The Bengals have a unique dilemma on their hands.
They have a rookie quarterback, but no preseason games on the schedule. This means that they have to try to simulate game action, since Joe Burrow’s first NFL snaps will be in a game that counts.
The Bengals played their first scrimmage of training camp on Friday morning. Though the media was not allowed to film any of the scrimmage, they were able to attend and report on what they saw.
Here are nine takeaways from the Bengals’ scrimmage on Friday.
A.J. Green, Shawn Williams, and others were sidelined from today’s scrimmage. Williams and Tee Higgins worked out on the rehab field. Green has been working through a hamstring injury, but he was scheduled to have the day off regardless. John Ross also remained out as he’s expected to rejoin the team this weekend after tending to his family.
A.J. Green, Shawn Williams, Khalid Kareem, Scotty Washington, Alex Redmond and Kendall Futrell are among those who won’t participate in today’s scrimmage. #Bengals— Tyler Dragon (@TheTylerDragon) August 21, 2020
Hopefully, most of these guys are able to go when the team’s next scrimmage is. But if nothing else, they’re all expected to be ready for Week 1.
Joe Burrow played as advertised
Burrow had a hot start to the day. He started off his first drive completing all six of his passing attempts. He completed eight in a row before finally throwing an incompletion. He was nine for ten after the first two drives with two touchdowns.
Another drive, another TD pass to Auden Tate. This time Burrow hits Tate for a 6-yard TD. Burrow's line so far 9-of-10 passing for 101 yards, 2 TDs.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 21, 2020
He ended the day going 13 for 19 with three touchdown passes. Overall, a good day for the rookie.
Joe Burrow had three touchdown passes today. Auden Tate had two and Mike Thomas caught one. #Bengals— Tyler Dragon (@TheTylerDragon) August 21, 2020
My unofficial scrimmage numbers for Joe Burrow: 3 TD and 2 FG on 5 drives (both FG on drives that started at the opponent’s 30, so wins for the defense). 13-for-19 with 2 TD to Auden Tate. One risky throw rolling left and throwing deep over middle. Highly impressive overall— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) August 21, 2020
Zac Taylor on Joe Burrow: Said he thought Joe showed good control of the offense.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 21, 2020
Given the receivers Burrow was without today, it’s great to see he still was able to thrive with the weapons he did have. These scrimmages are as close to preseason games as Burrow will get, so it’s good to see his first one was a success.
Auden Tate had two receiving touchdowns
With Green, Ross and Higgins out, Auden Tate was the star of the day at receiver. Tate caught Burrow’s first two touchdown passes and also made some highlight-reel grabs, one of which came on a 3rd-and-14 conversion.
With Green and Ross set to become free agents next year, Tate has a chance to establish himself as a focal point in this offseason, and he’s already starting to do so following a successful first scrimmage.
Jacques Patrick made an impression
Another former Florida State Seminole, Jacques Patrick, turned head during the scrimmage.
Patrick was undrafted by the NFL 2019, but entered the XFL draft and played for the Tampa Bay Vipers.
With Rodney Anderson’s failed physical, the Bengals are looking to fill the third running back spot. It looks like it will come down to Patrick and Samaje Perine, who also rushed for a touchdown in the scrimmage.
Quick eye opening moment on the third-string live tackling drive. RB Jacques Patrick goes bonkers with a 41-yard run off the right side, then a barreling 14-yard TD run off the left. Nice showing by the UDFA.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 21, 2020
Patrick was never the lead back at Florida State as he was in a committee approach, and he wasn’t with an NFL team before Cincinnati, so he’s still a relative unknown at this point. The 6-3, 236-pound bruiser could be a nice change-of-pace back compared to the other backs on the roster.
If nothing else, Patrick appears to be making a good case for a spot on the practice squad.
Ryan Finley has shown improvement from last season
Ryan Finley’s rookie year did not go well. He completed 47.1 percent of his passes for a 62.1 passer rating in three starts, all of which the Bengals lost.
He seemed to be better during the scrimmage, albeit against the second string defense.
In a pair of drives without tackling that started at the opponent’s 30-yard line, Ryan Finley threw TD passes to Alex Erickson and Mason Schreck vs the second team defense. Earlier during the scrimmage portion, Finley completed a long pass to Erickson. Solid day for Finley— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) August 21, 2020
Ryan Finley has made some tremendous strides this offseason. Looked good in camp so far. Appeared to end the scrimmage with a TD.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 21, 2020
Finley is competing with Brandon Allen for the right to be Burrow’s backup. So far, it looks like Finley has a slight lead following a productive scrimmage. It certainly helps he already has a full year in Zac Taylor’s system.
Alex Erickson is stating his case
The Bengals’ receiver room is crowded this year, and Alex Erickson is in danger of losing his spot. Normally, his special teams abilities give him an advantage, but with Brandon Wilson and Darius Phillips, that may not be enough.
Erickson helped his case with a solid outing on Friday, receiving passes from both Burrow and Finely.
Erickson just made a circus touchdown catch from Burrow BUT we weren’t allowed to shoot it #Bengals— Mark Slaughter (@MarkVSlaughter) August 21, 2020
On that drive, Ryan Finley was 4-of-6 passing for 56 yards. Alex Erickson with two catches for 39 yards, including a big 27-yard gain.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 21, 2020
Erickson is facing some tough competition from Damion Willis, Stanley Morgan Jr. and Mike Thomas for one of the final receiver spots, so it’s good to see the veteran responded with a solid outing today.
Burrow and red-zone offense struggled
Burrow’s first practices in the red zone have been disappointing. That trend seemed to continue during the scrimmage.
On drives that started on the opposing 30-yard line, the offense had to settle for field goals.
Last 4 drives all start on opponent 30. Burrow and 1s settle for 2 FGs. Finley and 2s score 2 TDs on just 3 plays, long scoring strikes to Erickson and Schreck. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonATH) August 21, 2020
Interestingly, Finley did not struggle the same way Burrow did, but the former does already have a full year in this system. Let’s see how Burrow looks in the next scrimmage before worrying about this issue.
And it will certainly help with this issue when Green, Higgins and Ross are all in the lineup.
Sam Hubbard had a day
Sam Hubbard was a handful for the first offense, whether he was in coverage or rushing the passer.
Hubbard, in coverage, just blew up Uzomah in the end zone #Bengals— Mark Slaughter (@MarkVSlaughter) August 21, 2020
In his first two seasons with the Bengals, Hubbard has shown flashes of becoming a major impact player in this defense, and that was on display today. If he steps up his game in Year 3 with Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, D.J. Reader and Carl Lawson doing what they do, this already-imposing defensive line becomes flat-out terrifying to opposing offenses.
False starts plagued the offensive line
One problem that could dampen Burrow’s rookie campaign are pre-snap penalties. The first team had four false starts on the first two drives, which is simply unacceptable, but also to be expected for a rookie in his first NFL scrimmage.
First-team offense with its fourth false start of the day and we just started the second series— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 21, 2020
Zac Taylor said false starts are typical for a teams’ first preseason game. That makes sense, since the offensive line configuration is new and they are playing with a quarterback they have never played with before.
Zac Taylor said the false starts are "unacceptable." Said it was typical for the first preseason game.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 21, 2020
These have been issues in recent years though, so it is a tad concerning to see them rear their ugly head again.
Hopefully, with more practice snaps the line will get used to their new quarterback’s cadence and rhythm and the penalties won’t be an issue.