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Bengals Notebook: Boyd's Connection With Burrow Puts Him Among NFL Leaders; Injured Try To Get Back For Steelers; Versatile Adeniji Gives Bengals Flexibility

Tyler Boyd salutes the crowd Sunday.
Tyler Boyd salutes the crowd Sunday.

Much is going to be written this week about Joe Burrow, ranging from what he'll do this bye week ("sit in the hot tub, watch some movies, relax and get the body right") to what mid-term grade he'd give himself ("I don't know," and "I think I'm off to a pretty good start") to his favorite play of his first first half ("If I would've gotten a first down on that scramble last game that would've been pretty cool"), but even though he got almost as many yards (six) as missed tackles (five) he couldn't quite convert that miraculous third-and-ten.

That's about the only thing he hasn't been able to pull off in his first eight NFL games. Count slot receiver Tyler Boyd as an enthusiastic supporter of Burrow's bid to be NFL Rookie of the Year, a player Boyd can't begin to compare to anybody else he's seen in his half a decade in the league.

"He's just one of a kind right now in my eyes," Boyd said after Wednesday morning's brief bye bye to the facility practice until Monday. "That's my guy. At the end of the day, like I said, I'm not just saying that because he's on our team, but he shows it each and every week. He never lets the team down or any critics or politics or anything like that. He comes every day to work and he proves himself. As long as he continues to ball and perform why shouldn't he be the No. 1 candidate?"

While we're at it, if Burrow's not the Bengals MVP, then Boyd is. Certainly they are the hottest new combo in Bengaldom, with Burrow and rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins not far behind.

What more can a savvy vet receiver do to help out his rookie quarterback than lead the NFL with 36 catches for first downs to go with the league's fifth most third-down catches and seventh most catches of any kind?

"That's just something I pride myself in. Just like the year before, last two years, I just believe I'm a third-down guy," Boyd said. "When teams go man, and I feel like I'm that guy to always find a way to get open for Joe. And I found a way to get open the quickest and just find different windows to allow Joe to throw the ball where he feels I should be."

PLAY OF THE FIRST HALF: Kicker Randy Bullock's NFL-leading 74 points make you wonder if a Comeback Player of the Year award could be handed out from the same season. Remember how the opener ended with Bullock missing a chip-shot field goal at the gun as he clutched an injured calf?

So if Bullock is their in-season Comeback Player (A.J. Green has to be overall Comeback Player), Burrow is their MVP and Offensive Rookie of the Year, Boyd is their Offensive Player of the Year, free safety Jessie Batas III is their Defensive Player of the Year and linebacker Logan Wilson is their defensive ROY, what is the Play of the Year?

If we're looking for symbolism, a play that is emblematic of how good Burrow is and how intuitive he is when it comes to building bonds with a team and receivers he never met until July, look no further than the fourth quarter with just over nine minutes left in a game the Bengals led, 24-14.

Boyd got off the line, only to be mauled by the Titans defensive back Chris Jackson over the middle. Burrow drilled the pass even as Boyd muscled Jackson off him and when Boyd finally got Jackson off him and had time to peek back, he caught the ball at the same time he first glimpsed it for 18 yards.

"I had a sit route over the ball, but I wanted to sell it like I was doing an over route across the field," Boyd said. "And he was holding me pretty good, so I knew my only chance of at least winning the tie to at least try to throw him back and just turn around quick as possible, because I knew they were in man, I knew there was pressure, so I just wanted to try to work in and give him a lane.

"And he kind of felt what I was going to do before I actually (did) it. That's what I want to say the connection that me and Joe started to form is kind of like elite now, you know, because he knew where I was going to be and I knew where he was going to throw it at when I came out of it. So, I mean, things happen in our favor sometimes. So I mean, I will route with that all day."

INJURY UPDATE: It looks like the Bengals could have some key players back for practice Monday when they begin prepping for next week's game in Pittsburgh. Running back Joe Mixon (foot), who has missed the last two games, looked to be running on the side, as was defensive end Sam Hubbard (elbow), on injured reserve since he got hurt in Baltimore, and right guard Xavier Su'a-Filo (ankle), shelved since the opener.

Two of the four offensive line starters that missed Sunday's game, center Trey Hopkins (concussion) and left guard Michael Jordan (illness) worked Monday. The other two, left tackle Jonah Williams (stinger) and right tackle Bobby hart (knee) didn't. Quinton Spain, who played most of the snaps at left guard Sunday, rode the bike.

Wide receiver John Ross III didn't practice and neither did defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels and cornerback William Jackson III for unknown reasons. There is no injury report during bye weeks.

ADENIJI ROUNDS IT OUT: Left tackle Hakeem Adeniji, who made his first NFL start Sunday, completed the most productive first half of a season by any Bengals rookie class in this century. All seven of them played Sunday and Adeniji drew rave reviews for his athleticism and brains. He's got a ways to go, but it looks like at some point in the not so distant future they'll be able to start the versatile Adeniji pretty much anywhere.

"I've taken scout team reps at pretty much every position except for center," said Adeniji, who impressed offensive line coach Jim Turner even before he had him by his work at guard in the Senior Bowl practices despite playing every game at Kansa. "Left (tackle) is definitely my most natural position. I've played it pretty much my whole life, but I'll definitely feel comfortable wherever I'm able to be put in. "

Adeniji, who became the sixth starting Bengals left tackle in the past 24 games, meshed well with the vet left guard Spain even though Spain made his first practice Friday.

"It was smooth. Him being a vet, we talked on the sideline," Adeniji said. "You know, like 'I got you.' The coaches simplified everything, broke it down and were able to keep it rolling.

"100 percent (simplicity). The whole deal was, being so many new guys up there and especially a guy that's just been here for a couple of days, just make sure we get the communication. As long as we're on the same page and we execute, then we'll be fine. "