10 minutes before the gates to the practice fields next to Paul Brown Stadium opened, Cincinnati happened and a 15-minute shower commenced. By the time I found a spot in the bleachers, there was nothing but sunshine. Gotta love Ohio weather.
The flash storms didn’t stop the Bengals, who are now just one practice away from playing the Chicago Bears in PBS Thursday night. Here’s my three biggest bullet points from the 10th practice of training camp.
Big (but not too big) man back on campus
Seeing tight end Tyler Eifert return to the field so quickly after being placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list was surprising enough for me.
To see both him and linebacker Vontaze Burfict on the field at the same time was like witnessing an eclipse, and looking straight at with no special glasses to make sure you’re eyes aren’t deceiving you.
Burfict was dealing with a tight hamstring entering camp two weeks ago, and he got the green light to start practicing on Monday.
During last Friday’s practice, he was walking around the practice field with his helmet on, if that helped him mentally prepare for being back out there, it showed.
burfict takes his spot at WILL in first snap in team drills. guess who knifes his way to the ball pic.twitter.com/89iX0bliQl— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 6, 2018
The seventh-year veteran is a known commodity in the second-level of the Bengals defense, he also has a history of showing up to training camp out of shape. That didn’t appear to be the case yesterday. Burfict looked active, spry, and lean in the right areas. He’s been an observer of practice up to this point, and his leaner frame has remained consistent.
Training camp isn’t the only setting Burfict has reported out of football shape though. After serving a multitude of suspensions and returning from injury in recent years, maintaining an appropriate weight has often been a problem mid-season.
Burfict will play (and start) in the preseason, but he will have to wait until Week 5 for his first game. It’s vital Burfict keeps active to be ready to contribute at a high level immediately, and doesn’t regress from the progress he’s made coming off his injury.
A bump in the road for Cordy Glenn
It was announced after practice that Bobby Hart is the starting right tackle per the Bengals first official depth chart, but it was his bookend on the other side of the line that caught my eye yesterday.
On more than a few occasions did left tackle Cordy Glenn allow pressure from edge defenders Michael Johnson and Carl Lawson. Glenn’s run blocking has been superb up to this point, but his reps in pass protection have been spotty at times, and Monday’s session was the shakiest yet.
brandon bell tipped pass INT pic.twitter.com/zjFMKpBnlF— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 6, 2018
carl lawson and carlos dunlap giving cordy glenn and bobby hart fits pic.twitter.com/M51f0fDmrx— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 6, 2018
It’s not specifically speed or power that’s causing slight trouble for Glenn, rather Johnson and Lawson have both been able to win with inside counters, and Lawson has been able to win around the arc as well.
Just like it was too early to worry about center Billy Price’s snapping issues, there’s no need to freak out about Glenn not consistently keeping his teammates at bay. We will have to see Glenn handle quickness off the edge better than he has going forward though.
Sam Hubbard refuses to be ignored
If we were giving out a training camp MVP award, there would be a handful of legitimate candidates to choose from. Sam Hubbard has done his absolute best to enter that conversation himself.
Last week it was his work with the second-team unit at both left and right defensive end that we saw him flash with speed and bend. It was yesterday that we got our first look at his pass rushing ability from the interior, and he didn’t disappoint.
sam hubbard getting some work inside against trey hopkins pic.twitter.com/u6uB06oqSn— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 6, 2018
more hubbard at 3t in one-on-ones, get off and inside swipe, but would like to see little more efficiency pic.twitter.com/SV7QWSRFqR— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 6, 2018
Taking on guards in one-on-one situations is not new to Hubbard. The Ohio State alum was used all over the Buckeyes’ front four in his time in Columbus, and this technique-versatility was a reason the Bengals were enamored with him in the draft process.
The same aspects that have made Hubbard successful coming off the edge worked for him inside: an impressive (but not perfect) synchronization of footwork, handwork and timing. His get-off, length and flexibility are assets that make him ideal to penetrate b-gaps.
Chris Smith not only fought his way onto the roster last year, but carved out a significant role on the Bengals defensive line by putting on a show in the preseason. Hubbard is pretty much a lock for the roster on draft status alone, but his role is still to be decided.
If he translates his work on the practice field to the (almost) real thing, the Bengals may’ve found a younger and potentially more effective replacement for Smith.