Cornerback Onterio McCalebb arrived from Auburn with a pedigree of quickness and speed, but not necessarily the position that the Bengals coaching staff had envisioned. Instead of being the speedster that averaged 6.3 yards/rush during his-year career at Auburn, the Bengals found a development project that would transform the running back into a cornerback.
Since joining the team, his commitment and growth has been staggering. Prior to the team's rookie minicamp in May, McCalebb spent time with Bengals defensive backs coach Mark Carrier on those simple things, like figuring out how to backpedal. That's the level of rawness that McCalebb has right now. Legendary Ken Riley reached out to McCalebb, and McCalebb listened. When the team gathered for voluntary practice in June, Terence Newman was seeing the growth.
"You can see now that he's understanding, that's he's more comfortable and doing less thinking. It's a good feeling when you see a kid and you see the light go on," said Newman via FoxSportsOhio.com. "One thing that I know about football is that if you don't have a guy who is a true guy, who's going to shoot you straight and tell you that was horse (manure) or keep it real and tell you that was a good job, if you don't have a guy that can keep it real with you it's going to be hard to actually get better. You need somebody who understands it and who's going to shoot you straight and tell you this is what you've got to do. It makes it that much easier."
A long-shot at best to make the 53-man roster, McCalebb was waived and signed to the team's practice squad where he was destined from the beginning. What's impressive is the kid's mental fortitude for growth and the progress that he's making.
"From the time that he came back here, when we opened for training camp, he looked more like a guy that had played cornerback his whole life," said Lewis during the team's presser Monday afternoon. "He spent time with Ken Riley and it was great. And the time that both the coaches and players have spent with him has been great. He wants so bad to be able to make it."
Still, Lewis believes that McCalebb has a lot of work ahead of him, but he calls him the "perfect developmental player."
"He’s far from a finished product and we know that," said Lewis. "But now his stance and starts look very comfortable. He has tremendous speed, good hips, good feet, he can turn, he can run, he’s been not shy as a tackler. He’s the perfect developmental player to have the opportunity to get better and develop each and every day in practice because we’re going to coach the socks off him every day. He gets a chance to continue to develop while he’s here for however long. He did some things on special teams in the preseason."
Don't be surprised if McCalebb is called up by the end of the year.
"He’s a guy that you’re not going to call on the be that fourth or fifth corner right now, but I think he at some point this year could contribute if he has to on the 53-man roster," said Lewis.
He just has to continue working.
WHITWORTH IS OUT UNTIL HE'S NOT
Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth continues to be on the mend, recovering from a surgically repaired knee that was worked on following Whitworth's Pro Bowl appearance in late January. There is concern and speculation that Whitworth had another procedure when cameras showed a massive bandage around his knee during the fourth episode of Hard Knocks.
After missing the entire preseason to strengthen and continue rehabilitation efforts, Whitworth avoided the oft-asked question on Monday if he'll play against Chicago. At this stage, we're going to assume that Whitworth is out until he's not.
Whitworth didn't practice again on Monday, sporting only his jersey and shorts. However, Whitworth did do some individual work with the trainers.
FINAL DAY OF HARD KNOCKS
Tonight will be the final episode of Hard Knocks. How quick is the turnaround from filming to production? The final day of shooting was Monday as defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, and running backs coach Hue Jackson exchanged handshakes with the Hard Knocks crew during practice.
We can only imagine that some of the storylines for Tuesday's episode (which we'll feature later today) includes roster cuts, sights and sounds from Cincinnati's preseason finale against the Colts, and an insider's look at Geno Atkins signing his five-year contract extension.
See you in four years, NFL Films.
One of the scenes I hope to see Tuesday night is Marvin Lewis walking around the field while the team stretches with a speaker that shouts, "re-focus men". A lot has happened in the past week. Due to the roster cuts over the weekend, I'm sure several players on this team lost friends during final cuts. There might even be a level of complacency from younger players. It's not a significant concern, more like a veteran coach repeating those talking points over the years, because these guys are professionals and I doubt any disappointment would get in the way of hard work and the team's regular season opener.
But this is kind of sad.
Anybody have a spare room that I can use in Blacksburg for a few weeks?— Bruce Taylor (@I_GotTheJuice51) September 2, 2013