The Bengals hit the practice field Monday for a closed practice session as training camp is wrapping up.
Following Friday's preseason opener vs Minnesota, Cincinnati will be finished with training camp following Tuesday's closed session. The team will then depart on Wednesday for Detroit to face the Lions on Thursday night, leaving a quick turnaround for the team to prepare.
Here is a recap of what took place during the second-to-last camp session on Monday.
Bengals Getting Healthy
A lot of good news came out of Monday's session as several key Bengals returned from injuries. Among them as Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth, who missed all of last week with a shoulder issue that the team was being conservative with.
His absence helped lead to the offensive line getting dominated by the Vikings in joint practices, though that wasn't the case in the preseason game.
Still, getting big Whit back is great news. The Bengals also got veteran receiver Brandon LaFell back Monday after a hand issue sidelined him Friday. It was more of a precaution and to allow the younger receivers to get more reps, which turned out to be a wise move. LaFell didn’t fully practice, as he was on the side during team drills.
Brandon LaFell not practicing in team drills. Instead, he's catching passes on the other field.— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) August 15, 2016
Also returning to practice was running back Rex Burkhead, who missed the preseason game with an unspecified injury. That allowed Tra Carson and Bronson Hill to make a favorable impression with the extra reps up for grabs, though it wasn't enough that Burkhead is even close to the roster bubble.
Fringe Receivers Banged Up
Wide receiver Jake Kumerow missed Monday's session after missing most of last week. Though Kumerow did play Friday, it was in limited snaps after a hamstring issue cut down his reps in camp. That in turn allowed Alex Erickson and Mario Alford to get more reps and likely pass him on the roster pecking order.
However, that may not last in the case of Alford. After leaving Friday's game with an ankle injury, Alford was seen in a walking boot Monday in the locker room, so seeing him not practice came as no surprise.
Both he and Kumerow are drifting further onto the wrong side of the roster bubble with every practice they miss. That's also putting Erickson closer to the right side, as he may be the sixth and final receiver if the 53-man roster was made now.
Drops Plague Offense
As good as the Bengals receivers collectively looked Friday, they reportedly took a step backward on Monday thanks to a lot of drops. That's been a bit of an issue to this point in camp, though it didn't manifest itself during Friday's game.
Guys like C.J. Uzomah, Mario Alford, Rashaun Simonise and Matt Lengel have been putting the ball on the ground more than they should be. Uzomah and Lengel have been forced into duty more with Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft injured, so hopefully their eventual returns help negate this issue.
But even Tyler Boyd had a bad drop in Monday's session. It came as he ran a nice route across the middle, but after having to slow down to track the ball, he dropped the pass with Jimmy Wilson breathing down his neck.
Boyd gets hit going over the middle on this one. pic.twitter.com/0T8F2jVMka— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) August 15, 2016
Those are the kind of tough grabs a starting slot receiver needs to make, so hopefully this was just the exception to what's been a great camp for Boyd.
The Wild Boyd Returns
On the first day of training camp, the Bengals wasted no time getting Tyler Boyd acclimated in what is essentially the same role Mohamed Sanu held. Though Sanu was the starting slot receiver, he was more known for his ability to drop in a dime while lining up as a wildcat quarterback.
That's what Boyd got to do on Day 1 of camp before throwing a beauty of a pass to Brandon Tate. We've not that again until Monday when Boyd lined up at QB, but handed off the ball instead of airing it out.
It's looking more and more like Boyd will at the very least be for the Bengals what Sanu was, though I anticipate the former being a better receiver than the latter.
*Cedric Ogbuehi was not practicing for unknown reasons. The starting right tackle played in Friday's preseason affair, so this is hopefully just a minor issue the team is being cautious with. It would be flat out bad if Ogbuehi were hurt again as he needs all the reps he can get heading into his first year as a starter.
*With Andrew Whitworth back, Jake Fisher shifted from left tackle to right tackle with Ogbuehi sidelined. Neither Fisher nor Ogbuehi played great on Friday night, though it was against a stout Vikings defense.
*Trevor Roach returned to practice Monday after missing the preseason game. He's battling Marquis Flowers and Jayson DiManche for one of the final linebacker spots, so every practice rep he gets is key toward his roster bid.
*Practice ended about 30 minutes early due to lightning in the area. Why the Bengals don't have a practice bubble or indoor field by now is beyond me.
*After practice, head coach Marvin Lewis confirmed that rookie defensive tackle Andrew Billings tore his meniscus and had surgery to repair it earlier in the day. There's no timetable for his return, or if he'll be placed on Injured Reserve in the coming weeks. The Bengals don’t need to make any decisions on Billings before September 3, when they officially cut down the roster to 53 men.