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Camp report: defense corners the day

Posted Jul 25, 2014

If the offense had their day Thursday, the defense flexed its muscles during Friday’s practice and ran all over the place with its advertised speed and athleticism as the Bengals cornerbacks showed why they are one of the strengths of this team.

Adam Jones and his cornerbacks had a good day Friday.


If the offense had their day Thursday, the defense flexed its muscles during Friday’s practice on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields and ran all over the place with its advertised speed and athleticism.

The Bengals cornerbacks showed why they are one of the strengths of this team as they continually got their hands on balls and generally pestered quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell.

Adam Jones knocked down a couple of passes while first-rounder  Darqueze Dennard and  veteran Leon Hall each got in a pass defense on a day Dre Kirkpatrick got the interception in front of another crowd estimated at about 1,200.

Dalton threw a pass over the middle to tight end Tyler Eifert and Eifert suddenly found himself in a crowd of three defenders anchored by the lurking form of Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Eifert juggled the ball into the arms of Kirkpatrick.

Even some of the passes that were completed came despite good coverage. Veteran cornerback Terence Newman had wide receiver A.J. Green covered on a quick sideline route and had his hand up in front of his face mask, but somehow Dalton smoked it just over his fingertips as Green plucked it.

“No way, no way,’ said Newman, who has rarely been beaten in this his 12th NFL camp.

Romping around like he’s six weeks shy of 26 instead of 36, Newman is showing no ill effects of the sprained knee ligament that took him out of the season’s last four games and is playing at a high level. Told that one of his mates said it looked like he lost a year over the offseason, Newman couldn’t explain his Fountain of Youth after practice.

“I just work, man. I like the game. I have fun with it,” Newman said. “This year I’m challenging myself. I’ve challenged myself since I’ve been here, but I’m taking a bigger challenge as far as helping others and trying to show them as far as what to do and how to do it. Go to practice and kind of how to work out and whatnot.

“I’ve always been that way, but I’m trying to take that step to the next level, and practice harder. That way, when I get to the games, it’s completely second nature.”

Newman is a smart guy. He’s in the last year of his deal and is the last of the first-round corners from the 2003 draft with Nnamdi Asomugha’s retirement last year. The tough thing about that Wild Card loss against San Diego is he would have played the next week against New England if they won.

“Any time you lose a playoff game and you get to the age that I am, and the years in your career that I am, you don’t know if you’re going to get another chance after this year,” he said. “This is my last year, so I’m trying to do everything that I can to get back there and get past that hump.”

He has come to terms with what happened last year and sounds like he thinks he’s got one shot left here.

“For a while when I was here, I thought about ‘Man, if we would have done this, we could have done this, we could’ve done that.’ But then it’s a clean slate. My mindset, and I’ve been here for a while, is all right, we’ve got to build for next year,” Newman said. “I think the steps that we took during OTAs were definitely positive. Everybody’s that here knows exactly what happened. We just didn’t get it done. You can’t blame it on coaches. You can’t blame it on management. It was us, the players. I read all this stuff about coach getting criticism, and that’s B.S. Coach doesn’t play. We play. We did it all year and then we go to the playoff game and we just didn’t play. So you tell me whose fault that is.”

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu made a big splash early against some very good corner play and he had to hold off fellow wide receiver Cobi Hamilton to win the coveted Bengals.com prize. Sanu launched himself on the sidelines over Hall to latch on to Dalton’s third pass of the day in 11-on-11, and added five more catches.

 

PLAY OF THE DAY:  Sanu, thanks to a one-handed grab over the middle on a pass from Dalton.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Newman on new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson:  “The offense is doing some things that we haven’t seen, which is why I was saying you never know what’s going to happen. When you play an offense that you’ve had for a while, obviously you’re used to it, but they’re throwing out some things that are interesting and it’s going to help us in the long run…I can’t give you everything. But it’s different from last year. A little bit different from last year. Different sets, just using guys in a way that’s to their abilities.”

SLANTS AND SCREENS:  With the defense finding its sea legs and causing some problems with blitzes, Dalton was 20 of 29 in the 11-on-11s after going 19-for-23 the day before. But he threw some nice balls, including a Go route to Green where Dalton dropped it in between Kirkpatrick and safety Shaun Williams as Green knifed through them...

Dalton also threw some good balls early to tight end Eifert, most of the deep variety. With tight end Jermaine Gresham (back) on PUP, Eifert got a lot of chances.  As the practice went on, he and Dalton had trouble connecting on the deep stuff but hooked up a few times underneath.

 The offense just wasn’t as sharp as it was Thursday. Dalton and running back Giovani Bernard appeared to be too close together on an option pitch and Bernard dropped it. Later, Campbell had difficulty getting rid of a pitch to running back Rex Burkhead and that ball also ended up on the ground.

