This training camp stuff is far from over.
Hours after trimming their roster down to 85 players, the Bengals returned to the practice fields to begin preparations for Friday’s preseason bout with the Washington Football Team.
Joe Burrow was out there after watching Saturday’s win from the sidelines, but don’t get your hopes up. Head coach Zac Taylor announced after practice that Burrow will not play Friday, leaving Week 3 vs. the Miami Dolphins as the last chance for the second-year quarterback to get some in-game reps before the season.
There are valid reasons to keep Burrow off the field for now, one of them being the offensive line. It held up well against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it’s still in the process of finding starters at each guard spot. The two who started last week, Quinton Spain and Michael Jordan, may not be the same duo who start Friday.
We got a glimpse of a potential change Monday as D’Ante Smith was at the starting left guard for the start of practice.
Rookie update: D’Ante Smith getting first-team reps at LG to start practice. Jackson Carman third-team RG.— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) August 16, 2021
Smith’s solid debut as the second-team left guard was an appropriate continuation of his strong training camp. That practice when he was still working at right tackle and getting beaten like a drum by Sam Hubbard seems like a distant memory now.
It should be noted that prior to Monday’s practice, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan mentioned that plenty of shuffling will occur at the guard spots until they become comfortable with a combination.
Sure enough, Spain took Smith’s place at left guard before practice concluded.
Quinton Spain playing LG with first-team in 11s… for those keeping an eye on the rotation— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) August 16, 2021
The dichotomy between Smith’s training camp arc and Jackson Carman’s is fascinating. Carman was drafted two full rounds earlier and touted as one of the favorites to win the right guard job in the Spring. Now he’s trying to get out of the third-string with less than a month to go until the regular season.
There is plenty of practice and two games to go, but while Carman is squaring off against backups, Smith is getting valuable reps against the starters with no signs of slowing down.
For all this talk about guards, the main action during Monday’s padless practice came in the passing game. And Ja’Marr Chase was the feature presentation.
Here’s something a little more exciting from @Real10jayy__ pic.twitter.com/TcIzjMawdO— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 16, 2021
Chase and the rest of the offense was humming by all reports. The rookie receiver had a very productive day, hauling in multiple receptions and touchdowns during 11-on-11 work.
He caught another touchdown when I was chatting with @MoEgger… so by my count, four receptions, two touchdowns during 11s for Ja’Marr Chase https://t.co/AWGGCSCOuZ— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) August 16, 2021
Burrow and Chase really clicking today. Burrow with some good scrambled in red zone. Had a good audible at the line that led to a third-down conversion to extend the drive.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 16, 2021
The sudden emergence of Chase is promising to hear. While his first two weeks involved a handful of drops and getting his mind up to speed, the fifth-overall pick looks to be hitting his stride at the right time.
Chase is improving, and Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd look to be at the top of their respective games. But the biggest story of this receiving group may involve Trenton Irwin. The team’s leading receiver from Saturday night has been impressing all camp, and made a highlight-worth end zone grab on Monday.
You’re going to want to watch this catch by @trenton_4 pic.twitter.com/g2fDNqXg4b— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 16, 2021
At this point, it’d be no surprise to see Irwin make it through final cuts. He’s stuck with the team since late 2019, and his days of chipping away on the practice squad may be coming to an end. Another strong preseason performance might just seal the deal.
Finally, let’s spend some more time talking about Evan McPherson, because all the guy does is make buckets. McPherson was eight-for-eight on Monday, which included a 54-yarder.
5. I stood well behind the goal post and watched Evan McPherson blast field goals over my head. He went 8-for-8 with a long of 54 pic.twitter.com/kN2WDQlRCO— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) August 16, 2021
There’s nothing more McPherson has to do to fend off Austin Siebert, as the “competition” seems to be a battle in name only, as it should be.
The Bengals will be back out on the practice field tomorrow and Wednesday leading up to Friday’s exhibition against Washington.