Two weeks of training camp has the Cincinnati Bengals ready to pack their things and head on west to Kansas City to open up their preseason against the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium.
Thursday’s practice was more of a mild dress rehearsal for their first exhibition on Saturday night, as they were in shoulder pads but not full pads. It was held inside of Paul Brown Stadium so the coaching staff could get acquainted with communicating with one another from the booth to the field. It’s the little things that have to go right for the end product to look nice.
I had a chance to see what the final product might look like up close today as I was granted with media access before and during the practice. Here’s what we saw (and heard) during the last practice before actual football this weekend.
Connecting with the long ball
Whether it was Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel or Ryan Finley slinging it from the pocket, plenty of deep passes were completed today to a variety of receivers.
next series with the 1s was all josh malone, who hauled in a 65-yard bomb from dalton over william jackson— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 8, 2019
cethan carter hauled in his own 40 yard touchdown with the 2s and about 8 white jerseys joined him in celebration— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 8, 2019
stanley morgan’s turn, this time over davontae harris https://t.co/F3PKD6gM8h— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 8, 2019
Speaking of Stanley Morgan, he had a nice day all around. The undrafted trio of Damion Willis, Ventrell Bryant and Morgan all turned in solid practices and really solidified what Zac Taylor told me before practice.
“Really impressed. Probably the best group of undrafted receivers I’ve ever been around in my years in the NFL, so those guys have really stepped up.” Taylor said. “They make mistakes, but the mistakes aren’t lazy mistakes where they’re not paying attention and it’s just because they got overloaded in that moment...and we can live with that in training camp. If a guy has shown great effort in the meetings, you can tell that he’s got great character and he wants to be really good. Just occasionally his head explodes...we’re gonna live with that. Don’t make the same mistake twice.”
Taylor also mentioned they’ve probably gotten the most reps out of any undrafted players in the league, and they’re going to get plenty of reps on Saturday.
Overall, today was one of the offense’s better days, so hopefully they’ll have a bit of momentum going into the weekend.
What’s training camp (or summer football in general) with a little jawing back and forth between players?
During the first 11-on-11 period, Preston Brown and rookie Trayveon Williams nearly got into it before the second team offense and defense took the field.
Some tension today. Lots of jawing between LB Preston Brown and rookie RB Trayveon Williams.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 8, 2019
There was no fight, though.
Williams has almost been the lone survivor of the running back group. The team activated fellow rookie Rodney Anderson from the NFI list this week, but not before Giovani Bernard and Joe Mixon started missing practices due injuries that they’re being cautious about.
Williams is the first-string back for now, but he’s up for the challenge due to where he’s coming from.
“They (head coach Zac Taylor and running backs coach Jemal Singleton) have done a great job of coaching me up and making sure we know what are assignment is before we go out there.” Williams said. “But definitely I would say playing in the SEC really made a big difference because playing against those guys and that speed of the game and getting comfortable in that system really helped me make the transition into the NFL.”
Expect to see a lot of Williams on Saturday without Mixon, Bernard and Anderson suiting up.
Speaking of those guys:
Plenty of notable players will not be in uniform against the Chiefs, but most of them aren’t dealing with any serious injury.
Full transparency from Zac Taylor on expectations for playing time on Sat. in KC:— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 8, 2019
-- No Lawson (pre-planned as part of ACL return) or Atkins (no need)
-- No Gio/Mixon (want see young RBs)
-- No Eifert (obviously)
-- No John Ross (still day to day, hopeful returns in preseason)
As long as Tyler Eifert is playing with the Bengals, the preseason (or at least the vast majority of it) is just not in the cards. Without A.J. Green and Ross as well, most of the passing game is going to go through Tyler Boyd, Josh Malone and maybe even Cody Core, who all looked sharp today as well.
Behind Williams, undrafted free agent Jordan Ellis has gotten the bulk of the second-team reps in front of Quinton Flowers, so expect to see that on Saturday as well.