Cincinnati Bengals: Lavelle Westbrooks

CINCINNATI -- Two Cincinnati Bengals minicamp practices are in the books with a third set to begin about two hours after this post goes live.

Once that practice ends, the Bengals will be done with the mandatory minicamp portion of their offseason, and will slide back into voluntary organized team activities for three more days before breaking for the summer. After next week, the Bengals won't be en masse at Paul Brown Stadium until July 24, when training camp begins.

For now, though, let's catch you up on Wednesday's practice with the following observations:
  • Again, it must be stressed that it's only June and players aren't even wearing pads. So there isn't much to be gleaned from these practices. Still, it's worth noting that the drills the Bengals are going through right now will at least set the foundation for things they will want to hone when training camp opens.
  • Dalton
    Dalton
    It was all about the two-minute drill Wednesday afternoon as Cincinnati's offense and defense worked on end-of-game scenarios during a pair of 11-on-11 drills. Quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell each had to lead their respective first- and second-team units downfield in a hurry-up scenario. Coaches tried to simulate as much of the drama of a two-minute drill as they could. Coordinators Paul Guenther and Hue Jackson radioed calls to their middle linebackers and quarterbacks. Timeouts were acknowledged. Pacing was quickened.
  • After moving his offense into scoring territory with 20 seconds left, Dalton, on a third-and-short, looked down the right sideline toward receiver Marvin Jones who had beaten his defender. Dalton's throw was just out of reach, stalling the drive. Had that pass been caught, it would have been an easy touchdown. Perhaps in a game, Jones would have been a step faster to settle under it. Perhaps not.
  • A pair of other two-minute rallies ended later in the day when rookie cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks picked off a pass from Campbell that floated near midfield, and when backup linebacker Sean Porter tipped another Campbell pass before intercepting it deep in his own red zone.
  • Like he has throughout the organized team activities and minicamp practices, rookie Russell Bodine once again took first-team reps at center with Mike Pollak out nursing a knee injury. Bodine spoke Wednesday about the increased pace the Bengals are incorporating this year offensively, and said it didn't trouble him much. His college offense at North Carolina tried to get plays off 12 seconds into the play clock. That is a quick tempo.
  • Dunlap
    Defensive end Carlos Dunlap spent much of Tuesday's practice playing right end. On Wednesday he was back to more of a rotation between right and left end. Expect those rotations to continue into training camp and through the season as the Bengals try to confuse opposing offensive lines. Dunlap won't be the only one roving around the line, either, Guenther said Wednesday. Ends Margus Hunt and Wallace Gilberry also will do their share of switching.
  • Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth was a scratch on Wednesday. He didn't participate in drills but was a coach of sorts, giving advice to some of the younger linemen and working with them on technique. We are not sure why Whitworth was a scratch, but it didn't appear to be anything too serious.
  • With Whitworth out, backup Marshall Newhouse got repetitions at left tackle. Next to him at left guard, Tanner Hawkinson continues to fill the void left by Clint Boling, who is rehabbing from an ACL injury. When Hawkinson isn't playing that position T.J. Johnson has been.
  • As the Bengals try to pick up their tempo, rhythm becomes very important. The only way rhythm can be established between the quarterbacks and receivers is for both groups to go through these early June practices at full speed. That was the point Jackson stressed early in the practice to A.J. Green, who wasn't getting into and coming out of breaks as quickly as he needs to. "Everything you do, A.J., has to be at full speed," Jackson said.
  • We mentioned it in the Day 1 observation notes, and it's worth mentioning again: seventh-round pick James Wright is one rookie to have on your radar. He has impressed at times during the minicamp, and really got a little attention at one point in Wednesday's workout when he caught a bomb in the middle of the field from Dalton. After beating his defender deep, he worked his way over from the right side of the field and caught in stride a perfectly placed pass. The defender went for the ball and failed in his attempt. Wright easily glided in for a touchdown.
We spent part of Wednesday discussing the Cincinnati Bengals' cornerback situation and whether the position was an area of weakness. We're still debating that in the poll that's in the link, but the following is evidence that the Bengals' corners and safeties actually did fairly well last season.

I present Thursday's Bengals factoid: 20.4

OK, so we're only two decimal spots away from Wednesday's factoid of 20.2. So, no, not a big change there. That particular factoid, however, dealt with the difference in completion percentage for quarterback Andy Dalton on long throws versus shorter and intermediate routes last year. His completion percentage on shorter and intermediate throws was 20.2 percent higher than his completion percentage on deep passes. For the exercise, "deep" stood for anything that traveled 15 yards or more in the air.

