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John Clayton has a nice wrap up on Mini Camp

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http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=5301274

CINCINNATI -- Last year at this time, the Bengals were an easy pick as a bounce-back team for 2009.

Carson Palmer was his healthiest in years. The schedule was reasonably easy. Seeds of a good 4-3 defense were planted in 2008 and started to bloom during the 2009 offseason.

From the looks of the Bengals as they finished their offseason workouts Thursday, their roster is much stronger and deeper than last season. Good starters in some spots are backed up by talented young players with potential. On paper, this might be the deepest, most talented Bengals team seen in years.

But the road to get back to 10 wins might be tougher against the fourth-hardest schedule in football. Mike Zimmer's fourth-ranked defense faces an elite quarterback gauntlet that includes Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and two showdowns each against Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco.

To their credit, Lewis and the front office loaded up with better playmakers on offense and some intriguing defensive additions. Had the Bengals stood pat, they might have dropped to third in the division.

The key to the season is staying strong for a tough second-half schedule. After a 7-2 start last year, the passing offense lost its legs and the Bengals became mainly a running team. The Bengals are set up for a possible 6-2 start, but they will need marathon strength to prevent a 3-5 finish against a tough second-half slate.

Here are five things I learned Thursday at the Bengals' final practice before training camp:

1. The receiving corps is better: Last year's passing offense was fragile because Laveranues Coles was on his last legs and the team had no deep speed if Chris Henry wasn't on the field. This year's team has a deep arsenal of weapons. The most interesting additions are tight end Jermaine Gresham, the team's first-round choice, and wide receiver Jordan Shipley, a third-rounder. The Bengals may not have seen a tight end like Gresham in franchise history. He may not be as fast as Vernon Davis of the 49ers, but he gives Palmer a 6-foot-5 target in the middle of the field who snatches balls out of the air with sure hands.

By midseason, I expect Shipley to beat out Andre Caldwell for the slot receiver role in three-receiver sets. He's a faster version of Wes Welker who can twist his body, move his feet and get open. Caldwell did OK as T.J. Houshmandzadeh's replacement in the slot, but he faded in the second half of last season. With Shipley, Caldwell and Quan Cosby, the Bengals have three slot options for depth.

Even though he's been resting a sore knee, Antonio Bryant will fit into the AFC North better than Coles. Bryant is more aggressive coming back for passes, which will help Palmer. Plus, he doesn't mind blocking, which will help in this physical division. The odd man out appears to be Matt Jones, the former Jaguar who looks a step slow, especially running outside routes.

2. Running remains the focus: Even though Palmer might have his deepest group of passing weapons, don't be surprised if the Bengals stay more of a running team. Palmer has the skills to run a Peyton Manning-type passing offense, but Lewis seems to favor the more physical running attack. As long as Cedric Benson is willing to sacrifice his body, he should be able to handle a 40-carry-per-game workload. After being considered a bust in Chicago, Benson has more than lived up to his first-round potential as a Bengal.

Plus, the running game fits the Bengals' offensive line. Andrew Whitworth is an unappreciated leader and blocker at left tackle. Bobbie Williams is more than solid at guard. Kyle Cook stabilized the center position. If Andre Smith can stay healthy at right tackle, the Bengals could have a dominant strongside running attack, but Smith can't seem to shake lingering problems from last year's foot fracture and remains a question mark.

3. Meet Adam Jones: For the first time since he entered the league, I saw Adam Jones on a field, not Pacman Jones. Pacman Jones was a legal and professional disaster, putting up more stats on police blotters than on the football field. What I saw this week was a great athlete willing to work hard and help a talented defense as a third corner. With thick, muscular thighs, Jones had the look of an Olympic sprinter on the field this week. His makeup speed on passes was evident, and on returns, he glided through lanes as if life was fast forwarded.

Jones is showing flashes of a great, young talent willing to work. There was a red zone play in which he positioned himself well and knocked away a pass aimed at a taller target. After the incompletion, Jones slammed the ball into his hands, stopped for a second and flipped it innocently to the back of the end zone. He wanted the interception. This version of Adam Jones might have a chance to succeed.

4. Defense has upside: Three Junes ago at a Bengals minicamp, I admired the defense Zimmer was setting up on what was considered to be a weak Bengals team. Last year, they were fourth in the league on defense, which didn't surprise me. They can be even better this year. I don't know if Antwan Odom can regain his sack-a-game form after getting hurt last season, but I see more playmakers on defense. Keith Rivers, Dhani Jones and injured Rey Maualuga form a talented linebacking corps, but Zimmer keeps building that spot. Michael Johnson, a 6-foot-7 converted defensive end, looked pretty good at strongside linebacker filling in for Maualuga. Johnson could be a pass-rushing factor when they go hybrid with a 3-4 pass rush.

