The Cincinnati Bengals started out the final week of training camp on Monday afternoon.
With just three days left, Day 9 brought about a fully-padded session as the team looks to have a strong finish in camp. Here is a look at our biggest takeaways from Monday’s session with Friday night’s preseason opener looming.
1) Injury Roundup
The Bengals got good news on the injury front with the return of T.J. Johnson. The backup offensive lineman sustained a groin injury that cost him much of the past week, but he was able to return Monday as he looks to secure his roster spot.
Coming into camp, Johnson was a shoo in for one of those final interior lineman spots, but he’s now facing a tough battle with Trey Hopkins, Alex Redmond, Christian Westerman and J.J. Dielman all in the mix. Johnson is not a lock for the final roster, so it’s good to see him back getting to fight for his job.
Rookie DE Jordan Willis in street clothes,— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) August 7, 2017
T.J. Johnson, David Dean back today. #Bengals
Unable to go Monday was rookie Jordan Willis, who is sitting out with an undisclosed injury. This would be the first reported missed practice for Willis, a promising third-round defensive end expected to play significant snaps this year.
As expected, George Iloka remained out as he continues to work his way back from a sprained knee. The initial diagnosis was 3-4 weeks, and we’re just now getting into Week 2, so don’t expect to see much of him before the preseason finale, if at all before the regular season.
2. Fisher a Bright Spot on O-line
The Bengals’ much-maligned offensive line has drawn a lot of criticism in training camp, most of it being deserved. But Jake Fisher hasn’t been mentioned much, which is a good thing.
No news is good news when it comes to the o-line, and we’ve rarely heard about Fisher getting beat or being the reason a play has been disrupted. Today, there was some positive news about Fisher from camp.
Fisher had a nice finish to the 2016 season, as he played some of his first games as a starting lineman, though he didn’t win the right tackle spot until the final month of the season. He’s still pretty raw as a right tackle, but it looks like Fisher has made enough progress this offseason to think he’ll be an upgrade over what that position offered for much of 2016.
And hey, there was even a positive Tweet in regards to Cedric Ogbuehi, too.
3) Uzomah Goes Down
The Bengals have been lucky to avoid any major injuries in training camp thus far. All of the starters are on pace to play in Week 1 with Iloka the only starter or key player injured coming into Monday.
However, a key backup may not be available for Week 1 as C.J. Uzomah went down with a lower-leg injury on Monday. It looked bad as Uzomah was quickly carted off the field. He was vying for the No. 2 tight end spot behind Tyler Eifert, but that role will go to Tyler Kroft by default if Uzomah is out for an extended amount of time.
It looks like Kroft is already making the case for a bigger role in Uzomah’s absence.
This also means that seventh-round rookie Mason Schreck has a better shot at the final roster this year. Schreck has been up and down thus far in camp, but the Bengals are thin at this position unless they add another tight end.
We also could see more of h-back Ryan Hewitt at tight end. Hewitt has been working with the tight ends more in this camp, and it’s possible he wins that No. 2 spot, which is pretty important since Eifert has trouble staying healthy. Hewitt is a good blocker and even caught one of two touchdown passes thrown by Andy Dalton in the team’s scrimmage on Saturday.
4) Jackson Struggles
It’s been an up-and-down camp for William Jackson III. To his credit, Jackson is essentially a rookie after missing 2016 with a torn pectoral, which cost him most of camp, and all of the preseason and regular season. That’s why seeing the former first-round pick struggle this year shouldn’t be a surprise, and that was the case Monday.
But Jackson also had some nice moments.
It will be interesting to see how Jackson plays in the preseason against outside competition. He’s still battling Darqueze Dennard for a starting spot in Week 1 while Adam Jones serves his one-game suspension.
But once Jones returns, Jackson is at risk of falling out of the rotation and getting limited snaps if he doesn’t show more consistency. Jones, Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick and Joshua Shaw figure to get the majority of the snaps, leaving Jackson to fight for scraps if the second-year corner doesn’t improve, but there’s still plenty of time for him to do so with the regular season about one month away.
Jackson has even had some nice moments guarding A.J. Green, which few corners can do. The potential for greatness is there. Now it’s just a matter of harnessing it.