Day two started in the exact same fashion as day one. Waiting in a long line almost a block down West Pete Rose Way. Today's line was even longer than yesterday's line, but I'd guess that's because it's the weekend.
The weather was exactly the same- bright blue skies, about 85 degrees outside, and a light breeze. I had sunscreen on, but I could feel the sun on my sun-burned neck immediately. I walked over to the Pro Shop tent and found some black bucket hats, but I knew those would get too hot. They said they had white ones in the Pro Shop, so I held off. I also bought a couple 8x10 photographs (Jeremy Hill, Gio Bernard, Tyler Eifert, and Dre Kirkpatrick) to be signed after practice.
By this point, walkthroughs are starting up. Players are mostly walking or jogging around as they install a few plays, so I like to use this temporary tranquility to note the offensive depth charts. I covered the first and second team offenses in yesterday's article.
The second team offensive line changed slightly today.
Offensive Line (left to right): Jake Fisher, T.J. Johnson, Trey Hopkins, Tanner Hawkinson, Eric Winston
The only difference from yesterday's line is that Hopkins and Johnson switched. This is notable because the interior backup line appears to be completely up for grabs. Hopkins, a former guard, took snaps today at center while Johnson took all his snaps at guard. I'm sure they'll keep rotating as camp and the preseason rolls on. This also might open up a spot for undrafted interior lineman Jake Smith and Chris Jasperse.
As promised yesterday, here is the third offensive team.
Quarterback: Josh Johnson
Offensive Line (left to right): Dan France, Tanner Hawkinson, Chris Jasperse, Jake Smith, Matthew O'Donnell
Runningback: Terrell Watson
Tight Ends: Jake Murphy, Matt Lengel, John Peters
Receivers: Greg Little, Jake Kumerow, Mario Alford, Tevin Reese, Onterio McCalebb
After walkthroughs, the 3 p.m. air horn sounded and all the players sauntered over to the far side of the field for stretching. I normally wait in the bleachers until some action starts happening but I chose to wait behind the end zone of the main field. I knew I'd probably be close to the running back drills and I wanted to get my neck out of the direct sun.
Fifteen minutes later, they broke up into their positional groups and the running backs ended up right in front of me. I mean, less than five feet away at some points.
What stood out to me as I watched the small group go through drills was Jeremy Hill's looseness. After one drill, he was walking to the back of the line and flipped his football to a young fan sitting down. The kid was speechless. Of course, Hill needed the ball back, but it was nice break in the metaphorical glass wall that seems to separate fans and players as practice occurs.
Later, Hill was flipping the football up in the air and juggling it like a soccer ball. It's not like he wasn't paying attention, he was just loose, calm, and confident. They ran a drill where the running backs had an option route while coach Kyle Caskey acted as a defender. Depending on what Caskey did, the running backs were supposed to be able tell if it was a zone or man defense and react accordingly. Undrafted RB Terrell Watson went the wrong way and Hill immediately called out "Zone". Then, when they were doing pass catching drills with no defense, Hill casually stuck one hand out and squeezed the football between his fingers easily.
Another thing I noticed was the pecking order of the two-man fullback group. Originally, these two (James Wilder Jr. and Mark Weisman) were over by an individual blocking sled close to the media. The TV camera crews were all over this filming opportunity. You'll probably see those shots if you watch the sports coverage on cable tonight. Anyway, after they re-joined the group, Coach Caskey would have a certain plays where he needed a fullback. He'd yell, "Fullback!" and Wilder Jr. was always the first one to step forward. Weisman didn't even move a muscle. I guess that's just the way things go sometimes when one player is a veteran and one is a rookie. The pecking order was implicit to them.
After positional drills were over, the skill players started running routes against air while the four quarterbacks rotated throwing to them. Nothing of note really happened here, and I moved back into the bleachers because I knew that 11-on-11 was coming up soon.
