The Cincinnati Bengals now have four camp sessions in the books.
Monday was the first practice for which the team was in full pads, and it came just a day after safeties George Iloka and Derron Smith experienced injuries. Neither were present for Monday’s practice and the team signed a new safety to fill in for practice in the meantime.
Here is a look at our biggest takeaways from Day 4 of training camp:
1) Michael Johnson still dealing with injury
It looks like whatever Michael Johnson is dealing with is a bit more serious than originally thought. After missing the last two days, Johnson was once again unable to go on Monday.
Seeing Johnson miss a third straight practice is quite concerning. The 30-year-old has been banged up more often than you’d like, but most of his injuries have come in camp. That included a knee injury in 2015 that sidelined him for most of camp and the preseason.
Some good news at defensive came with Wallace Gilberry returning to action.
Gilberry working with DL instead of on side field. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) July 31, 2017
Gilberry has been working on the rehab field for the past two days, so whatever his injury was didn’t seem to be serious.
2) Shuffle at Safety
Iloka, who went down with a knee injury Sunday and was held out Monday, appears to be on the mend. It looks like it’s nothing serious, though the team may not fully know what Iloka’s injury status is just yet.
My understanding on #Bengals S George Iloka: ACL, MCL are intact, but MRI results still being evaluated.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) July 31, 2017
Smith, one of the team’s backup safeties also sat out Monday following his foot injury on Sunday. With Smith and Iloka out, the Bengals signed safety Cedric Thompson. Hopefully, this is more for depth during camp and not indicative of Smith or Iloka missing significant time.
With Iloka and Smith out, the Bengals have been using Joshua Shaw as the second safety next to Shawn Williams. Shaw has spent most of his first two seasons at cornerback, though he’s gotten some work at safety. Shaw did well there in 2016 and could be relied on to fill in as needed at safety in 2017, too.
Let’s hope this shuffle doesn’t last and Iloka returns to action very soon.
3) Young Receivers Stepping Up
A consistent theme through the first four camp sessions has been the young receivers taking center stage. That includes fourth-round rookie Josh Malone making his fair share of plays, though Monday was when he really started to turn heads.
Dre Kirkpatrick has actually been playing well in camp thus far following his breakout 2016 season, so for Malone to beat him deep says something about the rookie. Malone was also turning heads in OTA workouts, so he could be in for a much bigger role than anyone anticipated in 2017.
Another young gun stepping up has been Cody Core. The second-year man out of Ole Miss showed some nice potential as a rookie, and it looks like he’s parlaying that into a good sophomore camp.
John Ross stayed extra late (again) to sign autographs for fans. That white helmet, though... pic.twitter.com/CzjwQPZcOA— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) July 31, 2017
Core has already smoked Adam Jones for a long catch in camp, so seeing him continue to have a good camp bodes well for his role in this offense. It’s not crazy to think he eventually unseats Brandon LaFell as the second boundary receiver next to A.J. Green, depending on where John Ross is primarily used. Speaking of Ross, he stayed late for the second straight day to work on timing and passing drills with Andy Dalton.
4) Mixon Shines
For all of the offseason hype surrounding Joe Mixon, the positive aspects have been the only things seen in camp. Fans are loving Mixon’s big plays and cheering him on as he speedily breaks through the offensive line for big gains. He’s already had a few touchdown plays and is making it clear that he’s someone to watch this season and hopefully long-term in Cincinnati.
Mixon has been one of the stars of training camp and with Giovani Bernard getting a rest day on Monday, Mixon had more opportunity to shine. Bernard has looked great and Jeremy Hill has had some nice plays, but it appears Mixon could be something special and it will be hard for the Bengals to keep him on the bench this year.
If he keeps up the good work in the preseason, Mixon could receive the lion’s share of the regular-season carries sooner than later.
Joe Mixon is fast.— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) July 31, 2017