Second-round pick Carlos Dunlap is quick enough to help as a backup end but can also move into a tackle spot and rush. Geno Atkins, a fourth-rounder, is another big body who has good potential. Brandon Ghee, a third-rounder, fits the Bengals' blueprint of acquiring fluid coverage cornerbacks. Safe to say, the Bengals had a nice draft. Veteran Gibril Wilson adds more depth at safety.

5. Palmer on target: Finally, Palmer looks as sharp as ever. His passing numbers decreased during the second half of last season. Outsiders thought the reason was a decline in his skills or a thumb injury. Watching him throw in practice proves the problems were about his surrounding cast more than anything else. Palmer remains an elite quarterback. He has a great work ethic and superb skills. With Palmer, the Bengals always have a chance.

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Wow. And Clayton is usually pretty quick to slag on the Bengals.

That's a rather pleasant read. Thanks for the heads up.

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I just re-read that thing. I used to just like John Clayton, now I think I'm gay for him.

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I think way too much is being made out of the tough schedule.

IMHO this is a playoff team, and with a little bit of luck a Super Bowl contender.

Yup we also had the 3rd toughest schedule last year.

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Hatin on matt jones.... No sir not in this house!

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What I appreciate about this is it is an actual evaluation, not some search engine pseudo journalism. It reads as he was there, understands the team, its past, the personnel, the coaches, heck, he gets football.

Reedy and Daugherty take note, this is what you are supposed to be doing.

All hail Gazoo!

007241e2-3af3-4964-98e5-5d36601d014b.jpg

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What I appreciate about this is it is an actual evaluation, not some search engine pseudo journalism.

007241e2-3af3-4964-98e5-5d36601d014b.jpg

That about sums it up. They blather on about the Ravens and the Steelers, how great the organizations are, the Rooneys, Ozzie Newsome, blah blah blah. They just don't bother doing the work to cover the Bengals. John Clayton knows his s**t.

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Hatin on matt jones.... No sir not in this house!

Have you watched any of the minicamp footage? Clayton's right, he looks slow, and I fully agree that he looks like the odd man out.

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Hatin on matt jones.... No sir not in this house!

Have you watched any of the minicamp footage? Clayton's right, he looks slow, and I fully agree that he looks like the odd man out.

He's slow off the line compared to our other guy's... But he produces, he doesnt drop the ball and he makes leon his bit*h on go routes... Not many recievers on this team can do that...

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Jones may look slow, but he's 6'6" and has a long stride. I'll wait til the preseason to see him play before I make any judgments on him.

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I don't know. The videos on the site are almost comical. He looks like a TE doing drills with the WRs. He may be tall, and he may have good straight line speed... but with that long stride he takes a long time to get up to speed - which means he's only fast when running in a straight line. Any of the cone drills he does are pretty pathetic when compared to the other guys, and any time he has to make a quick stop in the middle of a route, it seems like it takes him a year to get moving again.

Knowing that we don't get all of the videos, I haven't really commented on it before - but after minicamp both Reedy and Clayton are saying they think Jones is the odd man out... and I'm inclined to agree.

Reedy breaks it down as Chad, Bryant, Caldwell, and Shipley are locks. The 5th spot will be the winner of Simpson/Jones, and the 6th spot will be for the best STer. Simpson has looked pretty damn good in my opinion... and honestly, Briscoe looks good too.

And lets not act like these are just random opinions. Clayton and Reedy developed these opinions after noting that once Chad returned and kicked Bryant to the #2... the coaching staff gave Shipley most of the reps as the the 3rd WR, and Caldwell and Simpson split time as the 4th.

I don't think it's unfair to say that Jones has a lot of work to do to make this roster.

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I don't know. The videos on the site are almost comical. He looks like a TE doing drills with the WRs. He may be tall, and he may have good straight line speed... but with that long stride he takes a long time to get up to speed - which means he's only fast when running in a straight line. Any of the cone drills he does are pretty pathetic when compared to the other guys, and any time he has to make a quick stop in the middle of a route, it seems like it takes him a year to get moving again.

That's sort of who he is, though, right? I can't see them cutting him based on information that's been available since he did the combine. Unless it's gotten worse. But he's always been a guy who uses his body to get open downfield. Sort of like a WR/TE hybrid, sure.

Knowing that we don't get all of the videos, I haven't really commented on it before - but after minicamp both Reedy and Clayton are saying they think Jones is the odd man out... and I'm inclined to agree.

That may very well be true - but if so, it's because of the depth they've accumulated at WR, not because Matt Jones is Matt Jones.

Reedy breaks it down as Chad, Bryant, Caldwell, and Shipley are locks. The 5th spot will be the winner of Simpson/Jones, and the 6th spot will be for the best STer. Simpson has looked pretty damn good in my opinion... and honestly, Briscoe looks good too.