Instead, they started doing 1-on-1s first. Dre Kirkpatrick, who considers himself to be the number one corner on this team, purposely placed himself covering A.J. Green. Kirkpatrick read Green's comeback route extremely well and broke on the ball before Green even came out of his break. The ball hit Kirkpatrick right between the numbers, but he dropped the easy interception. Nonetheless, Kirkpatrick's instincts against one of the league's best route runners were very impressive.
On the next two plays, the defense earned two more deflections. Leon Hall made an incredible diving deflection as the ball arrived to Marvin Jones after an out route. Then, Darqueze Dennard made a breakup while covering Mohamed Sanu on the far side of the field.
A couple plays later, Tevin Reese made one of the most impressive plays of the day when he reeled in a deep pass by A.J. McCarron for a 45 yard touchdown. Rookie cornerback Josh Shaw was in coverage on this play. I've liked Shaw in general so far, but he needed to do a better job turning his head around and finding the ball on this play.
Tevin Reese catches deep TD pass with Josh Shaw in coverage https://t.co/ChWRWtYGnI— Brennen Warner (@BrennenWarner) August 1, 2015
Shortly thereafter, Green beat Kirkpatrick on an out route, but he probably tried a little too hard to catch this one. Green only managed to get one foot down because the pass was a little high. As he fell out of bounds, he landed very close to a Mike Brown's golf cart. The owner moved the cart a bit further from the action right after that play.
Then, undrafted 6'5 receiver Jake Kumerow, whom I wrote about at length yesterday, showed his catch radius and route running on the far side of the field. It's a bit hard to see, but Kumerow executed a great comeback route, high-pointed the ball, and tapped two feet in bounds.
The next item on the agenda was some three-on-three action that only took up one side of the field. So, one quarterback would set up with his three receivers on one side of the hash marks and execute a play. As they finished, another quarterback was about to snap the ball on the other side of the hash marks. It's easy to miss something because of this rapid-fire action, but I managed to catch A.J. McCarron connecting with Sanu over the middle. I also caught Brandon Ghee getting a good pass break up on a Dalton pass intended for Tyler Kroft. This section of practice was a bit annoying because the quarterbacks were apparently focusing on check downs and dumpoffs. Not much went more than five yards downfield.
Finally, they broke into 11-on-11. Michael Johnson made his presence known as he snuffed out a Marvin Jones reverse and disrupted it deep in the backfield. A few plays later, Geno Atkins disrupted the pocket and probably would have gotten a sack in a real game.
The play that received the most interaction on twitter today was an interception of A.J. McCarron by Darqueze Dennard. McCarron's pass was late and high over the middle, which is a big no-no in the NFL. The pass was too high for the intended target and the safety covering him. It landed in Dennard's chest, who was trailing a receiver behind the intended target. He took it back for a pick-six through the rest of the team, although the vine cuts off shortly after the interception.
McCarron intercepted by Darqueze Dennard, turned into pick 6 https://t.co/zda8431ZQ3— Brennen Warner (@BrennenWarner) August 1, 2015
One thing I've definitely noticed in the first two days of camp is McCarron's habit of holding onto the ball too long. He tends to hold onto it when he doesn't see anyone initially open. Although this can lead to spontaneous creation plays when the receivers get open late, it has potentially devastating consequences as well. When a quarterback holds onto the ball that long, he sets himself up for a strip sack. We'll get to see a lot of McCarron this preseason, and I bet we'll see both the positive and dangerous negative effects of this habit.
As the 11-on-11 went on, I was able to compile the starting base defense and nickel defense. They do their walk throughs so far away from the bleachers that the only chance to note the depth chart is during live scrimmaging. Here is the first team base defense:
Defensive Ends: Carlos Dunlap (left), Michael Johnson (right)
Defensive Tackles: Domata Peko (nose), Geno Atkins (3-technique)
Linebackers: A.J. Hawk (WILL), Vinny Rey, (MIKE), Emmanuel Lamur (SAM)
Cornerbacks: Dre Kirkpatrick (left), Adam Jones (right)
Safeties: Reggie Nelson, George Iloka
As I noted yesterday, there appears to be a battle for the right cornerback spot between Leon Hall and Adam Jones. Hall rotated in with the ones later as well.
