The Cincinnati Bengals are now one day away from wrapping up training camp.
Tuesday saw Cincinnati on the practice field for the second-to-last time of this year’s camp, which by most accounts has been a successful camp so far. Here are some takeaways from what we learned in the latest session:
1. Lewis MIA
For the first time in what feels like forever, Marvin Lewis was not present for a Bengals training camp session. That’s because the 14th-year head coach was sidelined with some kind of “minor health issue”, which will keep him off-the-field for what’s expected to be a short amount of time.
Lewis rode the cart back from practice yesterday due to a leg issue but joked that he's not going to be on the injury report.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) August 8, 2017
#Bengals statement on Head Coach Marvin Lewis' absence. pic.twitter.com/94V8xDsyIZ— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 8, 2017
Hopefully this is truly something minor and won’t be an issue for Lewis going forward. It’s not unheard of for coaches to miss time with various illnesses or recoveries from surgeries.
It would be interesting to know who the Bengals’ second in command would be if Lewis were sidelined in games. My guess would have been defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, but the team says special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons will get the nod for now.
2. Daily ‘Lawson is Special’ Update
While Carl Lawson is far from being the Bengals’ best player, it’s hard to find anyone that’s having a better camp than the rookie linebacker.
Everyone thought it was a huge steal when the Bengals got Lawson in Round 4 of this year’s draft, as he possessed the kind of talent that had him getting Round 1 hype going into the draft.
However, medical issues and being undersized led to Lawson falling into Day 3 before the Bengals snatched him up in the same round they got Geno Atkins in 2010. We’re not putting Lawson in that company yet, but he’s havking that kind of impact from a pass-rushing standpoint.
Carl Lawson just ate Eric Winston alive #Bengals #NFL— J. Angelo Carriero (@AngeloCarriero8) August 8, 2017
And Lawson does the exact same thing to Landon Lechler. #Bengals #NFL— J. Angelo Carriero (@AngeloCarriero8) August 8, 2017
Just a #Bengals reminder: Carl Lawson still destroying everything in front of him rushing off the edge. Just as he has all camp.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 8, 2017
Ogbuehi just ole'd Lawson. Lawson is having a breakout day. Second play almost the same, but Lawson loses his footing. #Bengals #NFL— J. Angelo Carriero (@AngeloCarriero8) August 8, 2017
I expect Lawson to have a big rookie season as long as he’s healthy. I wouldn’t put it past him having a similar rookie campaign as to what Carlos Dunlap did as a situational pass-rusher in 2010 while recording 9.5 sacks. That’s the kind of talent Lawson has.
3. Kroft Stepping up
With C.J. Uzomah sidelined for an unknown amount of time, expect Tyler Kroft to run away with the No. 2 tight end job, which is practically a starting gig given how much time Tyler Eifert has previously missed.
Kroft missed most of camp in 2016 due to a knee injury that also sidelined him in the preseason. That kept him behind Uzomah for the first half of the season and then behind Eifert once he returned.
Now, Kroft is healthy and having a strong camp, highlighted by a second-straight day in which he made some highlight-reel catches.
McCarron shows elusiveness, loses his first option, fires to a well covered Kroft, and Kroft delivers a magnificent catch #Bengals #NFL— J. Angelo Carriero (@AngeloCarriero8) August 8, 2017
It’s good to see the former third-round pick is having a good camp entering Year 3, which is quietly a big year for him if he wants to get an extension next offseason.
4. Winston Losing Roster Spot?
While guys like Cedric Ogbuehi and Russell Bodine took the brunt of the blame for the offensive line woes last year, Eric Winston has quietly been awful in camp. The veteran lineman was re-signed this offseason with the expectation he’d provide depth at both guard and tackle spots, but it sounds like he’s struggling at tackle, where his greatest value lies.
Lawson looks great, but Winston also looks like he's slowed down significantly. Winston slammed his helmet down after Lawson beat him twice— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) August 8, 2017
Bryson Albright beats Winston. It's been a rough day for him. #Bengals #NFL— J. Angelo Carriero (@AngeloCarriero8) August 8, 2017
Ideally, Winston will never see the field this year since he’s a backup, but we know that’s unlikely to happen if he’s on the roster. Rarely do both tackles make it through an entire season without missing some time, and it’s not like Ogbuehi is assured of keeping his spot for a 16-game season.
But with Winston now 33 (turning 34 in November), it shouldn’t be surprising to see his level of player continue to decrease, even though he wasn’t a exactly starting-caliber player last year. Saying this, it’s hard to see the Bengals cutting him unless they feel good about Trey Hopkins being a good backup tackle and if Trey Hopkins wins the right guard job, allowing Andre Smith to primarily serve as a backup tackle.
5. Fisher Struggles Too
Jake Fisher has been having a good camp thus far, but Tuesday wasn’t one of his better outings. It’s understandable for a starting right tackle to struggle in camp if he’s going against the likes of Carlos Dunlap or even Lawson as well as he’s playing.
But on this day, Fisher struggled to block some backups who are on the outside looking in of the 53-man roster. That included defensive ends Ryan Brown and Chris Smith, both of whom got the better of Fisher on Tuesday.
Chris Smith just straight bull rushed Jake Fisher. #Bengals #NFL— J. Angelo Carriero (@AngeloCarriero8) August 8, 2017
Fisher got beat pretty badly on one play by Ryan Brown. Mixon had the best play of the RBs but Tra Carson has looked pretty good this camp.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) August 8, 2017
Now to his credit, Fisher has had some nice moments where he stifled guys like Dunlap and Lawson in camp, so he’s at least had some positives to outweigh the negatives. Hopefully Tuesday was more of an abnormality than a sign of things to come.