Lessons Learned from Cincinnati Bengals' Training Camp This Week
This marked the first full week of training camp practices for the Cincinnati Bengals and while it's still early, there are certainly things we've learned about their upcoming season and 53-man roster in the past four days.
Here are the three biggest lessons we've learned from Bengals camp this week.
Pat Sims is Squarely on the Roster Bubble
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Defensive tackle Pat Sims has the most to lose from the additions of rookies Devon Still and Brandon Thompson, who were taken in Rounds 2 and 3, respectively, of this year's draft. Sims was limited in OTAs and minicamp and has yet to practice in training camp while he continues to heal from last season's torn ankle ligaments.
Currently, the Bengals have 13 defensive linemen in camp and roster room for at most eight. And, according to NFL.com's Albert Breer, the rookies Still and Thompson are looking like the real deal, which means they're absolutely breathing down Sims' neck.
When Still and Thompson were drafted, it put Still's roster spot in jeopardy. And now that Sims has yet to practice, his seat is exceptionally warm. Keep an eye on Sims; the longer he's out, the lower his chances are to stick around for the regular season.
Cornerback Battle Rages On
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This week, a number of Bengals cornerbacks vying for a roster spot were either held out or limited in practice. They included Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Terence Newman, Shaun Prater, Nate Clements and Dre Kirkpatrick. The depletion at the position forced safeties George Iloka and Tony Dye to work with the reserve defense in order to have enough cornerbacks on the field.
As of day six of practice, however, just Kirkpatrick and the aforementioned Sims were the only two players on the Bengals' active PUP list, a good sign that the cornerback battle is about to really heat up.
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The only consistently healthy corners thus far have been Brandon Ghee and Jason Allen, and this has given Ghee an upper hand in winning out the second starting job, though he'll have to beat out Clements do so. The other spot still likely belongs to Leon Hall, despite his slow easing back into the defense after coming off of an Achilles' tendon tear.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy has already named Ghee his standout defender of training camp and predicts good things for his future as long as he stays healthy; but the injury bug that's been making its way through the Bengals secondary did bite Ghee on Thursday as he left the field with an undisclosed hand injury.
Only players who participate have any chance to win a roster spot, especially at such a crowded position as cornerback. Though there are a number of current and former first-round picks vying for a job in the secondary, a standout like Ghee can easily surpass them simply by getting the necessary reps and proving he's ready for full-time work. Keep an eye on the hand injury, however.
Marvin Jones Steps Up
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Though Armon Binns has been the standout receiver of camp so far, rookie Marvin Jones has shown the most improvement through the first six days of practices. Jones started out shaky, as any rookie would, struggling to keep with his quarterbacks and missing easy catches.
But in the last two days, Jones has risen to the occasion, again according to the Enquirer's Reedy. Jones has improved in his ability to run through the catch, has had a number of good grabs and said that his confidence is increasing.
The battle for the Bengals' No. 2 wide receiver is another of camp's most compelling battles and though Binns has been impressive, no one has yet emerged as the clear favorite to win that job. Jones, with his recent improvement, has thrown himself into the mix that also includes rookie Mohamed Sanu, relative veteran Brandon Tate and Binns.
Jones also has made a case for himself sticking on the roster, as he's been used in kick and punt returns in camp as well. This competition wasn't ever close to being boring and now that Jones has finally emerged as a contender, it's only getting more interesting.
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