On the linebackers, I'd guess that Vinny Rey will move over to the weak side and Rey Maualuga will take his spot in the middle when he returns from a minor injury in the next couple of days.
The nickel defense isn't much different. Wallace Gilberry comes in for Domata Peko and lines up at the 3-technique position. Leon Hall comes in for A.J. Hawk and covers the slot receiver.
Paul Guenther also experimented more with Leon Hall at safety out of the base defense. Hall subs in for George Iloka and plays a sort of cover-2 shell with Nelson. Emmanuel Lamur slides over and covers the slot receiver, but I've also seen Hall come down and cover the slot for a cover-1 look with Nelson as the lone safety. At the end of the day, this formation is designed to give the team more flexibility when covering a three-receiver set. The cover-2 look is pictured below.
I also saw sophomore linebacker Marquis Flowers get some time with the ones as the second nickel linebacker in 7-on-7. He was the only non-starter on the field, and did reasonably well.
This really was a day for the defense overall. Pat Sims and Brandon Thompson each blew up a run play for a tackle-for-loss. Devon Still and Jayson DiManche each earned a sack when the protection broke down. Cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris almost picked off an A.J. McCarron pass intended for Greg Little.
Undrafted cornerback Troy Hill had a nice deflection on Dalton's pass to Brandon Tate. Dalton also made his worst pass of camp so far when he threw into traffic and Adam Jones made a bobbling interception. Paul Dawson also made a nice break on the ball and deflected a pass as well. McCarron dropped an F-bomb loud enough for every child on the field to hear after he sailed a pass high over Greg Little's head. Trey Hopkins had one snap that was so low, McCarron was forced to throw it away for intentional grounding, and Hopkins was immediately replaced by Chris Jasperse on the next play.
But, it wasn't all bad for the offense. Dalton's best pass of the day came when he floated a well-placed ball to Marvin Jones, who was running a corner route on the far side of the field. Hue Jackson had the coaching comment of the day after a Rex Burkhead run that showed nice patience and burst through the hole. Jackson shouted, "Thatta way to hit it! GODDANG, that's how you hit the hole!"
Tyler Eifert had another strong day. On one play, the offense was in a two-running back set with Rex Burkhead in the slot inside of Eifert. Burkhead's route helped clear out for Eifert's slant which he took for a decent gain. Later, Dalton found Eifert down the seam for a 30-yard completion.
In-between these 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 sessions, special teams coach Darrin Simmons was working his magic with his guys. They ran a few field goal attempts with Mike Nugent, which I paid no attention to. They also ran some kickoff coverage drills. The only thing of note during these drill was the players catching the kickoffs.
Adam Jones, Brandon Tate, Gio Bernard, Mario Alford, and Onterio McCallebb each rotated through as the kickoff return man. The upback position, normally played by Cedric Peerman, had some new faces as well: Gio Bernard, Rex Burkhead, and Denarius Moore.
Practice concluded with some onside kick drills with the kickoff coverage team. The team sent the offensive players out to sign autographs this time, so it was a rare opportunity to get A.J. Green and Andy Dalton's autographs. They signed for a long time today (brushing off the employee saying, "You gotta go to meetings, guys!"), but those two probably won't sign again for a while. If you are interested in getting a defensive player's autograph, I'd recommend coming tomorrow, they'll probably be up next.
After autographs, my neck was killing me from sunburn, so I strolled over to the Pro Shop to get a white bucket hat. If you ever go to camp and see some guy in a white bucket hat running all over the bleachers with his phone out, that's probably me. See you then.