Thursday was Family Night at Paul Brown Stadium. Before and during training camp, the Stadium halls echoes with the laughter of children as they participated in cone and rope ladder drills at the Play 60 zone, jumping around in inflatables you'll often find before any Bengals home game, getting faces painted, crowding around magicians, and posing for photos with Bengals mascot Who Dey.
While the children played, the Bengals worked. The team took the field at six o'clock to a crowd of 6,500 and didn't waste time beginning full contact drills of 11-on-11 and 7-on-7. You'll find a gallery of photos at the top of this article. Here are some of my takeaways from the evening:
- The evening started out with special teams as Brandon Tate was first to assume return duties.
- The first play in 11-on-11 drills involved a quick dump from Dalton to Orson Charles, who ran a quick hitch route out of the backfield. Short gain, but it was encouraging to see Charles used in the passing game.
- The crowd woke up when Tyler Eifert made the first big catch of the evening; Dalton hit Eifert in the numbers for a 20-yard reception up the middle of the field.
- Dalton was being tested by coaches as they began throwing blitzes at him. I did notice that James Harrison was involved in blitz packages. Dalton was quick to release to Eifert on one play along the sideline for an eight yard gain. There were a few moments Dalton had to scramble out of bounds or throw the ball away, but he did well for the most part.
- Andrew Hawkins dove and caught a deep ball from Dalton that was extremely impressive. The crowd responded with cheers that were soon quieted as Hawkins wasn't getting up. He was assisted off the field and eventually carted down the tunnel. Early indications are a high ankle sprain, but an MRI will confirm.
- Mohamed Sanu was used often on Thursday. He lined up everywhere. His physicality was in full display when he ran a comeback route and caught a pass from Dalton with Dre Kirkpatrick just a half step too late on coverage. Kirkpatrick was visibly angry with himself after that play.
- Taylor Mays leaped into the air and intercepted a pass from Dalton intended for Ryan Whalen. It was a poor decision by Dalton, who was throwing into double coverage.
- Giovani Bernard was involved in a few special teams drills, but was mostly not involved in Thursday's practice. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Rex Burkhead received a lot of work. Burkhead was stuffed at the line a lot during 11-on-11 drills but played well with all things considered. Green-Ellis played well, and is still the go-to back during goalline drills.
- Andre Smith was practicing contrary to initial reports. You'll find a picture of him in the gallery I've posted.
- Jermaine Gresham was reported as not practicing, but he was used sparingly early in practice. I witnessed one catch by Gresham in red zone drills.
- Camp lasted just over an hour -- much shorter than usual. I planned on taking video, but didn't expect practice to end so soon. I'll make the effort to attend over the weekend.