Here are our five biggest takeaways from what transpired on Thursday.
Wide receiver shakeup
The big story of the seventh session was the big shakeup at wide receiver. Brandon LaFell, a starter in each of the last two years, was cut earlier this morning, paving the way for the younger receivers to step up and play more.
LaFell was absolutely going to start and play a lot this season had he made the final roster. He would have been making $4 million for the year while also being a proven veteran, albeit one that was average at best.
Still, this coaching staff loves its vets, and owner Mike Brown hates paying players and coaches who aren’t playing/coaching. Both of these issues is why LaFell was going to rob younger, more talented guys of snaps had he made the final roster.
Now, we get to see guys like John Ross, Josh Malone, Auden Tate and Tyler Boyd to play more. However, Tate and Malone were held out Thursday, so it was Ross getting LaFell’s starting spot and running with it.
And hasn't come off the field— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) August 2, 2018
Ross, Green and Boyd are the new 1s— Nick Manchester (@NickManchester9) August 2, 2018
Great play by Tyler Boyd pic.twitter.com/VoFCWoPEEj— Nick Manchester (@NickManchester9) August 2, 2018
Boyd has been starting in the slot for most of camp, but he has shown he can make an impact on the boundary, where he’ll get more snaps now that LaFell is gone.
But really, LaFell being gone helps Ross the most in terms of playing time. Ross has been absolutely killing it in camp thus far, which probably made it easier for the Bengals to cut LaFell.
For this offense to take a big step forward, they need Ross playing like a first-round pick. He’s done that and then some, which is really great to see. The Boyd/Ross/A.J. Green/Tyler Eifert group has the potential to be one of the 3-5 best pass-catching quadruplets in the NFL.
As mentioned above, Malone and Tate are both sitting out with various injuries, which aren’t expected to sideline them beyond next week. It remains to be seen if they’ll play in the preseason opener, though Malone has done enough to feel good about his roster spot, especially with LaFell gone.
It’s Tate who needs to come back ASAP as he looks to win that sixth/seventh receiver spot. While he’s out, Cody Core and Alex Erickson are going to get more reps and make stronger cases for the 53-man roster.
Alex Erickson has had a good training camp so far pic.twitter.com/mYyrciJbRr— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) August 2, 2018
Erickson is already likely to make the team, but Core was likely on the outside looking in before LaFell was cut and Tate suffered his concussion.
Now, Core has a real chance to show if he’s worthy of another stint on the Bengals’ regular-season roster. He was getting buried on the depth chart and catching passes from the enigmatic Jeff Driskel and Matt Barkley.
Core can now get some reps with Andy Dalton and hopefully show he’s improved since his promising rookie season.
Another Eifert issue?
Everyone hold your breath, cross your fingers and hold onto your butts.
Ok, it’s probably not ‘that’ serious, but Tyler Eifert was unable to get a full practice in today:
Tyler Eifert is working on the rehab field at the moment but he has has pads with him. Don’t know if he’ll spend the whole practice there. Burfict is also working on the rehab field.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) August 2, 2018
It could also be a planned day off for Eifert. Don’t know. His reps will be limited this camp.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) August 2, 2018
Eifert on rehab field with Burfict, Josh Malone and Tony McRae. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) August 2, 2018
Eifert is no longer wearing pads— Nick Manchester (@NickManchester9) August 2, 2018
With Eifert, you never know when something seemingly as small as this isn’t something deeper. Last year, Eifert did not play in the third preseason game for what was due to a ‘minor’ injury.
Well, it turned out Eifert would eventually have back and knee surgery, but for now, it looks like he just got a semi-rest day to keep him preserved. There’s no sense in having Eifert being a full-go for every camp session in preseason game. Frankly, the Bengals probably should treat him like an aging veteran and give him a fay or two off each week.
Hopefully, that’s what the Bengals were doing today by giving him a lighter session.
MJ still a nickel tackle
Last year, it looked like Michael Johnson’s career was nearing the end, as he seemingly lost all of the burst and athleticism that made him a dangerous pass rusher off the edge. However, Johnson found a second life in the form of being a defensive tackle on obvious passing downs, a role he played very well in.
It’s not a stretch to think Johnson was the fourth-best defensive lineman on the team behind Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson. It just so happens those are the four guys lining up as the first-team nickel defensive line:
1st D line is now Lawson, Geno, Johnson, Dunlap— Nick Manchester (@NickManchester9) August 2, 2018
Johnson is entering the final year of his deal, so if he can continue to be a solid interior pass rusher, he may have several years of football left in his tank.
Driskel struggling mightily
This has been a very poor camp for the Bengals’ backup quarterbacks. Both Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel have taken turns looking awful, and today, it was more Driskel that struggled to get anything done.
After about 5 minutes of RZ drills, Driskell had zero completions— Nick Manchester (@NickManchester9) August 2, 2018
Barkley actually had a decent day, while Logan Woodside continues to be a mysterious absent from practice, as he continues to roam the sidelines in street clothes.
If the Bengals are serious about contending for a title in 2018, they have to find another quarterback. It’s becoming painfully evident that none of these three guys are ready to step up if Dalton goes down.
Then again, maybe the Bengals feel that this offense is so geared toward Dalton that there’s not going to be a quarterback who could replace him in the middle of the season and make a positive impact.