I think any reasonable person would come to the same conclusion. I'd also think that "best special teamer" == "Quan Cosby". But if all Jones has to do is beat out Simpson, I still have to think he has a fair chance.

I don't think it's unfair to say that Jones has a lot of work to do to make this roster.

Indeed, I think that was the math from the beginning. But there are two things that will make the decision much easier. First is injuries. If all 8 of the potential final 7 candidates are healthy come Sep 1, it's a problem I'm OK having. Second, while it doesn't show up in the position breakdown, the other factor that affects whether he makes the final cut or not is when Gresham signs. Gresham allegedly does all the things you want from Jones. I think if Gresham has a long holdout Jones probably beats Simpson because they need a big, tall target for Carson. If Gresham doesn't sign in a reasonable time, it could be up in the air.

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I can't see them cutting him based on information that's been available since he did the combine. Unless it's gotten worse. But he's always been a guy who uses his body to get open downfield. Sort of like a WR/TE hybrid, sure.

Actually, that's not really true. His combine numbers were amazing. He was among the best athletes at the combine for the vertical and broad jump... meaning he should be explosive. He also was among the very best times at 10 yards for his 40 yard dash... which means that he was quick off of the line. His short cone drills and shuttles were also quite impressive.

But when you see him with the other WRs the Bengals have, he just doesn't look to measure up. And all those measurable never resulted in any real downfield production... as he has never had a catch of even 50 yards, and only has 3 catches of over 40 yards in his 4 year career. And Clayton even noted that he looks especially slow on out routes. He's not a downfield threat... which is the reason he was brought in to begin with, right? To bring back what they lost in Henry?

I don't think it's unfair to say that Jones has a lot of work to do to make this roster.

Indeed, I think that was the math from the beginning. But there are two things that will make the decision much easier. First is injuries. If all 8 of the potential final 7 candidates are healthy come Sep 1, it's a problem I'm OK having.

Absolutely. In fact, I would say that injuries are the best chance Matt Jones has of making this team. Unfortunately... he happens to be the most injury prone WR on the roster at this point.

Second, while it doesn't show up in the position breakdown, the other factor that affects whether he makes the final cut or not is when Gresham signs. Gresham allegedly does all the things you want from Jones. I think if Gresham has a long holdout Jones probably beats Simpson because they need a big, tall target for Carson. If Gresham doesn't sign in a reasonable time, it could be up in the air.

It's an interesting thought... but honestly, not one that makes a lot of sense to me. Matt Jones doesn't play TE, and he isn't a slot receiver either, which means he won't occupy the same areas of the field that a TE might. He plays on the outside. Just because he's big and tall doesn't mean that he fills the same role as a TE.

Add to that the fact that Chase Coffman appears to be coming along nicely and they resigned Reggie Kelly, I highly doubt that a Gresham holdout has anything to do with whether Matt Jones makes the team or not.

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Was watching NFL network this weekend and they were giving us some love too,I think we'll it's built in to people to rip/doubt The Bengals but it's just to hard to this season with a Strait Face.

-IMo Our Offense has more Weapons then our 2005 did (But 2005 had Better WR's) But Cedric is much better then Rudi & We never had TE's like we do now

-Defense Has new Weapons even though it was ranked 4th overall in the NFL...Not only thast but it's led by a guy who everyone in NFL respects...

-Oline Should even be Improved if the starters are Whitworth-Manthis-Cook-Bobbie-Bigdre

I think it was Wilcots who said it but aslong as we avoid Major Injury's there's no reason we shouldn't be one of the top teams in the AFC.

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Was watching NFL network this weekend and they were giving us some love too,I think we'll it's built in to people to rip/doubt The Bengals but it's just to hard to this season with a Strait Face.

-IMo Our Offense has more Weapons then our 2005 did (But 2005 had Better WR's) But Cedric is much better then Rudi & We never had TE's like we do now

-Defense Has new Weapons even though it was ranked 4th overall in the NFL...Not only thast but it's led by a guy who everyone in NFL respects...

-Oline Should even be Improved if the starters are Whitworth-Manthis-Cook-Bobbie-Bigdre

I think it was Wilcots who said it but aslong as we avoid Major Injury's there's no reason we shouldn't be one of the top teams in the AFC.

The way I see it the defense will likely remain the stronger of the two units again this year. It would be nice if they were equal though. Who Dey! :bengal:

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Was watching NFL network this weekend and they were giving us some love too,I think we'll it's built in to people to rip/doubt The Bengals but it's just to hard to this season with a Strait Face.

-IMo Our Offense has more Weapons then our 2005 did (But 2005 had Better WR's) But Cedric is much better then Rudi & We never had TE's like we do now

-Defense Has new Weapons even though it was ranked 4th overall in the NFL...Not only thast but it's led by a guy who everyone in NFL respects...

