Finally, the Bengals got to hit someone other than their teammates on the practice field. Wednesday marked the second-to-last training camp session for Cincinnati, who hosted Minnesota for a joint practice.
Led by former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, the now-Vikings head coach was back in the Queen City, which comes ahead of Friday's preseason opener between the two clubs. Some unfortunate news from the day was that Andrew Billings went down with an injury and was carted off the field. What the injury is and the extent are yet to be known, but we’ll keep you updated as we receive more information.
Here is a look at our takeaways from what took place on a warm Wednesday afternoon in Cincinnati.
Tom Coughlin Shows Up
It doesn't seem like too long ago that the Bengals were debating between Tom Coughlin and Marvin Lewis as their next head coach. Armed with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft and a re-dedication effort to becoming a winning franchise, the Bengals were in position to land just about any head-coaching candidate they wanted, and they couldn’t have gone wrong between Coughlin and Lewis.
The Bengals opted for Lewis, who has since led the franchise to four division titles and seven playoff trips in 13 seasons. Coughlin went on to make five playoff trips and win four division titles and two Super Bowls in 12 years with the Giants before parting ways with the Giants this offseason.
All of this is why seeing both on the Bengals’ practice field 13 years later is an ironic moment in their careers.
Former NY Giants coach Tom Coughlin here for Bengals-Vikings joint practice pic.twitter.com/vlM2SOuiiM— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) August 10, 2016
Some will wonder how both careers would have played out had the Bengals picked Coughlin and Lewis ended up in New York or elsewhere. What you can't question is the fact that both teams have been among the NFL's best over that span with each franchise enjoying one of their greatest periods of success in team history.
Heated, But Not Boiling
One of the big things to watch for in any kind of joint practice is potential fights breaking out. Players are already on edge going head-to-head with their own teammates. Getting to finally hit actual opponents can lead to a little too much steam being let off.
While there were some heated moments in the session - highlighted by Adam Jones jawing with Zimmer and then also getting into a brief altercation with a Vikings wide receiver, the two teams made it without having any kind of real issue.
Tensions boiled over briefly in Bengals-Vikings practice after helmet comes off. Adam Jones/Adam Thielen involved pic.twitter.com/D2sFZI5ovR— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) August 10, 2016
These are two teams with high aspirations in 2016, so there's no reason for them to engage in unnecessary fights.
Bengals Still Got Whipped
While the two teams didn't get too heated, the Bengals did end up getting their tails kicked for much of this joint session. The Vikings defense dominated the trenches and racked up sack after sack (though, no actual sacks were taken — just touches that count as hypothetical sacks) on both the first and second-team offenses.
This has been over half of the Bengals plays in 11 on 11 pic.twitter.com/2LzF1jwLf9— Stephen A Turner (@StephenATurner) August 10, 2016
It was embarrassing to see what’s been one of the best offensive lines in the NFL getting whipped by a good Vikings front seven. Though, of note, Andrew Whitworth didn’t practice for the team’s fourth consecutive session as he deals with a minor shoulder injury. So, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, second year players with no starting experience were playing with the first team.
Seen this a lot today... pic.twitter.com/vqc4KF9vTg— Stephen A Turner (@StephenATurner) August 10, 2016
Even when AJ McCarron and Andy Dalton got passes off, they rarely looked good.
Xavier with great coverage. Just make the catch. pic.twitter.com/G7Uzt4A1f1— Stephen A Turner (@StephenATurner) August 10, 2016
Here, Dalton overthrew Green.
It was really surprising to see the Bengals' defensive backs getting smoked by an inexperienced and unproven Vikings receiving unit.
The good news is, one practice doesn't mean anything, and neither will one preseason game. If you recall, the Bengals were about as manhandled as a team can be in last year's preseason at the hands of the woeful Buccaneers, a team that's won an average of 4.6 games from 2011-2015.
But that Week 2 preseason game made the Bengals look like a team bound for a double-digit loss season. That's how bad they looked in that game, so don't take too much out of one bad joint practice the team has this year.
One other thing to note on the Vikings' front seven mauling the Bengals' offensive line: This is typically a passing game where the ball leaves Dalton's hands quick, something that wasn't happening much on this day as they ran a lot of plays that took longer to develop.
Just another reason to not panic after the Bengals got whipped on this day.
LaFell and Uzomah Step Up
When your team is struggling, having a veteran able to step up and make plays is key to overcoming those bad stretches. That's what Brandon LaFell did Wednesday, as he got hot toward the end of team work to help wake up the stagnant Bengals offense.
LaFell is never going to be someone you build an offensive game plan around, but he is a guy who can make a big impact on a game, and he helped the offense end on a high note after being notedly bad on this day.
But the Bengals got a boost from one of their younger players as well. Tight end C.J. Uzomah also ended practice on a good note by making some nice grabs over the middle.
It’s encouraging to see Uzomah having consistently good practices.
Getting production from guys like Uzomah and LaFell will be critical to this offense making plays when a guy like A.J. Green is getting double-teamed.
Share your thoughts on today’s practice below!