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Rookies offer first glance

Posted May 11, 2018

The Bengals held their first practice of rookie minicamp Friday and not much of it is going to translate to the Opening Day roster. For instance, Billy Price wasn't out there but will be in September. Still, Marvin Lewis was able to showcase his new coaches.

First-round pick Billy Price watches Friday's first rookie practice as he continues shoulder rehab.

The Bengals held their first practice of rookie minicamp Friday and not much of it is going to translate to the Opening Day roster

The center, Oklahoma State’s Brad Lundblade, is a tryout guy. The quarterback making the majority of the throws, Toledo’s Logan Woodside, hadn’t been to Paul Brown Stadium since was a virtually toddler. Billy Price, the first-round pick, could only watch an undrafted free agent playing out of positon take center stage as South Florida transplant Quinton Flowers lined up in three different spots and caught punts before practice after a career as one of college football’s most prolific college quarterbacks ever.

“We think he has the physical abilities to be an NFL running back,” said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor as he walked off the practice field with new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. “Smart. He’s a smart guy … Today he was able to handle two positions (on offense). One step at a time evaluation.”

But it was the sight of Lazor and Austin that is going to have the most impact on Opening Day. Both are in their first seasons of crafting their own scheme and as Lazor has gutted the offense while Austin has tweaked the defense, Austin’s hands-on roving style is a different flavor.

“He’s been very good with his ability to instill in the defensive players (a sense of) what he’s looking to see them do. His ability to coach the coaches from the front (of the defense) to the back is really important,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “A key part of that coordinator position is having the understanding of what you want to see done footwork-wise from the front all the way to the back end. Teryl has that type of experience. You see it out there … That’s a great strength of his and I’m excited about that.”

What Lazor has done is, well, what hasn’t he done? Gone is Jay Gruden’s West Coast offense and what remains is a hybrid of that and bits and pieces of other schemes.

“Bill has been able to start from scratch and shape things offensively. He’s done a great job with it,” Lewis said.

Lazor breathed a bit easier after this one was over and it’s not because Flowers didn’t fumble. After an offseason he was appointed the coordinator in his own right, Lazor re-booted the playbook with the club’s first offensive line coach in 24 years, the first wide receivers coach in seven years and the first quarterbacks coach not him or Ken Zampese in 16 years. He sent the coaching staff through walk-throughs in the gym with no players in sight in a consolidation effort and that’s why he felt pretty good at the end of Friday.

A rare moment with the helmet off for Quinton Flowers.

For the last two weeks in voluntary practices for the veterans they’ve been on the field, but not in helmets and the offense not facing the defense.

“It was a real important day for us to get out here and coach together,” Lazor said. “You can talk all you want about how you’re going to do it in a full practice, but you don’t know how it’s going to go until you do it. I’m really excited how our staff did. There was a lot of newness.”

Of course, trying to figure out what the Bengals were running with the rookies doing it would have been like trying to do one of those jigsaw puzzles with a billion pieces. They don’t know what they don’t know, so it was a good day to sit back and watch Flowers play something other than quarterback for the first time in his life.

“I was going to give myself a B,” said Flowers after he completed his first pro practice. “But I have to give myself a C because I missed a pass protection when I was at running back.”

Yet he got high grades from Lazor and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons for processing a bunch of information. Flowers said he never caught punts until Simmons fired about 15 at him on the jugs machine before practice.

“I didn’t drop any. Thank God,” Flowers said. “I thought they were easy (to judge) on the jugs. It’s different than punters.”

Simmons gave him a thumbs-up, calling him a “pretty natural catch,” and also put him in as the quarterback of the punt team at personal protector to take advantage of his experience calling signals.

“He started from scratch, but he has the want-to and he has the ability,” Simmons said. “He’s soaking it in. Athletes like that can adjust to new things pretty easily. After one day and 15 balls I wouldn’t eliminate him by any stretch.”

Flowers carried a few times as a running back and lined up as quarterback on two plays and threw an ugly incompletion.

“I threw it in the dirt a little bit. I wasn’t warmed up,” Flowers said. “I’d been working out at running back all day I and I just went in there and tried to make it happen.”

Flowers admitted a lot was happening.

“I’ve been all over the place,” Flowers said. “As a running back you’re blocking, getting out into routes and hitting holes. It’s kind of different.

“At quarterback you just sit back and deliver the ball or run when you have to and everybody is tired. Now you’re at running back so you’re running every play. Got to go to punt return, then go to quarterback. It’s different.”

But he’s all in.

“Whatever Coach needs me, I’m there,” he said.

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