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2021 Training Camp and Pre-season News and Chatter

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Here's the mystery on Wyatt Hubert on NFI solved - no bueno:

 

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I like the Lamont Gaillard pickup even more knowing Hopkins is cleared. It’s just a straight up “get better” move instead of filling a hole.

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The late emphasis on Center AND Hopkins being cleared is interesting.   I had assumed the recent center news was related to Hopkins not being cleared.   

 

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Just because he’s cleared doesn’t mean they want to throw him out there full time for camp and preseason. That’s why Gaillard is here. Reiter probably falls in the “kicking the tires in case there’s a setback” category.

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Chrisman is reportedly a hand injury.

Adenji is the torn pec reported back during OTAs. He will likely be a wash for the year.

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The Wyatt Hubert torn pec news is new. It is the same injury as Adeniji. 

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Dehner on Twitter, is asked why Pollack wasn’t retained as OL coach when Zac rode into town with the training wheels still on his Schwinn.  His answer:

 

“The front office loved Pollack, but wanted the new coach to have freedom to pick his own staff. Taylor had a great relationship with Turner and always wanted him to be his OL guy.”

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Good for Reece Horn.  That’s quite a receivers’ room to walk into as a sort of non-credentialed vet free agent.  Good luck Reece!

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Bengals Notebook: With Burrow Cleared, Training Camp Starts Under Full Sail

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The Bengals get a shot of good karma when they open training camp Wednesday with quarterback Joe Burrow under center in 11-on-11 action for the first time this year.

It's apparently not the only shot they're going to get.

At Monday's training camp luncheon in Paul Brown Stadium's East Club Lounge, head coach Zac Taylor said fewer than ten players haven't received a COVID-19 shot.

"Our players have done a great job. We are 90 percent in the process of being fully vaccinated," Taylor said. "Really, two weeks from now there's another 10 that will be considered fully vaccinated. We are in a good spot. We have had great conversations with all these guys and proud of the way they have attacked it and communicated it. They have allowed us to be put in a really good position to be as normal as possible going forward."

With all coaches and staff vaccinated, that means life is pretty much back to normal for most of the roster.  Unvaccinated players still have to follow the NFL's COVID protocols, meaning they have to wear masks indoors and socially distance in meetings and the locker room.

Bengals president Mike Brown lauded the way the NFL had handled COVID and has taken note of last week's scathing memo from Park Avenue warning teams of forfeits and fines if there are outbreaks among unvaccinated players.

"I'd like to get it up to a full 100 percent. But people have to agree to do this. We're not compelling them to do it," Brown said. "We're asking them to do it. We're trying to convince them to do it and we're making good progress at that … I like to think we could work through this cooperatively … I'm aware of it and probably that's what they wanted. They wanted us to take notice and that might incentive us to do the things we need to do to give us the best chance to have a complete season."

BURROW'S REGIMEN: Taylor held off on any 11-on-11 during the spring and went to great lengths to protect Burrow's reconstructed left knee. During the spring Burrow looked terrific throwing the ball out of shotgun and during drills, but Taylor kept him ten feet away from everybody else. That meant no handoffs and no center snaps.

No more. He's back in the game. An 11-on-11 game.

"Now he'll be under center, he'll be participating in that. At some point, you can't be overprotective," Taylor said "Its football. And you've got to let him get out there and experience it. So that's what we'll do.

"He's cleared to do everything. Now it's on us to be wise and take it week to week. Obviously he wants to get the reps, be ready to play Week 1 against Minnesota. That's our focus. It's hard to say something's set in stone. You want to take it week to week. But so far, so good."

Mike Brown pretty much said not to expect to see Burrow play in any preseason games and Taylor threw out a reminder that when he was with the Rams Jared Goff didn't work until the regular season.

The only difference is that Burrow did miss valuable snaps from the last six games of his rookie season. Taylor sounded like a coach trying to devise a simulated pass rush fierce enough to get him ready for a game without putting him in a game.

"Sometimes it can be a little overstated. I know coming off injury it's different because he did miss the back half of the season there," Taylor said. "Just finding ways to simulate that in practice and taking it week to week and figuring out how we're going to utilize him, if at all, in any of the preseason games."

Burrow may not take every snap right away as they ease him in. Nick Cosgray, the Bengals director of rehab, is still getting the call.

"You still want to keep up some of the rehab stuff with Nick Cosgray. Nick's done a great job with him. I think that stuff has been really beneficial with him," Taylor said. "I know Joe's felt that way. So you want to keep that up. And sometimes if that is a day on the field that eats into some of the reps, so be it. We want to make sure that he's still 100 percent when we're ready to go. I think he feels that way now. But again, we've just got to be wise with our approach.

