The Cincinnati Bengals were back on the practice field Thursday for their third and final minicamp session.
This also marked the final OTA workout for the Bengals as they go off into a summer break until training camp begins a little over a month from now. All of the Bengals were present for this week's workouts, though, not all were actively practicing.
One player who made noise just as he has for many OTAs was first-round rookie William Jackson III. Local 12's Richard Skinner noted that Jackson was routinely batting down passes, something he's been doing a lot of in offseason workouts.
"A week ago just learning the concept, I'm getting the high/low (responsibility) and things like that, and it's just starting to come to me," Jackson said via Skinner.
This past season, Jackson led the NCAA and set a school record for pass breakups in 2015 with 23. His 31 3/4" arms and 6'0" height allow him to knock down passes easier than most, and he's already translating it to the NFL level.
"It's going to help me a lot, because I've got long arms, and I can kind of slow them down," Jackson said. "You just had to use your feet and your body (in OTA and minicamp). It was good."
With so much talent already in the secondary, you can't fault the Bengals if they take it slow bringing Jackson up to speed in the regular season. The question is, if any of the other corners struggle, will Jackson perhaps see the field sooner rather than later? He's clearly showing the potential to make an impact as a rookie.
Now that the OTAs have come and gone, this will be a critical month for several Bengals needing to get healthy and/or in shape. Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert continues to recover from major ankle surgery, and while media reports have him being out until close to (or into) the start of the regular season, the team has remained very mum on his recovery and possible return.
However, Bengals reporter Coley Harvey was on Mike Clay’s fantasy football show on SiriusXM Radio Thursday and said he did not expect Eifert to play in Week 1. It continues to look like that will be the case, and the real question will be if he misses just one game or more.
If Eifert is unable to even run routes with Andy Dalton once the preseason opens, it's going to be hard for them to keep as in-sync as they were last year when both guys were having Pro Bowl seasons. It also means players like Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah must step up to keep the team rolling.
Another injured Bengal who needs to get healthy over the next month is wide receiver James Wright. It seems like ages ago when Wright was emerging as a reliable pass-catcher in this offense before going down with a knee injury in 2014, which ultimately required microfracture surgery in 2015.
That cost Wright all of 2015 and much of the 2016 offseason, but he was on the field Wednesday getting to test his knee out with receivers coach James Urban, as Dayton Daily News' Laurel Pfahler reported.
"It’s important for him because all that hard work, he’s worked his tail off," Urban said. "He’s toed the line in every single way, made sacrifices to be here and work with (director of rehab) Nick (Cosgray). Nick Cosgray is unbelievable. The fact that James is out here doing what he’s doing at this point. It’s important for him. It gives him encouragement, and we’ll see where he is."
With the Bengals having lost so much production at receiver this offseason, it's very possible Wright becomes one of the top four receivers, but in that same breath, he may not even make the final roster if he can't get on the field.
"The important point there is I said, ‘Look at the competition in this room. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush,’" Urban said. "The old NFL saying is you can’t make the club in the tub. Injuries happen, but aches and pains, you better find a way to be out there because every day you miss is an opportunity you miss to show what you can do."
One other injury update: Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson reports that it's still unclear if Wright is going to be back for that first day of training camp, but offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, cornerback Darqueze Dennard and fullback Ryan Hewitt are expected to be back by then. It's unclear what's ailing Fisher and Ogbuehi, while Dennard is recovering from shoulder surgery and Hewitt is recovering from a surgical procedure. It's unknown if Hewitt is still dealing with his knee, which was injured in Week 16 of the 2015 season against the Broncos, or a non-football injury, as was reported in May.