After nearly three grueling weeks of camp, the Bengals will now head home and prepare for Friday’s game, the first game of any kind since the 2016 regular-season finale.
Now, it’s time for our takeaways from the final day of Bengals training camp 2017.
1. No Pads, No Injuries
The Bengals opted for a light practice on Wednesday that had no pads or helmets for players. That meant there was very little contact to speak of.
#Bengals with no pads or helmets for what amounts to a 45-min Walkthru. How lax? Adam Jones is in shades.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 9, 2017
With Friday’s preseason opener just two days away, the Bengals wanted to make sure camp ended on a high note with no one else getting hurt. This will wind up being one of the best camps in the Marvin Lewis era in terms of how healthy the Bengals are heading into the preseason.
Last year, the Bengals lost William Jackson III, Andrew Billings, Tyler Kroft and Darqueze Dennard to significant injuries before camp ended. Jackson and Billings wound up missing the whole season, while the other guys missed all of the preseason and were rusty to start the regular season.
As of now, every starter on the expected 53-man roster is on track to play in Week 1 of the regular season. The only question mark is George Iloka, who is still about 2-3 weeks away while recovering from a knee sprain. But, the team has more than three weeks before taking on the Baltimore Ravens in the Week 1 home opener on September 10.
The Bengals have to feel very fortunate to get through camp without any serious injuries occurring. That feels like a miracle with how hard Cincinnati has been hit on the injury front in recent camps. Now, let’s just hope that continues through the preseason.
2. Marvin Lewis Returns; Talks Roster Cutdown
Speaking of health, Marvin Lewis was back on the sideline Wednesday to see through the final day of camp. Lewis left early on Tuesday to have his leg examined for a health issue, which has been reported as a Baker’s Cyst in his knee.
That’s nothing too serious, as evidenced by Lewis being back at practice just a day later. He plans to be coaching on the sideline on Friday when the Buccaneers come to town.
One interesting thing Lewis did reveal was how he’ll cut down the roster heading into Week 4 of the preseason.
Marv on no cut to 75 players. I'd prefer a cut to 75, but we won't have 90 players in last pre-season game— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) August 9, 2017
This spring, the NFL approved a rule alteration that eliminates the first roster cut-down period, which used to force teams to trim their roster to 75 before the final preseason game. Now, there will be just one roster cut down day following the fourth preseason game, which is from a 90-man roster to the 53-man roster. Teams are free to cut players at any time, but will only be required to make one cut, instead of the usual two to get down to 53 players.
This is good news for fringe players looking to make one final bid for a spot on a 53-man roster or practice squad. This also will allow teams to play more of their fringe players in the final game of the preseason.
However, it sounds like Lewis will still have a good amount of players cut before that fourth preseason game in an effort to provide more playing time in the final preseason game to guys truly fighting for a spot on the final roster.
3. John Ross Improving
Before practice began, Lewis spoke with the media about a variety of topics, among which was John Ross’ health.The ninth-overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft has been brought along slowly as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
.@WatchJRoss updates his shoulder: I'm about 90%. Just taking my time & our trainers are doing a real good job.. it's looking good right now— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) August 8, 2017
Ross was healthy enough to practice on Day 1 of camp, but he has yet to be cleared for 11-on-11 work as the preseason begins. He’s all but assured of sitting out during Friday’s preseason opener.
But Ross has still gotten a good amount of work in through his first three weeks of NFL practices, and Lewis likes how far along the rookie has come.
Lewis said John Ross has come a long way in technique learning punt returns. Teaching him from scratch. Compared to Peter Warrick in ’03.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 9, 2017
The last time the Bengals actually spent a first-round pick on a receiver other than A.J. Green was in the 2000 draft to select Florida State’s Peter Warrick. The former Seminole was a superstar in college who struggled to make an impact as a pass-catcher in the NFL. Warrick did manage to make an impact as a return man with the Bengals, something Lewis is hoping Ross can do in addition to upgrading the offense.
We could be a few weeks away from seeing Ross in live game action, but that’s because the Bengals know he can have huge impact on this team later in the regular season and hopefully in the playoffs.
4. Kumerow Axed
One of the preseason favorites during the last to years has been wide receiver Jake Kumerow. A former back-to-back Division III champion at Wisconsin-Whitewater, Kumerow was a star in each of the last two preseasons for Cincinnati, but he was always the seventh or eighth best receiver when it came time to make the final roster, leading to him being cut.
Kumerow did make it to the practice squad in both years, but it looks like he won’t even do that with the Bengals this year. The team cut Kumerow on Wednesday with the waived/injured designation. That means if Kumerow clears waivers, he will revert to the Bengals’ Injured/Reserve list.
Then, Kumerow will either sit there unable to so much as practice for all of 2017, or he’ll negotiate an injury settlement with the Bengals so he can potentially join another team.
This all but locks in the wide receiver group for the final roster, which will include A.J. Green, John Ross, Brandon LaFell, Cody Core, Tyler Boyd, Alex Erickson and Josh Malone. Erickson is probably the only guy that could be cut since Core has shown a lot more potential as a pass-catcher, and the Bengals now have a bevy of capable returners in Ross, Adam Jones, Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd.
Still, the Bengals will do everything in their power to keep all seven receivers. Kumerow getting the waived/injured designation means the Bengals will have a new guy taking his spot on the practice squad this year. That’s good news for Alonzo Russell, who looks like the early favorite as the first option practice squad receiver.
5. Cuteness Overload
Noah Dalton is already looking to take his father’s place someday as quarterback of the Bengals:
That’s what it’s all about.
What were your biggest takeaways from training camp?