INJURY LIST: If it wasn't for Burrow, the reconstructed knee of center Trey Hopkins would be the most discussed body part of camp. Hopkins tore his ACL six weeks after Burrow and even though he's just six months off surgery, he'll be out there Wednesday. He'll probably start in a limited way, but it's still a Herculean feat.

"We have to be really careful of him in camp," Taylor said. "He's a guy we will manage early on and take it week to week like we talked about with Joe. Probably hold him a little bit more early on."

Also a rehab beast is nose tackle D.J. Reader after he blew out a quad in last year's fifth game. It looks like he'll be full go right away.

Taylor did say they've lost seventh-round pick Wyatt Hubert for the year when the defensive end from Kansas State tore a pec away from the facility. Fourth-round pick Cam Sample is day-to-day with a "slight," hamstring pull and undrafted rookie wide receiver Pookah Williams should be ready to go Wednesday after showing up sick.

Undrafted rookie punter Drue Chrisman is shelved for a couple of weeks with a hand injury and backup nose tackle Renell Wren, who suffered the same kind of quad injury Reader did during the first week of last year's camp, should be back in a couple of days once he gets cleared.

 

 

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Dehner's pre-camp guess at what the 53 will be after final cuts (he posted it today at The Athletic) - chew over and discuss as the spirit might move you:

Dehner Jr.: Predicting Bengals 53-man roster as camp opens – The Athletic

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Training camp has arrived, and the next month will determine how the Bengals roster shakes out. The endpoint feels more set than at any time in the Zac Taylor era as the gutting of the Marvin Lewis holdovers is essentially complete.

This collection of players was drafted and acquired through the vision of Taylor and director of player personnel Duke Tobin. And this will serve as a make-or-break year for that vision. That doesn’t mean the next month will be devoid of roster battles. Important ones exist and jockeying through the depth of the roster will probably be the most important development of the next month outside of praying for no more injuries.

The schedule for cutdowns from 90 to 53 this year under the new CBA will proceed as follows:

Aug. 17: Must cut to 85
Aug. 24: Must cut to 80
Aug. 31: Must cut to 53
Here’s my first swipe at predicting where the 53-man roster lands when the calendar flips to September.

Offense (25)
Quarterback (2)

Starter: Joe Burrow
Reserve: Brandon Allen
Outside looking in: Kyle Shurmur, Eric Dungey

Outlook: Easiest position to predict on the entire roster, and the Bengals love it that way. Allen solidified himself as a capable backup during the conclusion to last season and, most important, built belief with his teammates that he can sling it and keep them in games should Burrow miss time. All expectations are for Burrow to be ready to go in the opener against Minnesota. That feels so sure it’s to the point his ACL barely feels like a storyline anymore considering what we saw in the offseason program. Shurmur and Dungey will battle for a spot on the practice squad.

Running back (4)

Starter: Joe Mixon
Reserves: Semaje Perine, Chris Evans, Trayveon Williams
Outside looking in: Jacques Patrick

Outlook: Plenty of excitement about what Evans could bring given how well he caught the ball during the draft process and once he arrived for OTAs. A big showing in the preseason could earn him an immediate role in passing situations, spelling Mixon. It also could put Williams squarely on the bubble. He might be the last guy on the roster at this point, and not having a preseason hurt him last year. He has advocates in the building, but he needs to show well to hang on and force the Bengals to keep four.

Wide receiver (6)

Starters: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd
Reserves: Auden Tate, Mike Thomas, Trent Taylor
Outside looking in: Pooka Williams, Trenton Irwin, Riley Lees, Scotty Washington, Stanley Morgan

Outlook: The first five are solid, with Tate owning a situational role and the first off the bench and Thomas adding burst if an injury occurred on the outside. The battle here will be at the sixth spot, and it likely won’t come down as much to how they play at receiver as punt returner. Williams looks to carve out a hybrid receiver/running back/returner role that can create enough value for him to latch on as an undrafted free agent, but he’ll need to be dynamic in the preseason. The slightly better bet at this point would be Taylor, a veteran who has been a safe, solid returner in the league before and has shown the ability to step in and play the slot. All the other names will be fighting to make an impression but more likely would be practice squad candidates, with Morgan’s special-teams ability the most valuable asset of the lot.

