The Cincinnati Bengals wrapped their mandatory minicamp Thursday, signaling the end of offseason workouts.
The next time the team will convene will be for the start of training camp July 27.
Here are six observations from the offseason:
The Bengals are hoping all four players not cleared for offseason work will be available for the start of training camp, or shortly thereafter.
Tight end Tyler Eifert (back), rookie wide receiver John Ross (shoulder) and rookie offensive lineman J.J. Dielman (leg) are expected to be full go. But running back Giovani Bernard (knee) will be only nine months removed from ACL surgery when camp begins, so the Bengals likely will take a slower approach and ease him into things.
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Bernard and Eifert were running 100-yard sprints on the side during the last minicamp practice, while Ross and Dielman were on the field in uniform taking mental reps but not participating.
The Bengals have three kickers competing for the job in Randy Bullock, Jake Elliott and Jonathan Brown, but the time constraints during practice forced special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons to work with two at a time on a rotating basis.
It would make things easier to go into camp with just two kickers, but all three kickers performed so well this spring – Simmons said he charted everything and they were within percentage points of each other – that the Bengals feel all three deserve a shot to continue the battle into July and August.
Rarely during practices open to the media did any of the three miss a kick, including Thursday’s end-of-game simulation when Bullock and Elliott both drilled 52-yarders with 3 seconds remaining.
Elliott would seem to have the edge based solely on the fact the team used a fifth-round pick on him.
Green means slow
Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is completely healed from the season-ending hamstring injury that cost him the final six games, but his workload was far from 100 percent this spring, especially during the minicamp.
Green was a spectator for the majority of the 11-on-11 snaps. The Bengals know what they have in Green, and he knows the offense, so there was no reason to risk anything. Even though there is no contact, feet get tangled and pass breakups lead to collisions.
In addition to risk management, keeping Green out gave offensive coordinator Ken Zampese a chance to get a better look at some of the young receivers. No one benefited more than Alex Erickson, an undrafted free agent who made the 53-man roster last season, who easily led the team in targets and receptions during the practices open to the media.
Cody Core also got more reps, as he did last year when he 17 passes for 200 yards after Green went down in Week 11.
Core was having a strong spring before going down on the final play of Wednesday’s practice and being carted off.
Fortunately for the Bengals, but the second-year wide receiver avoided serious damage.
“I just got stepped on,” Core said Thursday as he exited the locker room on a knee scooter.
Neither Cedric Ogbuehi nor Jake Fisher stood out this spring, which, as Zampese was quick to point out, is a great sign.
Ogbuehi got noticed plenty in his first season as a starter in 2016, resulting in him being benched. Both he and Fisher impressed offensive line coach Paul Alexander this offseason, which is hard for linemen to do in shorts and no pads as it gives a distinct advantage to the pass rushers because the tackles can’t be physical with them yet.
So much of the team’s success this year will be tied to how Ogbuehi and Fisher perform, and the spring drills, which were a first for Ogbuehi after dealing with injuries the last two offseasons, were a promising sign heading into camp.
Second-round running Joe Mixon certainly looks as though he’s going to be an impact player on offense, especially on third down as a receiver. And fourth-round wide receiver Josh Malone made a handful of plays on deep balls, although he still looks like a work in progress in terms of putting everything together.
The most impressive rookie performer was fourth-round defensive end/linebacker Carl Lawson, who lived in the offensive backfield with his incredibly fast first step.
›› MORE: Lawson continues to impress
With first-round receiver John Ross still not cleared due to labrum surgery and Mixon figuring to be in a three-man rotation with Jeremy Hill and Bernard, Lawson has a chance to be the rookie who makes the biggest impact this season.
Although it will be interesting to see how effective he is at getting to the quarterback once Ogbuehi and the other linemen get to put pads on and use their full set of physical tools to try to slow him down.
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