Cincinnati Bengals training camp is finally here after a long offseason of waiting.
Training camp is the first extended look we get at the rookies and the 90-man roster as a whole. It can also be a good time to get a handle on different parts of the team and how players have grown during the offseason. After three camp sessions to date, here’s what we’ve learned about the 2017 Bengals.
1. Giovani Bernard is fully recovered from his ACL injury:
There was some word being spread this offseason that Bernard was in danger of missing the first few weeks of the season. Considering how he has looked at training camp, those fears never had any chance of being realized. Bernard has looked 100 percent like his usually-explosive self and has received a full workload in all practices.
2. The Bengals receiving weapons look very talented and very deep:
The Bengals added two dynamic wide receivers in the draft in John Ross and Joshua Malone. Add to that the growth of Tyler Boyd and Cody Core heading into their second years and this is going to be a very scary receiving group. John Ross has been limited so far, but still looks great. If he’s able to get healthy and contribute early in the season, it seems like no matter how the offensive line does, it ill be tough to stop the offense. This is easily the best and deepest wide receiver group quarterback Andy Dalton has ever worked with.
3. Joe Mixon is looking every bit worthy of a second round pick:
On top of this being possibly the best wide receiver group Dalton has ever played with, this could also be the best running back unit the Bengals have fielded in the 21st century. Mixon has been incredibly fun to watch in training camp and has had at least two touchdown plays. He is a true three-down back with the size to carry the ball every down, but is also an extremely dynamic receiver out of the backfield. He will be extremely tough for linebackers to try and cover and should make the Bengals’ offense exceedingly dynamic.
4. The secondary is putting in great work and getting their hands on the football:
Dalton has reportedly been very good in camp so far, but the defense is too good to let him beat them on every play. The secondary keeps getting their hands on the ball and has gotten several interceptions and a couple pick-sixes. William Jackson has had an interception on both Dalton and AJ McCarron and Dre Kirkpatrick had an interception on Dalton, too.
Dalton has looked very sharp, but the Bengals’ defense is too good to give up too many big plays. We should be glad about that, because with the offense looking very dynamic and the defense appearing vastly improved, too, the Bengals could be a Super Bowl contender this season. There has also been some word of McCarron being shaky in a number of practices, so while Dalton has received praise from those watching on the practice fields, the same has not yet been true of the team’s No. 2 quarterback. Also on the quarterback front, Jeff Driskel has been taking part in special teams drills in addition to his work as the third string quarterback.
5. The competition at cornerback is intense
As of right now, there is an open competition for the starting cornerback spot in Week 1 and there are at minimum three players competing to play in that game. This is because starting cornerback Adam Jones will be suspended in Week 1.
Darqueze Dennard had the fifth year option on his rookie contract picked up this offseason, so the team needs to see whether he will be worth the $8 million+ he is due in 2018. Josh Shaw was only a fourth round pick, but he beat out Dennard for starting slot cornerback duties last season and will likely be in the mix for every secondary spot as a versatile weapon this year. Finally, William Jackson was the Bengals’ first round pick from 2016 and everyone is excited to see him play after he spent all of his rookie year on Injured Reserve. He is uber-athletic and long and hopefully we see him play in 2017.
This is one of the top battles to keep an eye on as camp continues and while Jackson has made some mistakes, he’s also had two interceptions after just three practices.