The Bengals held their first evening practice of training camp Friday, and special teams took up a large portion of the session.
However, the defense was able to ramp things up and proved to be a highlight, which defensive coordinator Paul Guenther joked was a result of the extra rest between team drills.
Here are some observations from Day 7 of camp:
Though the first-team offense had things rolling early in 11-on-11s, the defense certainly wasn’t making things easy for any of the quarterbacks.
Players were getting plenty of pressure on the passer, off blitzes and edge rushes.
“We ramped it up some,” Guenther said. “When you are in full pads, you should be rushing. That’s why you put on the full pads so you can go. Obviously, we don’t want to knock the quarterback, get his hand hit or whatever, but getting off and working the games and different blitzes and looks out of it are really good for us.”
The pressure was especially intense in a one-minute drill, during which Guenther reminded his players he is looking for closers like the Wendy’s he saw that was displaying a “Help wanted, closers needed” sign. Andy Dalton was “sacked” at least once, though players can only touch him and not actually bring him down.
Some young players were in on big plays, in particular rookie Jordan Willis, who got to Tyler Eifert to prevent a catch.
The secondary also got some credit from Guenther after Josh Shaw picked up the defense’s 11th interception this camp (in 11-on-11s).
Demetrius Cox batted the ball away from the receiver on a pass from AJ McCarron, and Shaw was able to come away with it.
“We’re making a big deal about just trying to get the ball stripped out of the backs’ hands and intercepting the ball because I always say that points scored and when you turn over the ball to get it back to the offense are the two most important things,” Guenther said.
Cornerback William Jackson III, the Bengals’ 2016 first-round draft pick who missed all of last season because of injury, took on the task of trying to keep up with A.J. Green and did a solid job rerouting him a couple times.
Guenther said the key with Jackson is making sure he stays consistent.
“His thing is putting one good day on top of another and not regressing,” Guenther said. “One day this week I kind of got on him a little because his technique was a little off. We just have to stay on top of him with his technique because he understands the schemes of everything at this point.”
Rookie running back Joe Mixon returned to practice Friday after an injury scare Thursday in which he limped off the field after a teammate accidentally kicked his heel.
Mixon iced the heel and stayed to watch the end of the practice, and it seems it was just precautionary, as he was in full pads and not limited in any way Friday.
“I think Joe has done well,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “We’ve been very pleased.”
In other injury news, safety Derron Smith (ankle) progressed from his first rehab field appearance Thursday and was back in pads Friday. He was limited to position drills through the majority of practice but got in on some 11-on-11 work toward the end of the night. Tony McRae, Cedric Peerman, Brandon Wilson, George Iloka, PJ Dawson (whose arm is in a cast), TJ Johnson, David Dean, Jake Kumerow and Chris Brown did not practice.
Though young fans seemed to get a little restless during the many special teams drills that took place, it was a perfect day weather-wise to attend practice.
About 1,400 fans showed up and enjoyed 77-degree temperatures under sunny skies with a cooling breeze.
Fans will get that same kind of weather Saturday for Family Day, as the Bengals play an intrasquad scrimmage at Paul Brown Stadium at 1 p.m. Free parking is available in riverfront lots surrounding the stadium beginning at 11 a.m. (fans must be out by 5 p.m.), gates open at noon and players will take the field shortly after 12:30 p.m. for warmups.
The event will include a range of kid-friendly activities, and the full team will sign autographs after practice, around 2:30.