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John Ross’ return and other takeaways from latest Bengals practice

The Bengals look healthier at wide receiver even with A.J. Green still sidelined.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Training Camp Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

A strong and informative team scrimmage on Friday kickstarted a positive weekend for the Cincinnati Bengals. The team had Saturday off but returned to the practice field Sunday morning for another padded practice.

Veterans A.J. Green and Shawn Williams remain out for the time-being. Per Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, we can expect Green to practice sometime this week.

A couple of players did put pads on for the very first time this month. Another was included in padded team drills for the first time in his career.

Return of the receivers

A.J. watch continued Sunday as Green observed from the sidelines yet again. Meanwhile, John Ross made his anticipated return to the practice field. Ross was rumored to be returning to Cincinnati late last week after spending several days in California checking in on his three-year old son and the mother of the child after they both tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month.

Ross said after practice he came back to Cincinnati on Thursday and that his son is feeling better.

Ross stepped onto the field as soon as possible considering he returned to the state just a couple days ago. He was seen working with the rest of the receivers in individual drills but was an observer during team drills. The coaching staff will want to ease him back into things after his absence.

Being eased into team drills is exactly what the coaches did with Tee Higgins. After recovering from a hamstring injury, Higgins participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time.

Despite this, the team’s starting receiver trio of Auden Tate, Tyler Boyd, and Mike Thomas did not initially change. Higgins did get some work in with Joe Burrow during red zone drills.

With the amount of work Tate and Thomas have gotten with Joe Burrow, it’s no surprise to see them stay with the 1s. After a few more practices with Higgins and Ross back in the mix, we might see some changes.

Trench warfare heats up

Anytime the Bengals’ defensive lines gains a player instead of losing one to injury, it’s a cherished victory. That’s what happened when rookie defensive end and fifth-round pick Khalid Kareem made his practice debut on Sunday. Kareem didn’t do much other than suit up for the first time, but the players ahead of him on the depth chart sure did.

1-on-1s with second-year offensive linemen Jonah Williams and Michael Jordan have received plenty of buzz since pads came on last week. Williams was put to the test again and had a pretty clean day during those drills.

Jordan had the practice play of his life last week when he pancaked Geno Atkins. The thing about Atkins, being the dominating force he is, is that he doesn’t stay down for long. Atkins got his revenge in a routine pass-rushing win for the two-time All-Pro.

Like always, these clips are fun to talk about, but they aren’t very practical in predicting success when the games begin. We know Atkins is a leverage king, and we know Jordan has to iron out inconsistencies in pass protection. It’s war in the trenches; sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. But you’re very rarely fighting on your own like the players are in these drills.

With Williams, his isolated work can be analyzed a bit more feasibly since there will be situations where he’ll be on an island in protection. The rare losses he’s taking right are when rushers counter inside and he’s getting no help, which can be mitigated in real-game scenarios.

The young duo of Williams and Jordan does look promising, and considering the competition they’re facing every day, we know we’re witnessing legitimate growth.

Opportunistic defense strikes again

The Carlos Dunlap we saw on the tail end of the 2019 season appears to be back in full force this year.

Last week, Dunlap hauled in not one, but two interceptions in a single practice. Dunlap’s disruptive ways forced yet another turnover on Sunday. His outstretched hand tipped a Burrow pass that fell into the hands of cornerback Winston Rose. Rose has been competing with LeShaun Sims for playing time at cornerback, and Sims also reeled in an interception of his own. Burrow ended the day with a couple of throws batted at the line.

Dunlap was solid fulfilling the other aspects of his job description. He was responsible for a couple of run stops and would’ve sacked Burrow had it been a game and not practice after rushing around Williams.

A surplus of sacks and interceptions will be needed if Lou Anarumo’s defense wants to make a quick turnaround after last season.