The Bengals opened their three-day mandatory minicamp Tuesday afternoon and don't look for a lot of changes. Not from the three practices compared to the nine voluntary practices that came before and not from the offense Ken Zampese inherited from offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
"I think things will still be the same," said Giovani Bernard of the running backs in Zampese's system. "I think the biggest thing is keeping us fresh. I don't think we had too many injuries this past season in the running back group, so that's always a plus."
Quarterback Andy Dalton is also expecting a smooth transition even though Zampese is his third offensive coordinator in six years. But Zampese was his position coach for all five years.
"It's the first time I haven't had to get used to a person as a coach," Dalton said. "I've been with Zamp ever since I've been here so I've got a good understanding of who he is and how he works."
Dalton says a new coordinator always means a little bit of change because the system is a reflection of the personality calling the plays. But he knows this personality.
"How hard he works and how smart he is," said Dalton before practice when asked what are Zampese's strengths.
Before the first workout, head coach Marvin Lewis said nowadays, except for some work rules, the mandatory is pretty much the same as the voluntaries.
And here's one thing that has never changed. The evaluations begin not this week, but in the pre-season games.
SLANTS AND SCREENS:
The conundrum revolving around sophomore wide receiver Mario Alford could be summed up in Tuesday's workout.
Alford, the seventh-rounder in 2015 out of West Virginia, has shown the ability to separate with his 4.3ish 40-yard time. He's been inconsistent catching the ball, but early in practice he made a couple of nice catches, including a satisfying grab of a deep floater while running step for step with his Mountaineer Big Brother, cornerback Adam Jones. Jones had it in his sights and went for the pick, but missed it and Alford showed great concentration and caught it through a maze of arms as Jones exploded in anger. At himself.
"Sometimes you just have to take the L," Jones said sadly to a group of scribes chronicling practice.
Then Alford dropped a punt, something he absolutely can't do if he's going to make this team, and shortly after that he was wide open on a quick hitter across the middle and batted the ball in the air instead of catching it.
"How can you do that one, five?" Jones screamed at Alford's No. 15. "How can you make that catch against me and you drop that one in your face mask?"
Alford and the Bengals are probably thinking the same thing. Jones, by the way, always wears his No. 15 helmet at practice, an homage to another West Virgina receiver that wore No. 15 for the Bengals, the late Chris Henry . . .
Sophomore wide receiver Jake Kumerow has caught everything this spring. Except a ball over the middle Tuesday on a play that was so jarring because Kumerow usually catches it . . .
Also catching everything, it seems, is a trio of rookies in second-rounder Tyler Boyd and free agents Alex Erickson and Alonzo Russell. Russell, a 6-4, 206-pound specimen out of Toledo, reached out Tuesday and parallel to the ground hauled in a one-handed catch. Erickson, a 6-0, 195-pound slot receiver, held on to the ball over the middle despite getting rocked by safety Taylor Mays. Mays and the defense got a rebuke from head coach Marvin Lewis ("Get away from him") but Erickson, who can also catch punts, got kudus from the offense . . .
Right end Michael Johnson made the play of the day on one of the first team period snaps of the day with Dalton at quarterback when he got in the middle of a screen to tight end C.J. Uzomah and picked it for six, complete with a cross-bar dunk . . .
For the first time this spring the Bengals practiced on the Paul Brown Stadium field and there was some slippage. . .
Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is sitting out this camp with an unknown condition but is expected to return at least as soon as early in training camp. . .
Vincent Rey worked in the first-team middle in between Vontaze Burfict and Karlos Dansby . . . Burfict made a heck of a play early on running back Giovani Bernard when he broke to a screen pass so quickly and forcefully . . .
that some scribes compared his positioning to the shot Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier gave Bernard for a concussion that knocked him out of the Wild Card Game. Except Burfict didn't deliver a blow Tuesday and pulled up . . .
Also not working were tight end Ryan Hewitt (unknown) and wide receiver James Wright (knee). Wright, the 2014 seventh-rounder, is still yet to be cleared after missing all of 2015 and the last six weeks of his rookie season after he underwent micro fracture knee surgery. So don't put him in the viable wide receiver option camp just yet . . .
Cincinnati Bengals host minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium 6/14