After a needed middle-of-the-week day off, the Cincinnati Bengals took to the practice fields once more on Thursday morning with their first scrimmage just a day away. The rainy skies of Tuesday were long forgotten as clouds were no where to be found above downtown Cincinnati.
Such pleasant weather acted as quality foreshadowing for how the Bengals’ second padded practice went down. Here are our takeaways from the day.
Burrow’s bounce back
Heisman Trophy winner, NCAA record holder, and National Champion Joe Burrow didn’t experience very many lows during his legendary 2019 season at LSU. And every time he got down, he never stayed down for long.
If Tuesday constituted as an off day for Burrow, he handled it with grace and moxie in his press conference afterwards. But the tribulations are from over.
During the first 11-on-11 period of practice, veteran free agent signee Josh Bynes intercepted a late over-the-middle throw from Burrow. Bynes said after practice he saw the play develop right before his eyes and just waited for the throw.
Burrow was down, but once again, not out.
Today was apparently the first day the playbook offered Burrow a chance to throw deep to his receivers and he took advantage of the opportunity. Immediately following the interception, Burrow connected with three different receivers deep down the field, one of them resulted in a touchdown to Tyler Boyd.
After being intercepted by Josh Bynes, Joe Burrow showed great touch on deep completions to Tyler Boyd, Mike Thomas, and CJ Uzomah— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) August 20, 2020
Everything after the Bynes interception reportedly looked the part of a well-oiled machine. According to Dan Hoard of Bengals.com, Burrow was 15-19 during both 11-on-11 periods.
Going back to the Bynes interception, the veteran linebacker told reporters that Burrow came up to him right after the play and talked through what had happened. Bynes, who’s been in the league for the last decade, said it was the first time he witnessed a rookie quarterback do something like that.
Josh Bynes points out he and Joe Burrow talked about the INT as they walked off the practice field. Bynes said he doesn't recall if a rookie QB has done that before.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 20, 2020
Add it to the “what makes Joe Burrow special” list.
Burrow also saw fellow rookie Tee Higgins rejoin the offense today. Higgins had been dealing with a minor hamstring injury for the last week or so, but officially returned to practice today after going through individual drills on Tuesday.
Reader leading the charge
Trae Waynes’ injury, Mike Thomas’ emergence, and Vonn Bell’s intensity are all getting worthy attention, but the Bengals’ prized signing of this year’s free agency class is not to be forgotten.
D.J. Reader was turning heads during the second day of true 1-on-1s between the offensive and defensive line.
D.J. Reader is manhandling offensive lineman in one on one drills. It’s like he’s getting a head start. #Bengals— Jed DeMuesy (@Local12Jed) August 20, 2020
2019 was the year that Reader showed notable improvement as a pass rusher with the Houston Texans. It’s one of the primary reasons why the Bengals pursued him so aggressively in free agency. To see him look the part in the early days of training camp with how many hits the defensive line has taken this past month is nothing short of promising.
But, this is the reality with 1-on-1s in camp, it always favors the pass rusher. When the entire line gets to work together in a true simulated environment, that’s when the real evaluations can begin.
We’ve also had two days to watch Jonah Williams work against edge defenders Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson as well, and Williams continues to show strength and quickness against those seasoned vets.
To rotate or to not rotate
The back six/seven of the defense is experimenting with different groupings at cornerback and linebacker. Different rookie linebackers are getting paired with veterans at that position, and the rotation at cornerback is still on-going.
With Darius Phillips taking the lead on Monday and Tuesday, it was LeShaun Sims’ turn to take reps with the starters on Thursday.
LeShaun Sims has been getting most of the reps as the third starting cornerback today (with Mackensie Alexander and Will Jackson). Darius Phillips got them on Tuesday— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) August 20, 2020
Sims was getting chances at cornerback along with Winston Rose earlier this week, but the coaching staff brought out Sims first today for a change. Expect Phillips to start during Friday’s scrimmage since he’s been getting the most work there.
The position group that doesn’t seem to be changing is offensive line. Xavier Su’a-Filo and Bobby Hart have consistently been with the starters at right guard and right tackle, respectively. If Fred Johnson is going to get a chance to start at right tackle, it may have to come after Hart proves he needs competition in the eyes of offensive line coach Jim Turner.
Until then, Hart’s job doesn’t seem to be in any kind of danger.