With nearly two full weeks of training camp in the books, here’s a look at three of the most positive developments we’ve seen from the Cincinnati Bengals to this point.
Injuries, or lack thereof
The Bengals haven’t had the best luck in recent years when it comes to avoiding major injuries before they even played a preseason game.
In 2019, the Bengals effectively lost Jonah Williams and A.J. Green before even playing a preseason game.
Last year, the Bengals lost Trae Waynes to a torn pectoral muscle during training camp.
So far this year, the Bengals have stayed relatively healthy while also getting most of their already-injured players back at practice before a preseason game is played. That includes Waynes, Joe Burrow (knee), Joe Mixon (foot), D.J. Reader (quad), Renell Wren (quad), and Trey Hopkins (knee).
Burrow and Hopkins being good to go since Day 1 of camp has been the best news, as both guys suffered torn ACLs last season that threatened to keep them sidelined going into this year’s preseason, but both guys are good to go and well on their way to starting Week 1 of the regular season.
Losing Hakeem Adeniji (pec) and Wyatt Hubert (pec) was unfortunate, but neither guy was expected to play much, if at all this season.
It’s still early, but this has been a solid camp thus far in terms of injuries, at least compared to recent years.
Secondary ballin’ out
Things appear to be finally coming together for Lou Anarumo and his defense, particularly the secondary.
Anarumo, a long-time secondary coach before becoming Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator in 2019, clearly had some growing pains over the last two years after becoming a coordinator for the first time in his NFL career. It certainly didn’t help that injuries throughout the secondary led to guys like Tony Brown, Winston Rose, Jalen Davis and LeShaun Sims logging significant snaps.
That’s why the Bengals made it a point to load up on veteran defensive backs this offseason, including Mike Hilton, Chidobe Awuzie, Ricardo Allen and Eli Apple, while Waynes is back at 100%.
Sure, these guys haven’t exactly lit the world on first in their pro careers, but it’s a solid group that’s aided by having an All-Pro centerfielder behind them in Jessie Bates.
All of this has led to the secondary looking significantly upgraded and a potential strength heading into the new season. They’ve consistently locked down the Bengals’ talented trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, each of whom has the potential to produce 1,000-yard seasons.
And perhaps we’re also seeing Anarumo finally find his groove as a defensive playcaller after he appeared to be in over his head in his first two years on the job.
Joe Mixon is back
A foot injury led to Joe Mixon playing just six games in 2020, but he’s clearly back to 100% and then some. Thus far into training camp, Mixon has looked as good, if not better than he ever has since being a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He’s in tremendous shape and actually looks like he’s gained a little speed while also showing he can make an impact as a pass-catcher, something the Bengals need more of from him after letting pass-catching specialist Giovani Bernard go this offseason.
I also believe Mixon looks better because he has more faith in the offensive line, or should I say Frank Pollack. No one has been more vocal about the addition of Pollack, who helped Mixon have arguably his best season as a pro in 2018, though it helps the Bengals offensive line is arguably better than it’s ever been since Mixon got here in 2017.
That’s giving Mixon more confidence to hit holes harder when he gets the ball and not hesitate as much with guys in his face as soon as he gets the ball. He actually has faith in his line now and isn’t having to dance around in the backfield just to get 2-3 yards.
And with the passing game struggling, a healthy and confident Mixon may very well be the key to the Bengals’ 2021 season.
All told, what have been your favorite developments in Bengals camp so far? Let us know in the comments section!