Tight ends (3)

Starter: C.J. Uzomah
Reserves: Drew Sample, Thaddeus Moss
Outside looking in: Mason Schreck, Mitchell Wilcox, Pro Wells, Cheyenne O’Grady

Outlook: Maybe we see a veteran added to the back of this group in the final cuts or at some point during camp. The Bengals kept four tight ends/fullbacks for seven consecutive years before keeping only three last year. With the amount of 11 personnel we should expect and the fact a fullback won’t be walking through that door, a total of three looks likely again. Still, that’s a largely uninspiring group beyond the first two. Moss has potential given his connection with Burrow at LSU, but it’s hard to predict much from somebody who went undrafted in 2020 and is already on his second team. The final spot(s) here will be for anybody to take with a quality camp.

Offensive line (10)

Starters: LT Jonah Williams, LG Quinton Spain, C Trey Hopkins, RG Xavier Su’a-Filo, RT Riley Reiff
Reserves: Fred Johnson, D’Ante Smith, Michael Jordan, Jackson Carman, Billy Price
Outside looking in: Isaiah Prince, Keaton Sutherland, Trey Hill, Lamont Gaillard
Injured: Hakeem Adeniji (pectoral)

Outlook: We shall see how quickly Carman comes along, but at this point I foresee him opening the year as a backup. That might last only a few games, but plugging veterans in as Carman figures out how tough this league is would be a likely strategy. Beyond an addition coming from elsewhere, I think this feels like a solid 10. The question will be Hopkins’ health and if Hill could make enough impression and latch on. With Price here and the hope offensive line coach Frank Pollack can re-energize the 2018 first-round pick, I don’t see him going anywhere. He should be good to stash on the practice squad in case an injury occurs.

Defense (25)
Defensive line (10)

Starters: Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader, Larry Ogunjobi, Trey Hendrickson
Reserves: Joseph Ossai, Tyler Shelvin, Mike Daniels, Cameron Sample, Josh Tupou, Khalid Kareem
Outside looking in: Renell Wren, Freedom Akinmoladun, Amani Bledsoe, Khalil McKenzie
Injured: Wyatt Hubert (pectoral)

Outlook: The injury to Hubert brings clarity to this roster battle. Kareem looked to be playing for his roster spot this preseason, but now he’s likely to stay safe. Questions about the health and quality from Wren need to be answered. He needs a big camp to hang around. Everyone will be wondering what we will see from Shelvin in terms of weight and explosiveness as a boom-or-bust fifth-rounder. It will also be interesting to track how Tupou returns after a year off from football. He was a solid backup defensive tackle in 2019.

Linebackers (5)

Starters: Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt
Reserves: Akeem Davis-Gaither, Jordan Evans, Markus Bailey
Outside looking in: Joe Bachie, Darius Hodge, Keandre Jones

Outlook: Bailey and Bachie, a college free agent last year who played four games for the Eagles, will battle for the final spot. This will be the year to determine how fast Bailey can play coming off his college injuries. Big camp for him. Elsewhere, Davis-Gaither and Wilson will be counted on to show a second-year jump at a position where the Bengals badly need improved play for what feels like the 87th consecutive season.

Cornerbacks (6)

Starters: Trae Waynes, Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton
Reserves: Darius Phillips, Eli Apple, Tony Brown
Outside looking in: Donnie Lewis, Jalen Davis, Winston Rose, Antonio Phillips

Outlook: The next month will be about that sixth spot. Brown held it down last year and earned stripes on special teams, but he’s far from untouchable if any of the others stand out in the preseason. Otherwise, the pecking order looks set unless Apple can outplay Phillips to be first off the bench. More than likely, Phillips, in a contract year, will fill in should anything happen to the starting three.

Safeties (4)

Starters: Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell
Reserves: Ricardo Allen, Brandon Wilson
Outside looking in: Trayvon Henderson, Kavon Frazier

Outlook: Safety ranks just below quarterback as the easiest to predict — only an injury will shake up this setup. Allen came over with versatility and football intelligence as a reliable backup, and Wilson might be the best kick returner in the NFL.

Specialists (3)
Starters: P Kevin Huber, LS Clark Harris, K Evan McPherson
Outside looking in: P Drue Chrisman, K Austin Seibert

Outlook: A hand injury will doom Chrisman’s bid to supplant Huber this year, but he’ll likely be able to show what he’s got on the practice squad and potentially fill the role next year. It would take a mammoth collapse for McPherson not to win the kicking competition, but it can happen, as Bengals fans and Jake Elliott know all too well.

 

 

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