kept going through the hole untouched. In addition to all the running the Bengals are going to do this year, read options and other quarterback runs could be part of the arsenal, too. As much as his arm gets criticized, Dalton does have mobility that was seldom used the past three years. Late last season they started running more zone read for him. When they did, the offense more times than not, picked up big yards whether he kept the ball or not.
Along with Green and Jones, rookie James Wright seemed to catch his share of attention from the coaches. His cuts looked crisp, and his moves in single coverage drew regular praise from Jackson. If there's a first-year player on offense to watch during training camp, it could be him. The Bengals already are loaded at receiver, but the seventh-round pick stands a good chance to shake up the lower reaches of the depth chart.
Brandon Tate also had a strong showing during the practice, catching most everything thrown his way. Often he was matched against cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who struggled to break up passes both deep and short against him. Kirkpatrick also seemed to struggle with figuring out exactly where Tate was going when he made a move. Perhaps it's simply springtime adjustments, but Kirkpatrick certainly will be one to keep an eye on as Cincinnati continues tweaking its deep cornerback group. Rookie Darqueze Dennard continues to receive action both in the slot and on the outside.
Center Russell Bodine will be another rookie to track during training camp. He received first-team snaps Tuesday, getting an opportunity to play as veteran Mike Pollak continues rehabbing from a knee injury that he said flared up earlier in the offseason. We'll have more on Bodine later in the week, but Jackson, Pollak and others credited the way he's adapted to the offense so far.
During the two open OTAs the past two weeks Carlos Dunlap was primarily lining up at the right defensive end position. During Tuesday's minicamp, he switched a little more than he had between the left and right end spots. He'll likely end up playing his share of both positions during the season, although it seems he primarily is in line to take over Michael Johnson's duties at right end. We'll have more on just how he's embracing that role change later this week, too.