CINCINNATI — The Bengals closed out their offseason program Thursday with a final minicamp practice inside Paul Brown Stadium. Players and coaches will be away from each other in any organized workouts until the start of training camp, which is tentatively scheduled for July 25.
The best thing to come out of the last three days? The last two months?
“No broken bones,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.
There are no pads worn during offseason workouts, no hitting involved, so it’s difficult to get a true gauge on exactly where everyone stands, but the general belief is that this team remains on track to compete for the AFC North division title and the bigger aspirations it holds.
“I really feel good about what we’ve been able to get done. I think obviously the thing is you get through revisions, changes you’ve made and additions you’ve made, both personnel and philosophies and schemes and concepts of the things,” Lewis said. “Hopefully we’ve got the young guys in position where — when we start training camp and you begin practicing and progress into practicing in pads and then in the preseason games — they can go out there and really show their abilities and play football.”
Earlier this week I went over a few storylines to keep an eye on heading into the minicamp. Let’s take a look back at them…
*Adam “Pacman” Jones… After sitting out of team drills on Tuesday because of a lingering calf strain, the cornerback participated fully the last two days. At least his on-field life is doing well. Off the field, he’s still going to have to deal with an assault charge, which he pleaded not guilty to, stemming from an altercation outside of a downtown nightclub on June 5.
There is a legitimate question down the road whether Jones’ conduct in this incident, regardless of how the legal process goes, will warrant any action from the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell. The league won’t speculate on discipline but given Jones’ history a suspension of some sort is always a possibility.
*Andre Smith… The right tackle with a new contract was the only no-show of camp. Lewis knows the reason for the absence. He wasn’t pleased about it but also didn’t seem overly concerned that it would linger into training camp or the preseason. Right now, this falls under the “wait and see” category. Anthony Collins would be the top choice to step into the position if this turns into a bigger issue.
*Dre Kirkpatrick… Kirkpatrick is optimistic he’ll be ready to go for the start of training camp. He has yet to be cleared by doctors to return to full workouts so the optimism is guarded. The potential of having Kirkpatrick in the secondary and adding his skills to those of Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Jones puts a smile on defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s face.
*Safety… Heading into the minicamp the belief was that this was a competition between rookie third-round pick Shawn Williams and fourth-year player Taylor Mays to earn the starting spot next to Reggie Nelson but second-year player George Iloka has opened some eyes over the offseason workouts.
“People were always asking me about what the biggest transition from college to the NFL, asking if it was the speed,” said Iloka. “To me, the speed was the same but it was the speed mentally and how you have to prepare for it and know things so you can make checks on the fly. When you’re slow mentally it’s going to slow you down as a whole. That was one of the biggest things I was working on this offseason.”
Nothing here is going to start sorting itself out until the preseason games get underway.
*James Harrison… It was a quiet minicamp for Harrison, which isn’t a shock given the limitations on hitting. The burning question of how Harrison will fit into the Bengals’ 4-3 scheme isn’t so burning for Lewis.
“I’ve seen this guy play more football than anybody here. I know the things he was asked to do there (Pittsburgh),” said Lewis. “I think Mike Zimmer has become more and more comfortable with the versatility that he does have and the ability for him to really do more things that I think even Mike envisioned. But I get to drive this, and it’s what I envisioned. And I think we see that on the practice tape time and time again.”
*Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard… Baby steps for the top two draft picks. They’ve gotten into the flow of the offensive playbook, learning the basics and what their roles could be. Expect things to progress once camp opens.
“I think it’s probably too early to figure that out,” said Eifert. “I’ve been moving around a lot in two tight end sets. Once we get into training camp I’m sure I’ll have a better picture of what I’m doing.”
Eifert is the lone draft choice still unsigned by the Bengals. There have been only six first-round picks signed by their teams so far, so there is little concern over this situation at this point.
The ability to swing out and play multiple spots is the common attribute of both players.
“I don’t think the roles get established until we start preparing for Game One,” said Bernard. “I think the biggest thing now is to just play football. Enjoy what you do. Just go out and have fun and play fast. That’s what coach (Hue) Jackson and coach (Jay) Gruden want me to do – play fast.”
*Injuries… There are no major injuries, at least nothing new, from the OTA and minicamp period. Aside from Kirkpatrick, left tackle Andrew Whitworth was the biggest name not practicing as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. There were a few running backs held out this week; Rex Burkhead, Bernard Scott, Chris Pressley and Cedric Peerman. That gave Dan Herron and Bernard more reps behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis.