The Cincinnati Bengals began the team’s second week of OTAs on Tuesday, and the practice was the second for which the Cincinnati media was allowed to attend. These are no-pad, no contact practices, but, they offer the first look at the 90 man roster of the offseason.
As was the case last week, first round pick John Ross was not in attendance as the NFL prohibits rookies from attending NFL practices until their schools hold graduation — whether they’re graduating or not. Mandatory minicamp on June 13 should be Ross' first practice with the team since rookie minicamp. Though, he’s not expected to be medically cleared from his March shoulder surgery until July. Other than Ross, the bulk of the roster was in attendance for the optional practice.
Here’s a look at what we learned on Tuesday.
With Andre Smith out sick, Trey Hopkins stepped up
Backup guards Trey Hopkins, Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman saw snaps with the starters as Andre Smith was missing on Tuesday due to a sickness. The first guy up was Hopkins, the 2014 undrafted free agent. The battle for the right guard position should be an interesting one this offseason. Smith is the presumed starter, but, it’s entirely possible another player unseats him this offseason and proves more deserving of the job.
Jeremy Hill taking on pass-catching role with Giovani Bernard out
While Bernard recovers from November ACL surgery, Hill reportedly is taking on his role as a pass-catching running back for OTAs. Per ESPN’s Katherine Terrell:
While Giovani Bernard rehabs from a torn ACL, his snaps will likely go to Hill and rookie Joe Mixon until he returns. The Bengals targeted several running backs throughout Tuesday's practice, but the bulk of the passes thrown to the group seemed to go to Hill.
This shouldn’t last. Mixon was a real threat as a pass-catcher at Oklahoma and Hill has not been able to thrive in such a role at the NFL level. In two years at Oklahoma, Mixon accumulated 894 receiving yards and 9 receiving touchdowns (in addition to 2,027 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns). In the last three years with the Bengals, Hill has accumulated 468 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown (in addition to 2,757 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns). Hopefully, the Bengals were giving Mixon some looks as a pass-catching back, too, and plan to use him as such during his rookie year.
C.J. Uzomah returned to the field + injury update
During the first OTA session last week, Uzomah was on the rehab field with an undisclosed injury. This week, he was in a jersey and returned to the practice field with the rest of his teammates. Remaining on the rehab field were tight end Tyler Eifert, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and Bernard. Additionally, three rookies spent time rehabbing including running back Jarveon Williams, defensive back Brandon Wilson and tight end Cethan Carter. Wilson spent some time rehabbing last week, but then took part in position drills. It’s unclear if that happened again this week. I did see a photo of Carter (slide 15/20) with a football in his hands, so it appears as though he did get in at least some work on the practice field, in addition to time spent on the rehab field. It’s unclear what the injuries are to Williams, Wilson and Carter.
- Darqueze Dennard (21) breaks up a pass in front of wide receiver Brandon LaFell (11). Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
- Bengals cornerback Adam Jones (24) gets back to the line between plays during the Week 2 OTAs at the Cincinnati Bengals training facility. Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
- Owner Mike Brown sits in his cart watching Bengals OTAs. Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
- Dre Kirkpatrick watches practice while sitting out due to a hand injury. Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
- Tight ends C.J. Uzomah (87) and tight end Tyler Eifert (85) talk on the sideline during OTAs. Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
- Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass in the pocket during the Week 2 of Bengals OTAs. Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
- Andy Dalton (14) calls a play at the line during the Week 2 OTAs. Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
- Bengals kicker Jake Elliott (3) kicks a field goal during the Week 2 OTAs. Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
- Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron (5) drops back behind the line during the Week 2 of OTAs. Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
The Bengals will be having only two kickers making kicks during each day of OTAs. Last week, the media saw Randy Bullock and Jonathan Brown, both of whom missed two of their four kicks. On Tuesday, it was Bullock and rookie Jake Elliott, and the report was a lot more positive this time around.
Per Terrell, both kickers made all four of their attempted kicks, which came from 33, 43, 30 and 39 yards out. That’s as good news as we could hope for this early on from the kickers.
Nick Vigil seeing increased opportunity
All indications point to 2016 third round draft pick Nick Vigil playing a significant role on the Bengals’ defense this season. Per Jay Morrison of My Dayton Daily News, “Vigil has been a consistent presence with the first-team base and nickel units” in the OTA sessions open to the media so far.
The Bengals are looking to get more athletic on defense and Vigil adds that quality. He played 110 defensive snaps in 2016, which isn't a lot, but it's actually more time on defense than many Bengals rookies see in their first year in the NFL. He'll be using that experience, from which he accumulated 14 tackles, to help him become an impressive force at linebacker this season. If all goes according to plan, he should look to at least triple his time on the field in his second year.