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Notes: Dennard signs; Leon eyes long haul; Hopkins runs with 1s; Versatile Svitek

Posted Jun 12, 2014

The Bengals finished off the signing of their eight draft picks Thursday when they inked first-rounder Darqueze Dennard on the last day of the mandatory minicamp.

Updated: 5:05 p.m.

First-round cornerback Darqueze Dennard is in the fold. 

The Bengals finished off the signing of their eight draft picks Thursday when they inked first-rounder Darqueze Dennard on the last day of the mandatory minicamp.

Since the inception of the rookie wage scale in 2011, draft signings have become virtually moot and it’s believed Dennard’s deal got done after both sides resolved a technicality.

It now leaves the Bengals looking at two more deals they’d like to get done before too long. Talks with Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict and quarterback Andy Dalton have been ongoing during the offseason and both seemed to have made some kind of headway. Dalton told Bengals.com last week the sides were closer and a few weeks ago Fox Sports reported progress with Burfict.

Dennard, the 24th pick out of Michigan State, has been as advertised. Smart and seasoned, he has replaced rehabbing Leon Hall in the first-team slot even though he hardly played the spot in games for the Spartans. Hall himself has been impressed.

“I like Darqueze. The only hesitation I have is judging people too early, especially before the pads come out,” Hall said after Thursday’s practice. “But if you look at him in the helmets, I think he’s done everything the coaches have asked him to do. He’s definitely smart enough to make an impact in his first year once he gets more comfortable, knows the defense a little better.”

Hall says he has yet to see Dennard get beat so badly that people say, “Oh God, he looked terrible on that play,” and says it’s only a matter of cleaning up the technique and leverage flaws that even veterans have to do.

“He understands the playbook,” Hall said. “To begin with that’s what a lot of people struggle with.”

Hall, the Michigan product they took with the 18th pick in 2007, seems to be coping in his dealings with a Spartan. He had practice when he played opposite Ohio State cornerback Nate Clements a few years back.

“That was always a struggle. Especially in November,” Hall said. “Michigan State’s not so bad. Not so bad.”

 HALL AGREES: Hall agrees with Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis that all signs point to him being on the field for the first practice of training camp next month, just nine months after surgery to repair a torn right Achilles.

“Being ready for training camp isn’t a concern for me anymore,” he said. “It’s just a matter making sure I’m ready physically and emotionally to not only get through  it, but get through the season, which is key. It’s been a problem the last couple of seasons.

Hall is not only talking about making sure the Achilles is strong, but making sure he doesn’t get the nagging injuries. Before he tore his left Achilles on Nov. 13, 2011, Hall hadn’t missed one of his 73 NFL games. Since then he’s missed 16 because of the Achilles injuries, two because of a calf strain in 2012 and two last season with a hamstring strain.

“One thing I don’t want to do is regret anything,” Hall said, “and feel like if (he did get hurt) I didn’t do that extra day or the day I took off, I would have been OK. I just want to make sure I cover all my bases, make sure my ankle is strong, obviously my Achilles, up to my knees and hamstrings and go from there.”

HOPKINS GETS A SHOT:  Trey Hopkins of Texas, one of the four or so undrafted rookies that have a shot at making the roster, took his turn at starting left guard with the No.1 s Thursday and continued to flash a nice brand of athleticism. With Clint Boling rehabbing an ACL, Tanner Hawkinson and Andrew Whitworth have worked in there at left guard at times and the 6-3, 307-pound Hopkins, believed to have signed the Bengals’ biggest rookie free-agent deal, got his shot next to Whitworth.

 “He’s a heck of an athlete. Long arms, strong,” Alexander said. “He just needs lots of footwork technique, but he’s got a lot of talent.”

A MORE VERSATILE SVITEK: The Bengals signed up 10-year veteran Will Svitek for tackle depth on Wednesday, but thanks to his one season with the Patriots last year they’re getting a more versatile guy than played in Kansas City and Atlanta the first eight seasons of his career.

“Year Nine I never played guard my whole career, then I ended up starting the first three games of preseason at right guard,” said the 6-6, 310-pound Svitek said after his second practice Thursday.  “The Patriots are really big on versatility and that really helped me in terms of learning every position and it helped me with my football IQ.”

Profootballfocus.com had him for just 238 snaps, but he says he played all four spots but center, as well as making two starts at right tackle in an economical use of plays.   He’s got 18 NFL starts at tackle to go along with Marshall Newhouse’s 31 starts at tackle backing up Whitworth and right tackle Andre Smith, experience that Alexander loves.

“We needed veteran depth at tackle and he really helps us,” Alexander said.

“My whole career I’ve tried to find the role that is valuable and versatile to help the team,” Svitek said. “You never know what your role will be. It’s always changing.”

As if on cue, Svitek approached Alexander about watching film with him on Friday after he works out.

Done.

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Burfict didn’t work Thursday with a few bumps but looked fine and it looks like he’ll go Monday when the Bengals start their final week of voluntary practices. Vinny Rey took his spot at WILL backer...

After the Bengals gather Wednesday, they head to the four corners before they report back for training camp July 23…

Lewis said earlier in the week the Bengals are working on a joint practice like they did in Atlanta before playing the Falcons in a preseason game and it looks like they’re trying to firm up something with the Jets the week before they play them on Aug. 16 at Paul Brown Stadium. Like Falcons head coach Mike Smith, Jets head coach Rex Ryan worked Lewis’ defensive staff in Baltimore…

Rookie quarterback AJ McCarron took the second-team snaps instead of a resting Jason Campbell. McCarron showed good pocket presence, but he’s still building up his throwing shoulder. He got intercepted by safety Shawn Williams when he underthrew a sideline route to rookie wide receiver James Wright

 

 

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