The Bengals have had a strong training camp so far with lots of players stepping up and performing well.
Even some players who didn’t play great last year such as Andrew Billings have been thriving in camp so far. If the Bengals want to perform well this year, getting contributions from under-the-radar players will be key.
Good performances from the wide receivers and the new offensive line will be extremely important for the Bengals’ offense to get back to or close to 2015 levels.
Here are our five biggest surprises from training camp so far.
1. Brandon LaFell getting cut
Almost no one was expecting the Bengals to make this move before training camp started. However, as training camp went along and the Bengals’ other receivers balled hard, LaFell looked more and more like a cut candidate. The Bengals decided to cut ties early on to give him a chance to find another team before the season and to give the young guys as many reps as possible. The extra money from cutting him could also potentially help with contract extensions for Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Hopefully this cut ends up being well worth it and we see John Ross and Tyler Boyd take big steps forward and become elite weapons in this Bengals offense.
2. How well the wide receivers are performing
This one ties hand in hand with the last piece, but it is so significant that it is worth touching on with its own separate point. Last season the Bengals wide receiver group struggled mightily, allowing opposing teams to focus on A.J. Green, thus limiting Andy Dalton. In camp though, Tyler Boyd seems to have taken his game to another level and, despite a couple drops, John Ross is looking like the dynamic weapon the Bengals drafted him to be. Plus, the backups have also looked very good. Look for Ross and Boyd to dominate snaps behind Green, with Boyd being the slot and Ross kicking outside mostly in three wide receiver sets.
3. The emphasis on competition
Something that has always been slightly annoying about the Bengals is their over-reliance on veteran players over some of the younger players on the roster. That hasn’t been the case as much this training camp with the Bengals putting an emphasis on getting the best players on the field. There are currently open competitions at several spots. After two seasons during which the Bengals struggled and failed to go .500, Marvin Lewis may be feeling the heat to perform and if that means that the best players play, then I don’t have a problem with it.
4. Vontaze Burfict not participating
Burfict finally began participating in Monday’s practice, which should cause all Bengals fans to breathe a sigh of relief after he sat out for the first two weeks of camp. Despite his four game suspension, the Bengals will be relying on Burfict when he gets back to provide a big impact from the linebacker position. Seeing him able to get in a few practices before the end of training camp is definitely a positive sign and hopefully he will be 100 percent and ready to give his all when he gets back in Week 1.
5. C.J. Uzomah getting more reps with the first-team offense
Uzomah may not be listed ahead of Kroft on the official depth chart, but at camp it would be difficult to tell by watching. Uzomah has been getting a lot of work with the first-team whereas Kroft has been getting more work with the second-team. A lot of the routes that the Bengals have been having Uzomah run have been more vertical routes compared, which makes sense as Kroft struggled to have much of an impact down the field. The team may be planning for more of a committee approach this time around. Tyler Eifert tops the depth chart, but unfortunately the team needs a backup plan considering his health. Kroft is more of the all-around blocker and chain-mover and Uzomah more of the field-stretcher and threat down the seam. Ideally, Eifert can do it all when on-the-field.