Tight end C.J. Uzomah, owner of the coveted Bengals.com Player of the Day, called Tuesday's after-practice meeting "Joe Squared."
Quarterback Joe Burrow and running back Joe Mixon convened a huddle of offensive players on the field to address the first part of a practice devoted to short yardage and goal line situations that, as Mixon said was "low energy."
"I think 'The Franchise' is the one that wanted to talk and he wanted Joe (Mixon) to be in on that," Uzomah said. "I think it's necessary. We've got to hear it. As a tight end room we say it and we talk to the offensive line about it. But we need to hear it as an entire offense."
If Burrow is the face of the franchise, Mixon is the spiritual engine and that's what he had running after he smashed for a couple of third-and-one conversions and two-yard touchdown scrums.
"Basically, me and Joe telling everybody we have to start fast and finish strong," Mixon said. "I felt we had a great finish today, but we started a little slow. Low energy. But as the day went on, that energy started coming back, everybody started getting hyped up. As the offensive leaders, we were emphasizing start fast, finish strong."
PLAY OF THE DAY: BURROW'S 25-YARD STRIKE TO TE C.J. Uzomah
Uzomah says this is the play that turned it around. If the post-practice huddle reflects Burrow's stature as the unquestioned leader, this play showed how much confidence he's gaining in his left knee just 8 1/2 months after reconstructive surgery.
On the last third-and-one snap for the ones, Burrow went play action, rolled to his right and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi not only didn't bite, he was salivating as his 305-pound self set sail for the rambling Burrow. Burrow saw he was going to be able to clear him even without the practice mandate of not going after the quarterback. He stopped on a dime before throwing one, furiously planting his feet and unfurling a 25-yard strike down the seam to Uzomah somehow getting a step on cornerback Trae Waynes.
Uzomah, who rehabbed with Waynes last season and struck up a good friendship, couldn't help exchanging some trash talk with him. But he also took time to salute the book according to head coach Zac Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.
"It was a scheme. I have to give it up to Cali and Coach for that. That was a good play call," Uzomah said. "I thought, 'Oh wow, I'll be scot free right now.' I just saw Joe rolling out and he threw me a dot. I was like, 'Yep.' … It was fun to talk a little smack. (Waynes) is really a damn good player. Our defense is looking up and he's going to be an integral part of that.
"Everyone knew we started lowly. That period in particular. On that play it was like, 'Nice, that's what we need to do every time we're on the field. That was our last go with the ones (on short yardage) and that put our stamp that this is who are as an offense."
The sequence also shows you Burrow's growing comfort level with the knee and his already established bedside manner as a locker-room leader.
"I think his confidence in general is getting there," Uzomah said. "Going out there with the coaches and the coaches being around his legs and in his way a little bit is kind of helping him and his mental aspect with it. I can see the confidence. I think it showed up calling up the offense just to talk. Showing his leadership and where he thinks we can be."
PLAYER OF THE DAY: DT Larry Ogunjobi
Ogunjobi missed the first week or so of training camp with a hamstring issue and didn't play Saturday night. But he's been a load to handle, as evidenced by how he broke loose to chase Burrow. He schooled rookie left guard D'Ante Smith all day, particularly in two one-on-one sets. He's been as advertised as one of their big free-agent signings.
"He's been hell on us," Uzomah said. "I don't know if it's fresh legs or not. But he's a beast, I know that."
It's the second-to-last day of Bengals Training Camp 2021. Presented by Gatorade, scroll through some of the best images from practice.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
DT Larry Ogunjobi as he breezed past a dilapidated sportswriter on the sideline following his pursuit of Burrow:
"You're lucky I weigh this much."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Although D'Ante Smith had some tough moments Tuesday working with the 1s, Mixon loves him.
"I think he's doing a hell of a job. I have high praise for him," Mixon said. "He had a slow first day, but that guy has been getting better noticeably every day. The fact he loves being out there and getting grindy and physical, I love that about him. He's got a bright future."
Despite the slow start, Mixon thought the physical mentality was on display and agrees with defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo that the offense is more physical than in years past.
"The line was getting push, the tight ends were blocking, getting physical. Just finishing the play. A thousand percent," Mixon said of the '21 mindset, pointing to new offensive line coach Frank Pollack. "With Frank, the mindset is you basically have to bully whoever is on the defense. I love everything about that. That mentality, our approach has changed and we as backs do whatever we can to match that intensity."
After Mixon bulled behind right guard Michael Jordan and right tackle Riley Reiff for a two-yard TD, he lay under the pile pointing a finger outward.
"At the camera," Mixon said.
Vet defensive tackle Mike Daniels is another guy sensing a change in the offense.
"Coach Pollack has definitely instituted a more physical minded run game. Absolutely," Daniels said.
Here was his take on what transpired Tuesday in the scrums: "Definitely a draw. Sloppy on both ends in some ways. Very good on both ends in some ways. Have to pick it up tomorrow."
The kicking competition has been so good this camp. But on Tuesday, Austin Seibert missed his two longest tries, sending a 53-yarder and 54-yarder both wide right.