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Bengals Training Camp 2016: Depth is challenged on Day 5

With a couple of starters and key contributors sidelined due to injury, the Bengals carried on with their second day of practice in full pads with some fresh faces taking on increased reps.

The day after a flash storm delayed and moved practice inside the closed doors of Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals returned to the practice fields and to the public eye. But they didn’t return with good news as they announced rookie cornerback William Jackson has suffered a torn pectoral. Such injury should sideline the first-round pick for the vast majority of his rookie season with a slight chance of returning in the later half, if he is to be placed on IR/designated to return. On the bright side, H-back Ryan Hewitt came onto the field with a little more change in his pockets, as he agreed to a three year extension worth 7.5 million before practice. I attended practice yesterday and got to take in all of the sights and sounds of the practice fields. Here’s what I witnessed.


  • You have to start with the stars, as both A.J. Green and Geno Atkins put their talents on full tilt. The former continues to have a sharp and mistake-free camp as he continues to carry a relatively inexperienced receiving corps, while the later showcased his world class strength and quickness on multiple occasions. Even former Cincinnati Bearcat great Tony Pike took notice while in attendance:
  • The main focus of the day was the red zone, as the offensive units went through goal-line packages that featured Jeremy Hill scoring on multiple reps, back corner fades, fake slants that Tyler Boyd succeeded with, and short posts. Rashaun Simonise took advantage of the reps he was given:

(Shoutout to Simonise for the retweet, keep doing you.)

  • Back to Hill, he ran hard today, hitting holes and fighting through contact, but he did have a notable drop on a designed screen which got a predictable lashing from the coaching staff.
  • Even with both Jackson out and Darqueze Dennard out (Dennard has a sprained ankle), the defense stood up for the most part against the Bengals aerial attack on both 7-on-7’s and 11-on-11’s, limiting separation, and forcing quarterbacks Andy Dalton and AJ McCarron to hold on to the ball for long periods of time. It was a weird occurrence considering both quarterbacks have led very efficient practices thus far, and the Bengals’ secondary was depleted for the most part, but these practices will happen in the early days of camp.
  • It wasn’t all bad for the receivers though. Projected as the number 2 wide receiver on the depth chart, Brandon LaFell had a very solid day as well, catching everything that came his way and connecting with Andy Dalton on several occasions, including a well executed wheel route that resulted in a touchdown during 7-on-7’s. James Wright in his second practice also looked very smooth and sharp on his cuts. With Jake Kumerow sidelined for a little while, Wright figures to make a legitimate push for one of the final spots at wide receiver.
  • Fresh off his extension, Ryan Hewitt assumed the role as first team tight end when current first-stringer Tyler Kroft went down with an apparent knee injury. Luckily, it is not believed to be serious. Hewitt had an average day receiving wise, but another tight end, C.J. Uzomah, got some reps with the first team as well with the top two tight ends now sidelined for the time being. Uzomah has made some intriguing plays so far during this camp and will now have to take on a bigger role. Unfortunately, he had a few notable drops with both the first and second team units, including this one covered by linebacker Darien Harris:
  • The title for most interesting position group battle might just be making its way toward the tight ends, with the only healthy ones being Uzomah, Matt Lengel and John Peters, assuming Kroft is out for at least the next two weeks. Hewitt will also have an opportunity to earn some of the playing time by taking snaps on the line of scrimmage as well.

Play of the Day

Third-round pick Nick Vigil continues to make the most of his reps and a case for playing time in a group without its best player for three weeks of the regular season. During the final snaps of 11-on-11 work, Vigil read the eyes of AJ McCarron and did what he’s been advertised as being able to do, make a play on the ball:

In all honesty, it wasn’t the best decision or throw by McCarron, but hey, that’s not Vigil’s problem. These playmaking moments will earn you more reps to prove yourself, and with reps like this, you can bet that Vigil is on his way to being among the first linebackers off the bench come Week 1.

General Notes

  • In the very first snap of Tuesday’s practice, safety Derron Smith was in for newly extended Shawn Williams. Williams was a bit late to practice and then went down later with an undisclosed injury. Smith is in line for significant snaps as the defense’s third safety, the role that Williams excelled in last year, so these practice snaps are huge for him.
  • The second team offensive line and defensive line had a couple of shake-ups, staying fairly consistent with their lineups. The second team offensive line consisted of Jake Fisher at left tackle, Christian Westerman at left guard, T.J. Johnson at center, Trey Hopkins at right guard and Eric Winston at right tackle. The second team defensive line was filled by Will Clarke at right end, Andrew Billings at 1-T, Marcus Hardison at 3-T and Margus Hunt at left end.
  • Coming off a season spent on the practice squad, guard Trey Hopkins continues to take second team reps behind starter Kevin Zeitler. The former Longhorn is entering the last year of his undrafted rookie contract, and barring any injury, is on the outside looking in for the 53 man roster. Neither Westerman nor Fisher took any snaps at center, as that was limited to just Russell Bodine and T.J. Johnson for the day, who are both presumed to be locked in as the starter and backup at the position for the third consecutive year.
  • On the other side of the ball, Marcus Hardison and Andrew Billings got the majority of reps at 3 and 1-Technique, respectively behind starters Atkins and Domata Peko. Hardison is fighting off one of last year’s practice squad standouts DeShawn Williams for the nickel defensive end spot that Wallace Gilberry’s free agency departure has opened up. Billings is in battle with veteran Pat Sims for a spot behind Peko, but so far, has taken more reps in the second team than Sims.
  • Finally, wide receiver Mario Alford was the recipient of the vast majority of reps at kickoff returner. The staff is really pushing Alford and Boyd, who was in second team return duties, to show why they deserve to take over for long time return man Brandon Tate. We won’t really see the results of these reps until the preseason gets under way, but the team is not going into the preseason complacent with Tate at the spot. That’s good news for Bengals fans.

The Bengals will not be practicing today as it is their day off, but they will be back in action and practicing again on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Saturday is Family Day which takes place inside Paul Brown Stadium. Also ahead are two conjoined practices with the Minnesota Vikings on August 10th and 11th.