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Highlights and takeaways from Saturday’s practice at Bengals training camp

Joe Burrow and the offense put on a show Saturday afternoon.

NFL: AUG 06 Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bengals fans have heard nothing except how the offense has been struggling for a whole week. Well, some fans attended Saturday’s practice only to witness the exact opposite.

Joe Burrow—in his third padded practice—had his best day of training camp thus far. It came just a couple hours after expressing personal frustration to media members regarding the struggles of the past week.

The main problem Burrow spoke of was getting back into feeling the pass rush and working the pocket. There’s obviously no real threat of a pass rush during practice since defenders can’t touch Burrow, but the feeling of a condensed pocket is something the young quarterback has said he’s in the process of getting used to again.

For this reason, coaches have been trying to safely give Burrow experience throwing in the midst of traffic, even if that means literally just standing next to him during drills.

But Saturday was reportedly unlike anything the Bengals have seen from No. 9 and the offense this month. With pre-snap checks and audibles now being implemented into 11-on-11 work, the unit was clicking on all cylinders. The secondary has been downright fantastic, but today they only forced one incompletion as Burrow completed nine of his 10 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown, as reported by AllBengals.com’s James Rapien.

The 16-yarder to Ja’Marr Chase, per Cincinnati.com’s Charlie Goldsmith, came on a third-and-long and featured some tip-toe action on the sideline.

As for Higgins’ catch, well, it was spectacular. And it came on fourth down.

I’ll say this. Every season there is at least one Bengals receiver that has a fantastic training camp. I remember back in 2019 it was Damion Willis. The hype for Willis ended up being too huge for him to handle, and it quickly faded a few weeks into the regular season.

It’s a dangerous game to hype up receivers in August. The difference here is that Higgins is a legitimate talent who was already a really good player entering this month. He looks like an actual WR1 and is performing like one.

It was simply a banner day for the offense, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. To put on a productive show for eager fans has to feel good for Zac Taylor and Co.

Burrow and his receivers have gotten the most attention through one week of camp, but the running backs have also been impressive despite the struggles around them. Joe Mixon looks like the 2018 version of himself when he ran past every AFC rusher, and rookie Chris Evans looks like a capable Giovani Bernard replacement out of the backfield.

Evans’ pass-catching abilities have been a delight to hear and see during camp.

Up front, we got some clarity as to why Michael Jordan, not Quinton Spain, has been taking the majority of first-team reps at left guard. Spain is dealing with a minor injury.

Coincidentally, it was also Spain’s 30th birthday Saturday, and rookie guard Jackson Carman presented him with a cake at Spain’s request.

Spain isn’t expected to be nursing the injury for long, and the Bengals tried a new face at left guard. Rookie D’Ante Smith, who has recently gotten reps at both left and right tackle, was playing some left guard Saturday.

Smith, the team’s third fourth-round pick from this year’s NFL Draft, only played in one game last season for East Carolina. If any of the rookies in this class needs reps for the sake of needing reps, it’s probably Smith. And the more positions he practices at, the more likely the coaches will deem him valuable enough to be one of the 46 active players on game days.

In other rookie news, Joseph Ossai has looked the part of an imposing 21-year old pass rusher. That youth may’ve gotten the better of him towards the end of practice when he made contact with Burrow at the end of his rep. Ossai didn’t tackle Burrow or anything, but touching the quarterback under any circumstances can be deemed a cardinal sin.

Burrow didn’t get hurt, but it appeared that linebacker Markus Bailey did earlier in practice. Bailey was carted off the field for an unknown reason, but Taylor clarified after practice that Bailey was dealing with dehydration and is fine.

Cincinnati has been largely blessed with injury luck as they enter the second week of August. And by acknowledging that this can be considered a jinx, the rules of the universe will prevent this from acting as an actual jinx. We hope.

The team’s weekend of work continues tomorrow with another practice that’s open for a limited number of fans.