It’s all fun and games until the hits begin.
Not only did the Cincinnati Bengals put on full pads for the first time Tuesday morning, they experienced some rainfall in the process. While being forced to practice outdoors in sloppy conditions gives players exposure to inclement weather, it can absolutely make practice sloppy. Sloppy practice doesn’t prepare you to win football games, and sometimes it can deteriorate your roster. But the lessons always form through one way or the other.
We’re learning things as well. Here’s what we learned from today’s practice.
Welcome to the league, kid
Sooner or later, Joe Burrow was gonna hit trouble.
After the sun shined on No. 9 yesterday in front of God and the local media for the first time, an up-and-down day was in store for Burrow on Tuesday.
The ups were good. He connected with receivers Tyler Boyd and Mike Thomas multiple times for touchdowns in and out of the red zone. Boyd has unsurprisingly been Burrow’s favorite target during practices thus far considering how successful he was connecting with slot receiver Justin Jefferson down at LSU.
Burrow praising Tyler Boyd's body language when asked about why the two have connected well so far. Seems like they're on the same page early.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 18, 2020
The red zone is also where Burrow ran into some trouble. Despite injuries ravaging the defensive line, Burrow was seen scrambling often to evade would be sackers under game-like circumstances. When the rain was falling at its hardest, Burrow also fumbled a snap. Later on, after he safely secured the ball off the snap, a pass from Burrow was batted out of the air by Sam Hubbard and fell into the hands of Carlos Dunlap.
Everything’s quicker when the field gets shorter.
“OK, it wasn’t what you would like to see on a red zone day.” Burrow told reporters after practice. “Felt good to get pads back on, but windows are tighter [than college] and you have to be quick on your feet.”
One day at a time, Burrow will thrive and struggle, sometimes almost simultaneously. You think he’s nervous about what’s to come?
The best of Joe Burrow presser. Does that emotion surprise you? That you aren’t nervous? “Absolutely not. Have you anything else about me being nervous?” pic.twitter.com/p2Hv3fSV0V— Lindsay Patterson (@LndsPatterson) August 18, 2020
We learned at the beginning of practice that A.J. Green was not going to be a part of practice. We learned after practice that Green isn’t going to be a part of any practice this week. Some minor hamstring tightness will keep Green out for Friday’s scrimmage, but it’s not because he can’t go if needed, as Zac Taylor alluded to.
Zac on A.J.— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonATH) August 18, 2020
Precautionary measures with him sitting out today. Have seen enough from him. Wasn't going to be in Friday scrimmage anyway. #Bengals
Remember: this isn’t the first week of training camp. Green and Burrow were connecting for the better part of two weeks prior to Monday morning. A light hamstring ailment is not the same as an ankle injury that saw Green throw his helmet in frustration last July. We’ll resume Green watch next week when new developments start pouring in.
Interesting quote from Zac Taylor on A.J. Green: "I've seen him practice for two days. I saw enough to get us to the first game."— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 18, 2020
In Green’s place was Auden Tate, with Thomas lining up on the other side of the formation just like he was yesterday. One of the two figures to remain with the starters while Green is out. A more pressing question may be who comes out when Tee Higgins makes his return.
Zac Taylor said he's been impressed with Auden Tate since Taylor arrived in Cincinnati. Has a great grasp of what the Bengals are trying to do. Also credits Mike Thomas' explosiveness— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 18, 2020
Higgins was seen working with the rest of the receivers in the individual drills, but was held out of team drills as he continues to work back from his own minor hamstring injury.
With Thomas having back-to-back promising days, it’s worth wondering if he’s building a case to remain on the field regardless of the statuses of Green, Higgins and John Ross, who remains away from the team.
Jonah being Jonah
Pads going on tells us more about the trenches than we knew before, but even that knowledge doesn’t amount to that much.
Jonah Williams being good at football should’ve been already assumed.
Jonah Williams vs Sam Hubbard pic.twitter.com/kqGU94o9Cz— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) August 18, 2020
In the first day of o-line and d-line one-on-ones, Williams takes a humble victory as all reports claim last year’s first-round pick produced a clean day against the Bengals’ starting edge defenders.
The #Bengals are sending their best edge rushers at Jonah Williams in pass rushing competition - and the 2019 first round pick looked excellent (admittedly I'm an amateur offensive line evaluator).— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) August 18, 2020
Where Williams was on this play, well, we would all like to know that.
Williams’ backup at the moment appears to be rookie sixth-rounder Hakeem Adeniji, with Fred Johnson manning the right tackle spot on the second team as well. How many teams can say that their starting quarterback, left tackle, and backup left tackle have a combined zero snaps of NFL experience?
It’s a good thing that the last two first-round picks took care of those spots.
Defense looks the part, as usual
Defense getting the jump when the pads come on isn’t anything new. Dunlap didn’t just intercept the new face of the franchise off of a deflection, he also dropped back in coverage and snagged an errant Ryan Finley throw.
Even with a rotation still underway at cornerback opposite of William Jackson III, even with Shawn Williams joining Renell Wren as the latest player to exit the field via the injury cart, even with linebackers still learning how to play with one another, the defense gave Burrow and the offense fits.
The loss of Williams may hurt how the back end rotates throughout the season, but it’s just another blow that Jackson and the secondary have to deal with.
William Jackson, casually, when asked if there's any pressure on the secondary to step up with Trae Waynes going down: "It ain't no pressure."— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 18, 2020
We’re just a few days away from the Bengals’ first intrasquad scrimmage, and it would be nice if the cart was kept on the sidelines at least until then.