It's amazing when you think about it. The level of talent that's permeating through the lesser ranks may not directly contribute with much significance this year, but the promise of this continued youth movement greatly enhances tomorrow.
We've already seen evidence of the team's conveyor belt of replacement players, from Clint Boling to Devon Still, from Brandon Thompson to Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. This year we're expecting George Iloka, and even Brandon Ghee. Introduced today for the future are names like Sean Porter, Margus Hunt, Tanner Hawkinson, and Cobi Hamilton. And that doesn't include impact players acquired recently like Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert, Kevin Zeitler and Dre Kirkpatrick.
PLAYERS ON THE RISE
George Iloka: After being selected in the fifth-round of the 2012 NFL Draft, George Iloka had a relatively quiet rookie season. He played seven games, generated a team-high two special teams tackles against Cleveland (Sept. 16) but spent the final month of the season as a gameday inactive. Now he's a candidate to start at strong safety with productive showings early during training camp.
Cobi Hamilton: Strong rookie minicamp with serviceable offseason program, Hamilton has been a solid contributor and even stronger than expected as a sixth-round pick.
Dre Kirkpatrick: Having gone from an injury-saturated season in 2012 to being, once again, a piece for a promising future. And you can tell he's ready to get it out of his system, often pacing on the sidelines and making good plays during practice. Barring any setbacks within the next calendar year, if Kirkpatrick continues to develop and impress, I think the expiration date for Terence Newman's starting job is sooner rather than later.
The Bengals have the day off on Tuesday. They'll resume practice on Wednesday (3 p.m) and Friday (3 p.m) on the practice fields and hold the first of two Family Night sessions on Thursday (6 p.m). Cincinnati has another day off on Saturday and then concludes the week with a one-hour session on Sunday before heading to Atlanta. They won't practice again in Cincinnati until August 10.
After the Bengals activated offensive tackle Andre Smith, wide receiver Brandon Tate, and long-snapper Bryce Davis on Monday, the team is down to four players on their respective injury lists: Cedric Peerman, Chris Pressley, Zac Robinson, and Bernard Scott. And based on how much ice is constantly being applied to Scott's knee, I'd be surprised if we see him at all during the preseason.
Several veterans also had the day off on Monday. According to Bengals.com, Whitworth's three-day vacation (he sat on Sunday and Monday, team has an off day on Tuesday) was planned. Clint Boling, Leon Hall, Terence Newman, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis also took the day off on Monday. And Carlos Dunlap left the field with a trainer, "but it doesn't look to be serious."
NOTE OF THE DAY
Comes from Joe Reedy with his impression about Josh Johnson from Monday's practice.
Josh Johnson might have had the best day of all the quarterbacks. He showed a nice touch on deep passes and looked more confident with the pads on. The best throw was a bomb to a wide-open Cobi Hamilton after a mixup in coverage between Taylor Mays, Dre Kirkpatrick and Chris Lewis-Harris.
Though we're not keeping direct track of these things, the overall impression from the local media is that Johnson is clearly performing better by the sheer number of updates regarding Johnson compared to John Skelton.
SLOW PROGRESS WITH A.J. GREEN
The word is, according to Geoff Hobson, is that A.J. Green may not practice until the Bengals return to practice following their preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
+ A good story about Vontaze Burfict by Paul Daugherty and the Cincinnati Enquirer. Burfict was a natural middle linebacker that backed up Rey Maualuga last year. When Thomas Howard went down during a Thursday practice before the second game of the season, they decided at that moment to move Burfict to WILL.
Burfict spent that night in the gym at Paul Brown Stadium, with linebackers coach Paul Guenther. Guenther used the night to teach Burfict to play a position he'd never played. Guenther set up chairs all over the gym – Marvin's La-Z-Boy is the tight end! -- and began teaching. Fifteen games later, Burfict was leading the Bengals in tackles.
+ Bengals right tackle Andre Smith, who missed four sessions after being on the team's NFI list, felt a little rusty but had no problems with the playbook. Currently Smith needs to get into football shape, which he has more than enough time to do.
"We've just got to back sure he gets his legs under him and he can handle the heat play after play after play and not just take two and sit out," Gruden said. "He's got to be able to handle five, seven, eight, 10 play drives. He'll slowly get in that shape."
However, he might be in as good a shape during training camp as we can remember.
"It's hard for him to be bigger, but he looked more defined and muscular. I think I took some of his fat and he took some of my muscle." – Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on OT Andre Smith
Courtesy of Paul Dehner Jr. with the Cincinnati Enquirer, a few videos of the team's Oklahoma Drills from Sunday.
Vontaze Burfict on future expectations.
"I plan to be better than I was last season," Burfict said after a recent training camp practice. "All I have to do is keep listening to the coaches and everything will fall into place. My goal this year is to lead the team further in the playoffs and hopefully a Super Bowl. It's important for me to be more productive than last year."
Burfict on proving doubters wrong.
"It's not about proving the doubters wrong," Burfict said. "It's a matter of showing up and being accountable to my teammates. At the end of the day, it's not about what people think but more so what I can do for my team and make them better."