Impressions and Notes From The Bengals Rookie Minicamp


The Cincinnati Bengals have closed shop for the team's rookie minicamp. Here's a few of our impressions, notes and other things being said about the newest Bengals players.

Certainly May stories may promote the idea of saturating talent brimming over the edges; though most excitement is instigated by the insatiable desire to satisfy a football fix. Rookie minicamp isn't so much the advertisement and awe of talent, as it is exposing rookies to the playbook.

Players expected to make the roster were be coached up, like Shawn Williams, Cobi Hamilton, Margus Hunt, Rex Burkhead and the team's triumvirate of offensive linemen (all of whom practiced well this weekend). Others with the promise of talent are also being noticed, like Jayson DiManche and Onterio McCalebb.

At this point the Bengals have offered one known contract to defensive tackle Terrence Stephens, but Cincinnati must release someone to make room on the 90-man offseason roster. That could come on Monday.

+ Much of the rookie minicamp focused on the Bengals first two selections of the 2013 NFL draft. The coaching staff is beaming with excitement about the possibilities that Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard bring. Tight end Tyler Eifert was anything but, straying across the line of scrimmage and making impressive receptions. Bengals running back Giovani Bernard caught several screen passes over the weekend (while sprinting down the sidelines with a trail of dust behind him), using the speed and hands that makes Jay Gruden salivate with possibilities.

"I’ve been impressed with how they are studying and working hard. When they mess up, you can tell it hurts them and they don’t want to do it again," Gruden said via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Those two guys are focused on what they can bring to the team and they are going to be very good players."

+ Practicing red zone offense on Sunday, Eifert lined up in the slot and then split wide left on consecutive plays. Eifert, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, Mohamed Sanu? Oh, my.

+ Cobi Hamilton had a great camp, according to most reports, used primarily as an outside receiver that made impressive receptions in traffic. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was impressed.

"He'll challenge to make the squad and become a player," Gruden said via "Cobi's an exciting guy. He's bigger than I thought he was. He's taller. He's got good stride to him, he's got good hands, he's tough. In Arkansas he ran a lot of crossing routes so we knew he wasn't afraid to go across the middle. We like Cobi. We're impressed with what he's done so far."

Hamilton figures to battle Brandon Tate and Ryan Whalen for the final two spots on the roster. Taveon Rogers, Roy Roundtree, Dane Sanzenbacher and Tyrone Goard, who dropped multiple passes during rookie minicamp, are determined to make an impression to upset the three-man battle for two vacancies. It's unknown if the Bengals will sign teammate John Goodman, who has known Eifert since before high school.

"That receiver room just gets stronger and stronger, younger and younger," Gruden said. "(Hamilton has) big strong hands, long arms, long body; he definitely looks the part. You take a guy like that and you know he can handle it mentally, you've got something."

Gruden was also impressed with team's second sixth-round selection, Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead.

"He's got great feet and quick; it's what we thought we had," Gruden said. "He's a great option for us. He's little bit thicker and bigger to handle the pass protection. He's tough as nails, we know that."

However despite being on the field Sunday, Burkhead didn't "take part on the practice", writes the Cincinnati Enquirer. "The reason was undetermined."

+ Onterio McCalebb's conversion from running back to cornerback is developing as one would expect. He has the speed, but "technique is a work in progress." Based on the team's prior experiments shifting a player from one side of the ball to the other, along with the current cornerback roster, McCalebb is a strong practice squad candidate if he's not ready for the 53-man roster; which means he'll have to make significant progress from now until August. Anything is possible for a kid looking to Bengals legend Ken "The Rattler" Riley.

One of the things McCalebb isn't comfortable with yet is back-pedaling.

"That’s one thing I’ve been having problems with," McCalebb said after Saturday's first practice. "I haven’t backpedaled in I don’t know how many years it was. It was in high school, like 2008. All through my Auburn career I played running back. So I’m just trying to get the feel for it more, and hopefully I can get everything down pat and help the team win and make it to the playoffs."

+ Margus Hunt is extremely raw, but with coaching and training, the hope is that his physical gifts translates into the NFL. Zimmer told Hunt to identify himself.

"He's got a lot of physical skills. He's smart. He catches on," Zimmer said. "He can run. I told him yesterday, he kind of has to know who he is. He's not a wiggle guy, he's a power guy. He's strong, physical, he's got good arms. Great strength and great speed, so he has to know what he is. He's not going to juke somebody. He's got to power on them, make them sit down, and then be able to make moves off of it."

Don't expect Hunt to be a major contributor on defense early. Cincinnati selected him based on his physical abilities. Yet his football abilities are extremely raw. Who else is excited about Hunt? Special teams coach Darrin Simmons.

"It’s kind of hard to not be good at (blocking kicks) when you are as quick as he is and you are 6-8 and have long arms," he said.

+ Zimmer, who spent the weekend coaching Shawn Williams in pass coverage, was also fairly impressed with linebacker Sean Porter. Williams wasn't asked to play coverage as much, but Zimmer is encouraged by his athleticism. Regardless, Zimmer tried silencing those that believe Williams will start on day one. He needs work, but the reality is that strong safety is extremely short-handed.

+ If there's an undrafted free agent that makes the 53-man roster this year, the early favorite is linebacker Jayson DiManche. He spent the weekend working at strong-side linebacker.

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