-Oline Should even be Improved if the starters are Whitworth-Manthis-Cook-Bobbie-Bigdre

I think it was Wilcots who said it but aslong as we avoid Major Injury's there's no reason we shouldn't be one of the top teams in the AFC.

The way I see it the defense will likely remain the stronger of the two units again this year. It would be nice if they were equal though. Who Dey! :bengal:

Oh no Doubt :o Defense will always win based off whos coaching them :o,Now only if we could add Rod as a fulltime coach! ^_^

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Add Carlos Holmes to the growing list of guys who expect Matt Jones to get axed.

Who needs Matt Jones when you have Jerome Simpson? That’s right, I would be flummoxed if Jones made the club over Simpson. There was not much to write home about regarding Jones’ performance in minicamp. He looked like just another guy and was outperformed by Simpson, who has struggled to see the playing field since being drafted. Both receivers are likely on the bubble considering the team’s depth at the position.

Jones is a long strider with little burst off the line and is not the most precise route runner. Not to mention he caught a lot of passes with his body rather than using his hands. You would also expect a guy his size to be more aggressive at the point of attack but that wasn’t the case.

The 6-foot-6, 218-pound Jones was pushed off his routes with little effort by smaller cornerbacks. The receiver made it easy for corners to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Jones is going to have to show the Bengals coaching staff more than adequacy in training camp if he’s looking to revitalize his career in Cincinnati.

Based on what he was seeing... it wasn't so much about Simpson looking great as it was Jones looking bad. I'm beginning to wonder how likely it is for Briscoe to make the squad over both of them.

I very much enjoy a new Matt Jones thread... but I understand that its supposed to be a minicamp thread, so I'll leave a postscript that notes Holmes was very impressed with Palmer, Brian Leonard, and Michael Johnson. You can read the article if you're so inclined.

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I don't know. The videos on the site are almost comical. He looks like a TE doing drills with the WRs. He may be tall, and he may have good straight line speed... but with that long stride he takes a long time to get up to speed - which means he's only fast when running in a straight line. Any of the cone drills he does are pretty pathetic when compared to the other guys, and any time he has to make a quick stop in the middle of a route, it seems like it takes him a year to get moving again.

That's sort of who he is, though, right? I can't see them cutting him based on information that's been available since he did the combine.

That's not why he'll likely get cut. Remeber that the Bengals were thin at WR when they signed Matt Jones. They have since added Antonio Bryant, Jordan Shipley, and Dez Briscoe. I don't think Jones was EVER a lock to make the team, they signed him to see if he can offer them anything better than they had at the time......Unfortunately for him, they have added a couple better WR's since, and have seen the emergence of Jerome Simpson.

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Hatin on matt jones.... No sir not in this house!

Have you watched any of the minicamp footage? Clayton's right, he looks slow, and I fully agree that he looks like the odd man out.

T-O, T-O, T-O, T-O, T-O, T-O, T-O!!!!

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We've all been told how Agreen/Gizzle is this superstar semi-pro player, and how he already knows (or knows someone who knows) half the team, so how about we sign Agreen/Gizzle as our new WR?

I'd pay good money to watch him return a kickoff.

Well OK, mainly the __termination__ of said return is what I'd be paying the money to see.

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Matt Jones doesn't play TE, and he isn't a slot receiver either, which means he won't occupy the same areas of the field that a TE might. He plays on the outside. Just because he's big and tall doesn't mean that he fills the same role as a TE.

I don't mean he's a direct positional replacement, but he could serve the same need in different ways. Indeed, I'd assumed that if they got him, they'd be creative in using his size. I realize that I'm probably giving Bratkowski far more credit than he's due. If you're right and they don't intend to use him in any of those situations - especially inside the 20 - then it definitely hurts his candidacy.

Add to that the fact that Chase Coffman appears to be coming along nicely and they resigned Reggie Kelly, I highly doubt that a Gresham holdout has anything to do with whether Matt Jones makes the team or not.

You may be right. Still, Carson is deficient in tall, reliable targets that don't get creamed inside the 20. I think we could use some depth there *if* Jones can serve in that capacity.

I don't want to oversell my case here - I thought the Jones signing was a bit of a head-scratcher when it happened, and clearly he's at the top of the vet cut list when it comes down. But if he can be a big target when we're deficient of them, it might help me make him vs. Simpson a little easier to decide. Naturally this assumes that recent reports of his suckage are greatly exaggerated.

In the end, look at it this way - for once, cuts are about the decent guy that gets let go rather than the crappy guy you have to keep. I'm just glad that we shouldn't have to scavenge the waiver wire for *starters* anywhere this year. Good stuff.

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