As for 20.4, this number refers to the disrupted dropback percentage Bengals defensive backs had last season. Let's make it clear, this percentage only pertains to safeties and cornerbacks. It doesn't directly relate to what other defensive units did in order to disrupt opposing quarterback dropbacks. Of course, the linemen and linebackers did have an indirect impact on this figure. That's based purely on the varying forms of pressure they put on opposing quarterbacks or even the lack of pressure they also had on occasion. The better the pressure up front, the better the players on the back end had a chance at breaking up or intercepting a pass downfield.

Now, what all does disrupted dropback percentage entail? It's a rate that's calculated by adding the sacks, interceptions, defended passes and batted balls a defense or defensive player has, and dividing that by the opponents total number of dropbacks. That means that 20.4 percent of the 674 dropbacks the Bengals' defensive backs were part of in 2013 resulted in disrupted plays for the unit. That was good enough to rank sixth among all defensive back units for the year. Buffalo's DBs paced the league in this statistic, disrupting 23.6 percent of the dropbacks that occurred on their watch. The Super Bowl champion Seahawks, praised for having arguably the league's best overall secondary, ranked just ahead of the Bengals at fifth. Seattle's DBs disrupted 20.8 percent of their opposing dropbacks.

Cincinnati's relatively strong secondary play correlates to its overall solid defensive play. The Bengals ranked third in total defense last season and were fourth in ESPN Stats & Information's defensive QBR rating. Opposing quarterbacks compiled an average QBR of 39.0 (on a 100-point scale) against them. Seattle had the lowest defensive QBR in the NFL at 29.0. Buffalo ranked second at 36.0.

See? Disrupted dropback percentage, defensive QBR, total defense ... it all relates.

While the Bengals are indeed a year older and have one of their best players returning from his second major injury in three seasons, they still bring back a solid core of last year's defensive backfield. Their only losses this offseason have been Brandon Ghee and Chris Crocker. Ghee jetted off to San Diego early in free agency and Crocker had been expected to return to retirement. With their departures, Cincinnati added veterans Danieal Manning and R.J. Stanford and rookies Darqueze Dennard, Lavelle Westbrooks and Isaiah Lewis. The Bengals' first-round pick, Dennard has a chance to play in a limited capacity this season. In theory, though, it should be tough for him to crack the deep cornerback depth chart. The Bengals are, after all, returning the heart of a group that ranked sixth in the league in disrupting quarterback dropbacks.
We're back this Sunday with the second installment of this weekend's Cincinnati Bengals mailbag.

After a few interesting queries Saturday, we have five more that hopefully will shed a bit more light on the Bengals and their offseason for you. While Saturday's mailbag mostly revolved around the Bengals' defense, Sunday's has to do primarily with the offense. We start with a question about both sides of the ball, as we try to figure out where things stand with Andy Dalton and Vontaze Burfict's contract talks:

Quarterback AJ McCarron is now officially under contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The team announced Thursday afternoon that its fifth-round pick, as well as its seventh-round cornerback selection, Lavelle Westbrooks, had signed their rookie contracts. No financial details were provided, but both are expected to make just under $500,000 in base salary in 2014, according to the rookie wage scale outlined by the NFL's latest collective bargaining agreement.

We'll update those official numbers when we get them.

McCarron and Westbrooks became the third and fourth Bengals draft picks to sign, joining sixth-round pick Marquis Flowers and seventh-round receiver James Wright. Flowers and Wright signed their contracts Wednesday, according to the Bengals.

A three-time national champion and starter on Alabama's past two national title teams, McCarron brings a measure of success to a quarterback group that has seen its share of changes this offseason. Backups Josh Johnson and Zac Robinson were released by the Bengals this offseason, and fellow former Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy left on his own, venturing into retirement after just three years in the league. The former Bengals practice-squad quarterback now works for ESPN as an analyst for the SEC Network.

The Bengals added Jason Campbell and Matt Scott this offseason. As a 10-year veteran, Campbell brings a level of experience to the position. Scott joins the roster after having served as Jacksonville's practice-squad quarterback all of last season. He was released by the Jaguars last week.

Andy Dalton remains the Bengals' starting quarterback. McCarron enters next week's organized team activities (OTAs) as the likely No. 3 player at the position.

Westbrooks started 41 games at Georgia Southern, where he earned second-team All-Southern Conference honors in 2013.

Cincinnati's four remaining unsigned draft picks are first-round cornerback Darqueze Dennard, second-round running back Jeremy Hill, third-round defensive end Will Clarke and fourth-round center Russell Bodine.

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