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Bengals Training Camp 2016: 4 takeaways from Day 4

The pads were popping during the Bengals’ first fully-padded practice of 2016.

The Bengals finally got all of their pads on for Monday's training camp session, marking the first time since last season that the team was in full gear.

However, fans did not get to watch this as rain and lightning forced a delay, which ultimately led to a closed practice inside of Paul Brown Stadium.

Here's a look at our biggest takeaways from what took place during Monday's camp session.

1) Physicality Returns

While spring workouts are fun to talk about, they aren’t very beneficial in terms of game-like action since there are no pads. Players can barely touch each other during said workouts, and the intensity doesn't increase much for the first few days of training camp as pads don't fully come on until Day 4.

With Monday being the Bengals' first full-padded practice, it offered a big step up in the physicality and intensity from players. The team even broke out a mini Oklahoma-like drill to ensure the pads were popping.

More than anything, it was good to see players hitting players and even taking them down to the ground, which is the only way some players are ever going to improve and the best way the Bengals will see what their new guys are capable of.

Nothing beats pads popping on a football field. Rookie guard Christian Westerman also made an appearance with a pancake of DeShawn Williams in a full-contact running game drill.

That’s an example of now hearing about and seeing e guys like Westerman start to emerge with full contact taking place. Linemen don’t get to do much until the pads are fully on, so now we’ll see more of what Westerman, Andrew Billings and other linemen are made of.

2) Minor Injuries are Major for Fringe Guys

The Bengals appear to have avoided any significant injuries through the first four days of camp, but a few minor things kept several players out on Monday. Jake Kumerow sat out after leaving Sunday's practice early. He's having a good camp and looks poised to make the final roster, so much so that an injury setback may be all that keeps him from doing so.

Trevor Roach sat out Monday after also leaving Sunday's session early due to an undisclosed injury. Like Kumerow, Roach is in good position to make the final roster with a good showing in camp and the preseason. However, even a minor injury could derail those chances if he misses time.

As for James Wright, he made his 2016 debut Monday after missing most of the offseason workouts while recovering from knee surgery, which cost him all of 2015. He too will be on the fringe this year, so even a minor setback could lead to him missing out on the final roster.

3) Zach Hocker Doing Well

Everyone expects the Bengals to roll with Mike Nugent as their kicker this year, but he finally has a suitable challenger for his job in the form of Zach Hocker. He's been in the NFL for two years now, though he's been cut and off of rosters enough that he still has practice squad eligibility

Hocker has been erratic thus far in his pro career, but has shown enough potential to think he'll be a full-time kicker someday. He's making his case to be so for the Bengals in 2016. On Monday Hocker was a perfect six of six, hitting from 34, 37, 40, 43, 46 and 49 yards, per Paul Dehner.

While that's good, Hocker will need to keep it up for almost five more weeks leading up to final cuts. He has to outperform Nugent to win the job, given how long the elder kicker has been with the Bengals in addition to the many big kicks he's made.

Whatever happens here, hopefully, this is simply another position where there is good competition and a deserved winner, something we've not always seen annually at the kicker position.

4) Josh Shaw Shines at Safety

One of the biggest stories on defense for Bengals camp is seeing how Josh Shaw will be used. Though he did well as a rookie corner in 2015, the Bengals are using Shaw more at safety this year. That's partly due to a lack of depth at the position, but also due to so much depth at corner, and Shaw is too good of a player to be riding the bench.

On Monday, Shaw got some work in as the second-team safety, and managed to intercept an overthrown ball from Andy Dalton.

It's going to be hard for Shaw to earn a lot of snaps this year at either safety or corner, but if he can do well enough to be the third safety, we've seen how much the guy in that role has played for the Bengals over the years.

Regardless, it’s good to see Shaw making noise and building off of his rookie season.