The Cincinnati Bengals held their annual Family Day inside Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday.
There, fans were treated to a small preview of what’s to come this season with a brief team scrimmage. They also got to interact with players, all while enjoying a gorgeous day in the Queen City.
Controlled scrimmage. No tackling. 1s vs 2s for the most part. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) August 5, 2017
Here is a look at our biggest takeaways from Saturday’s session:
1) Insight on Early Starters
Coming into Saturday’s action, the only starter injured for the Bengals was safety George Iloka. Everyone else on offense and defense is good to go, so we got an early hint at what the opening day lineup will look like.
1st team is wearing white. Hill, Bernard, Green, LaFell, Boyd, Eifert, Kroft, Jones, Kirkpatrick, and Dennard are all in white— Nick Manchester (@TheManch93) August 5, 2017
Both Andre Smith and Trey Hopkins are wearing 1st team white jerseys...#bengalstrainingcamp2017— Nick Manchester (@TheManch93) August 5, 2017
It looks like Trey Hopkins is truly in the mix for that starting right guard spot. The Bengals may have given Andre Smith $3.5 million in hopes he’d win this job, but it looks like they’re giving Hopkins a fair shot at the job, even if he doesn’t make a fifth of that.
Trey Hopkins getting work up and down the line. Played all three interior OL positions w/ first team on consecutive possessions.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 5, 2017
Both players have had their ups and downs early in camp, though Hopkins appears to be having less mistakes, which is expected since he’s a natural right guard. Smith is still learning the position, but there’s no assurance he’ll have it down enough for him to start Week 1.
At cornerback, the expected three-man corner group includes Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick on the boundary with Darqueze Dennard in the slot. Even though Dennard has struggled in that role through his first three years, the Bengals are banking on him to improve and lock that job down in 2017. Though, Josh Shaw got play there with the first team on Saturday, too, and he played the majority of snaps in the slot in 2016.
2) Dalton Sharp
The offense has been a mixed bag to this point in camp, but Andy Dalton has consistently been a bright spot. The veteran passer has been dealing with a revamped offensive line full of question marks, which has led to a lot of offensive struggles during the past three days.
That didn’t stop Dalton from having a great showing in Saturday’s scrimmage, including a pair of long offensive drives that ended in scores.
First offense drives for a field goal, Randy Bullock connects from 39. Best play A.J. Green beating KeiVarae Russell for a 21-yard cross.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 5, 2017
Bengals first offense rips off 96-yard drive. Dalton 4-for-4 for 51 yards, including a 19-yard TD pass to Ryan Hewitt.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 5, 2017
Another TD drive for the 1s. Dalton to Mixon for 4 yds. But Elliott misses the PAT wide right. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) August 5, 2017
Dalton is going to have a lot on his shoulders this year, so it’s good to see him carrying the offense in camp. He was under pressure throughout parts of the scrimmage but still kept the offense moving consistently.
3) Undrafted Backers Make Noise
Linebacker is easily one of, if not the hardest position for an undrafted free agent to crack this year. Vincent Rey, Nick Vigil, Vontaze Burfict, Kevin Minter and Carl Lawson have their spots secured, which means there will only be a few more roster spots committed to the position.
Then again, while the Bengals list Lawson as a linebacker, they may not consider him a true backer since he’ll spend most of his time rushing off the edge on passing downs, which probably means Cincinnati keeps six or seven true linebackers.
But guys like former third-round pick P.J. Dawson, former sixth-round pick Marquis Flowers and new sixth-round pick Jordan Evans are the early favorites to win those final spots. However, undrafted free agents Hardy Nickerson and Brandon Bell made some nice plays Saturday that undoubtedly boosted their stock.
Couple really nice plays from undrafted linebackers. Impressive PBU from Brandon Bell and nice chase to sideline of Bernard by Nickerson.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 5, 2017
Both players have looked good in camp thus far, especially Nickerson. It will be interesting to see how well they play in the preseason and if they can take one of the draftees’ roster spots.
4) Elliott Struggles Early, Finishes Strong
When the Bengals spent a fifth-round pick on Jake Elliott, he instantly became the heavy favorite to be the opening day kicker. That is, so long as Elliott doesn’t have a disastrous training camp and preseason. Unfortunately, he did not start out the day strong on Saturday.
Saturday saw him miss a 52-yarder AND an extra point.
To be fair, rookies at any position are allowed to struggle in their first NFL training camp, but this can’t continue in the preseason if Elliott wants to win this job. It’s possible the Bengals keep both kickers for Week 1 since they don’t want to give up on a fifth-round pick this soon, but if he keeps struggling like this, they may have no choice but to cut ties and attempt to get him on the practice squad.
It doesn’t help Elliott that Randy Bullock has missed just one field goal thus far in camp, which should be the case for a veteran like him.
The good news is Elliott had a nice rebound to end Saturday, including his first make of training camp from more than 50 yards out:
Elliott bounces back and hits a 32-yard field goal.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 5, 2017
Nice bounce back from Jake Elliott, who ends the day connecting from 51 yards.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 5, 2017
The struggles are concerning, but seeing Elliott not fold and finish strong is an encouraging sign in his development. He’s still the slight favorite to be Cincinnati’s kicker in Week 1.
What was your favorite part about the Bengals’ Saturday scrimmage and Fan Day?