In the ensuing melee, Bernard accidently took out safety Reggie Nelson and it appeared that Nelson may have hurt his shoulder as he flexed his hand, but he was fine and stayed in…

NEXT: They’ll be hitting for real Sunday when they wear pads. On Saturday they’re going in shoulder pads. Both workouts are on the PBS practice fields at 3 p.m.

NO HUDDLE NO JOKE: Bengals backup quarterback Jason Campbell, who has started 79 NFL games for four teams, has been around the horn some. But he had never seen an offense do what the Bengals did Thursday when they came out no huddle for the entirety of the first practice of training camp.

“It’s super good, though, because it’s teaching us to get into the playbook. It’s teaching guys that you don’t have a lot of time to do a lot of thinking,” Campbell said. “It makes you know what to do instead of being in between and trying to figure out what to do.”

Campbell isn’t too surprised at whatever new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson deploys since he got a taste of his high demands in 18 starts for Jackson while they were both in Oakland.

“A lot of guys are excited about it,” Campbell said. “You want to think fast…I think we responded very well. You could tell guys are in shape. Guys have been running their butts off the last month. You could tell from the conditioning test, too.”

The defensive guys aren’t griping about it yet. As Campbell said, “It gets you in shape a lot faster.”

Safety Reggie Nelson, fresh off games against Green Bay and New England last season, likes it.

“Not to talk about last year,” said Nelson, always mindful of head coach Marvin Lewis’ pet peeve of re-living the past, “but we played a couple of teams that did no huddle and it’s good practice for us. I think we did a good job of getting lined up and getting our calls in.”

And defensive tackle Domata Peko knows the Bengals face the no huddle again with Tom Brady and his Patriots (Oct. 5) and Peyton Manning and his Broncos (Dec. 22) in nationally televised games Sunday and Monday nights, respectively.

“It helps with our conditioning and it helps with their conditioning,” Peko said.

ROSS TURNING HEADS:  The 6-5 Campbell has dropped six pounds to 229 for this camp, but he said he was wondering if he needed to put it back on after he got buried by new defensive tackle LaKendrick Ross in one of Thursday’s 11-on-11 sessions.

The emphasis is on “new,’ and not because the Bengals just signed the massive 6-4, 360-pound Ross on Monday. Ross, nicknamed “The Blindside,” in honor of the Titans’ Michael Oher of big screen fame, has played only two years of football.  One in high school and one in college at tiny Virginia-Lynchburg.

The Campbell play is a reminder that he just doesn’t have a lot of experience. But Lewis is impressed.

“It’s got to be a learning curve of football. He’s not played a lot of football. And that’s good and bad,”
 Lewis said Friday. “But he seems willing to work, he’s able to learn, and we’re really going to continue with him. Remember, not only has he not played a lot of football, he’s stepping on an NFL practice field for the first week and the first time that even the guys that even the rookies who have already had nine weeks or whatever they had prior to now.”

Ross, who was eligible for the supplemental draft but didn’t get pick, caused Peko to roll out a very good Justin Smith imitation.

“Justin would have said, ‘He’s a big old rascal,’” Peko said.

“We just told him he did a good job of getting back there. ‘But you need to stay away from the quarterback. When you feel like you’re a couple of feet away from him, you need to throttle it down.’ For a big guy, it’s hard for them to stop.”

For Peko to call a guy “big,’ he’s got to be big. Peko said Ross reminds him of former Bengal Jason Shirley: “Huge as hell. I think he can move a little better than him, so I’m excited about him….He hasn’t played a lot of football but we’ve got guys that will take them under their wings…I remember when I got here with guys like Justin Smith, Brian Robinson, John Thornton.”

Lewis can’t get over the guy’s size and strength, observing, “he’s one of the biggest people I’ve ever seen,” and “He’s very natural. He’s an athletic person. He’s stronger than anybody we have in this building. So he’s encouraging. He may have a future. He’s going to get a chance to prove it.”

 But he has already been taught Lesson One: “He’s got to learn again. He’s got to learn everything,” Lewis said. “We’re learning a lot. One thing he needs to learn is don’t get near our quarterbacks. But it’s a process. He’s certainly willing and it’s a good opportunity. We end up first on those lists for guys like that for some reason.”

POLLAK BACK:  Center/guard Mike Pollak is set to return for Friday’s practice at the Paul Brown Stadium practice field after he passed a physical that takes him off the active/physically unable to perform list.

Pollak (knee) didn’t work at all during the spring as fourth-round pick Russell Bodine moved into first-team center, where he worked on Thursday’s first day of practice.

Pollak becomes the seventh player to come off PUP and those that are still on it are expected to come off it sooner rather than later.

 

  

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