Cincinnati Bengals: 1st Impressions from Training Camp
For the Bengals, there's plenty to watch—the development of the rookies, who will steal roster spots and even the unfortunate injuries that are bound to happen. Last year, there was even an injury scare involving star receiver A.J. Green.
While the preseason is still a good indicator of who will make an NFL roster, training camp provides plenty of evidence as well.
Only days in, what are some of the early takes?
Dre Kirkpatrick Is Hurt...Again
It's always disappointing when first-round selections wind up busting. It may still be too soon to consider Dre Kirkpatrick a bust, but with another preseason injury in 2014, the red flag is waving again.
How serious Kirkpatrick's most recent injury is remains to be seen, but Richard Skinner reported on Cincinnati.com that Kirkpatrick tweaked his right hamstring while covering A.J. Green this past Saturday. Immediate signs don't point toward the injury being severe.
Nonetheless, Kirkpatrick's situation is already precarious given the first-round draft pick the Bengals used on Darqueze Dennard. There hasn't been any doubt that Kirkpatrick would make the 53-man roster, but his playing time was likely going to be limited.
On the good-news side, Kirkpatrick ended the 2013 regular season with a two-interception performance against the Baltimore Ravens. While his performance has seemingly started to swing in the right direction, it seems Kirkpatrick still has some work to do on the whole injury-bug thing.
Brandon Tate Stealing a Spot?
If Brandon Tate is in fact going to steal a roster spot again in 2014, that could be bad news for someone like Trey Hopkins or James Wilder Jr., who have legitimate but unlikely chances at seeing a spot on the 53-man roster.
Tate has used strong training camp performances to get on the Bengals roster for the last couple of seasons, even competing for the No. 2 receiver spot in 2012. It appeared that his luck may have been running out this season, as Dane Sanzenbacher was set to be a solid slot man, the team drafted James Wright and retained Cobi Hamilton for his sophomore season.
However, Tate has been outshining his aforementioned counterparts, according to Cincy Jungle's Jason Marcum. It doesn't hurt his case that he has plenty of special teams experience.
Thus far, Tate's career as a receiver in Cincinnati has been a complete failure. Can he snag a roster spot and turn that around?
Marshall Newhouse Getting a Chance to Play
Coley Harvey reported on ESPN.com that Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals' starting left tackle, was placed on the physically unable to perform list at the beginning of training camp due to a calf injury. Due to that, former Green Bay Packer Marshall Newhouse has been stepping in at left tackle.
This was never a far-fetched possibility, as I personally haven't seen an issue letting Whitworth start at left guard while Newhouse started at left tackle. This was a similar system that was used in last year's offense with Anthony Collins following the injury to Clint Boling.
In any case, Newhouse started for Green Bay in 2011 and 2012, both seasons that saw the Packers win the NFC North. He has experience and is big enough to carry the load if Whitworth is out for an extended period.
Hill and Bernard Equal Thunder and Lightning?
Fans in Cincinnati are already aware what kind of impact Giovani Bernard can have on the offense. With the addition of Jeremy Hill, the Bengals backfield may be as formidable as the days of Corey Dillon or Rudi Johnson.
The two have received plenty of work during training camp so far and were given the potential "thunder-and-lightning" nickname by Jason Marcum of Cincy Jungle. With the power of Hill and the speed of Bernard, that is a very appropriate nickname.
The noticeably absent name from that grouping is BenJarvus Green-Ellis, whose status with the Bengals is still up in the air. You could call that a "sub-takeaway."
It seems this two-headed duo has gotten off to a hot start, and it will be interesting to see how they develop through the rest of camp.
Fans Are Calling Andy Dalton Out
Anthony Cosenza of Cincy Jungle discussed Andy Dalton's welcome to training camp this past Thursday, as signs hung from the bridge just near the team's practice field outside Paul Brown Stadium. Those signs, which were recently taken down, said "Don't sign Dalton, he sucks" and "A.J. to A.J. The future is now."
Clearly, some Bengals fans aren't being shy about their feelings toward the team's starting quarterback. Some are even calling for AJ McCarron to start, as displayed by one of the aforementioned signs.
It's no secret the Bengals are in contract-extension discussions with Dalton, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. Will he get paid like Colin Kaepernick? Will he get the franchise tag? Will he walk? All these questions remain unanswered for the moment.
However, the fans of Cincinnati have made it very clear early on what their thoughts are—or at least, some of them have. That isn't the viewpoint of the entire fanbase, but there are certainly those who are already calling for Dalton's job.