With training camp starting to ramp up for the Bengals, the team’s development for the 2016 season is starting to become a big topic of conversation. Marvin Lewis seems pretty impressed with various aspects of the team, which he discussed on Thursday. In particular, it was the new players on the team and their contributions to the competition in camp with which Lewis is most impressed.
“They’re going to make for some competition, which is what you want throughout,” Lewis said. “I think we’ve got some competitive spots throughout the football team. As we took the next step to pads on Sunday-Monday-Tuesday, I felt good about things.”
Unfortunately, some of the competition is being fostered by injuries to key players on the team. This past week in particular, has been pretty rough on the injury front for a Bengals team trying to live up to the expectations they set for themselves after a 12-4 finish in 2015.
“We’ve gone through that initial part of training camp with some soft tissue injuries. We’ve got it all going on. Hopefully this will be the low point, and we’ll continue to get healthier as we go,” Lewis said. “It’s part of football, and unfortunately some of the guys get hurt. You put the roster together the best you can to try to be ready for them, and then you knock on wood. Hopefully we don’t get too many in one position.”
There was some more unpleasant business to attend to during Thursday’s press conference as news broke of Leon Hall signing with the New York Giants after talks with the Bengals failed to materialize into a contract.
“Obviously we think the world of Leon and his family. We just wish him the best of luck.,” Lewis said. “These guys have to make the decisions that they make, just like we make decisions. So you’re happy for Leon. It’s good for him. He feels really good about it, and that’s good.”
With William Jackson III missing a significant portion of the season this year with a torn pectoral and Darqueze Dennard seemingly unable to get away from the dreaded injury bug, losing a veteran contributor like Hall could be really hard on the team. But, Lewis seems confident enough in the cornerback depth to put a positive spin on the situation.
“We have a lot of guys vying for those opportunities, which is good,” he said. “We put the roster together that way. We had an injury at that position, so everybody throws out the red flag right away. Like with Darqueze (Dennard), where he’s going to miss another week, probably. But we’ve got to adjust a little bit and move forward. But Josh (Shaw) did a lot of really good things his rookie year. He’s been spending more time at safety this camp, and now he’ll move back into the corner position more.”
On top of the injuries, the Bengals will also be missing star linebacker Vontaze Burfict, due to his suspension, until Week 4 when the Bengals host the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. On Thursday, Burfict was cleared to practice and came off the Non-Football Injury list, but, Lewis says he’ll be brought back into the action at a gradual pace.
“We’ll bring him back slowly,” Lewis said. “We’ll try to bring him back slowly.”
That appeared to be the case on Thursday as he practiced with the second team.
“I’m not looking for anything special out of Vontaze.,” Lewis said. “Just go out and practice and do his job. This is not an eye-opening day for Vontaze Burfict, so nothing special out of him. Just stay healthy.”
One positive thing about Burfict being out is that it will give the other linebackers a chance to prove themselves. One of those players, in particular, who has been turning heads lately is Nick Vigil, who had a few big plays on Tuesday. Lewis was quick to point out why it was a big deal that he made a play like his interception of AJ McCarron in training camp.
“It’s a good confidence thing. When we draft young players, in order to get them going, the best thing to do is allow them to do the things they did in college. The other stuff that’s new, they work even harder at to get it down,” Lewis said. “He comes here with a lot of tools. It’s good, because I think the other players respond to that. We see it as coaches, and sometimes I don’t think the players see it as much, how gifted he is.”
However, Vigil isn’t the only new player making a positive impact with the team so far. Lewis made a point to praise the rookies, but also pointed out that all of the new guys are doing great so far.
“We’ve been pleased with the draft picks. Really pleased. Also with some of the other new guys, like our two veteran players, one on offense and one on defense,” Lewis said referring to Brandon LaFell and Karlos Dansby. “I like what they’ve done. Even some of our undrafted free agents have shown well.”