PLAYER OF THE DAY: TE Tyler Eifert
Fittingly Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had 13-month-old Noah on his lap as he took questions after Saturday's Family Day practice at Paul Brown Stadium. But the conversation basically centered around Eifert, the mother of all matchup problems.
Nobody has been able to cover Eifert since training camp began last week and Dalton throws to him whenever he's in a jam or needs a big play. On Saturday he did both in the first offense's one TD drive. It began with Eifert making a leaping catch in a zone for about a 25-yard pickup and it ended with Dalton threading a three-yard touchdown pass to him as Eifert dove to the ground after posting up linebacker Marquis Flowers.
"We got good looks for him and he got open," Dalton said. " It's nice having him out there. He's a smart player who has a great feel for the game. We've been able to hook up for some big plays.
"Go back and look at his college tape and he's splitting out wide, jumping over guys and making catches. We feel like he matches up well with the all the guys he's going to face."
Dalton then looked at Noah and asked, "Isn't that right?"
It's why offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is making sure Eifert and Dalton are getting as many reps as possible after Eifert missed all but one quarter last season with a plethora of injuries.
"I'm trying to re-establish some things with that group. He's been out and the more those guys play I think we all recognize the benefits of him being out there with the unit, the more it's going to help A.J. (Green), Mo Sanu and the rest of the guys. That's what happens when you feel comfortable spreading the ball all around the place. So then Andy's confidence goes through the roof. The more playmakers you have the better for your team."
PLAY OF THE DAY
Jackson has been preaching speed at receiver ever since he returned here in 2012 and while Green runs great, when Marvin Jones missed all last season while Andrew Hawkins was in Cleveland, well, speed has been a bit elusive.
But with seventh-rounder Mario Alford bringing his 4.3-second 40 speed, they've got some with which to work. And on Saturday Alford turned a "Sailor," route into the breeze when he caught it in stride near the sideline and turned it up for a 24-yard touchdown catch from AJ McCarron.
Alford came shooting out of the slot position into a zone and rookie cornerback Josh Shaw was in hot pursuit. When Alford faked going into an 'over,' route he slipped before he regained his balance and broke it back to the left corner.
"This guy, he can really go," Jackson said. "He's a talented player with a lot of upside. When guys can score touchdowns, their confidence grows and stuff will sell. You have guys believing in what you're doing."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Lewis on Eifert's day: "Tyler has done a good job. Today was another effective day. He showed his effectiveness. If we can get Tyler Kroft to come down with that ball, we'd feel really good about the play of the tight ends today."
But even though Kroft couldn't put away that nice seam pass from McCarron that would have gone for about 20 yards, the kid has made a bunch of plays and Lewis knows it.
"We felt so strong about him," Lewis said. "His ability to adjust and catch, run down the field and developing into being a complete tight end."
GUYS TO WATCH: Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has been overseeing an impressive camp and he's been getting some interesting play from three backups: veteran linebacker Chris Carter and rookie defensive linemen Marcus Hardison and DeShawn Williams.
The 6-1, 240-pound Carter, a fifth round pick of the 2011 Steelers, has played 33 NFL games, three for the Bengals late last season. A linebacker who was a college defensive end, Carter has been virtually unblockable this camp pass rushing off the edge.
"I told (Carter) in the meeting this morning he's got a chance," Gunether said. "He's got some juice off the edge. He's got good bend. If he continues to play at this level, I'll put him against some of the first-team tackles (in the preseason games), if he continues to improve he's got a chance."
But where do you put him? He's been a 3-4 backer and he's trying to adjust to the WILL spot. There are too many defensive linemen to stash him on the 53-man roster there and would he be able to play backer well enough to be what is probably one of the six?
Cincinnati Bengals host Family Day inside Paul Brown Stadium 08/08/2015
"Where he has value of us is in the rush," Guenther said. "If we could get (Carter) to learn a linebacker in case someone goes down, he could go in and be both things."
Carter could conceivably do what another former Steelers outside backer did for the Bengals in 2013 when they put James Harrison as an outside linebacker in base and pass-rushing end in nickel. Except Harrison didn't rush as much as he probably thought he was going to do and probably played more backer than he thought.
"The more of those guys you can swing in there on Sundays the better you're going to be," Guenther said.
Hardison, a fourth-round pick out of Arizona State, started out playing the three technique but when right end Michael Johnson went down with an MCL sprain the third day of camp Hardison moved to end and is playing both. The 6-3, 315-pound Hardison had been viewed as a project inside, but he's responded well to playing both.
"He's a great athlete, big kid, his future looks bright," Guenther said. "It's OK (he's playing both.) The more they understand the better. Playing on the D-line is not all that complicated. Know where you have to be and he's doing a good job with that."
Is the 6-1, 295-pound Williams playing well enough to invade the tightest spot on the team? If he keeps playing like this, maybe. Does the size sound familiar?
"When I first saw him, he walked out like this," said Guenther, walking like a duck. "He's built like Geno (Atkins). Great quickness. He's got good explosion."
Williams is also playing both end and tackle and on Saturday he knocked down a Dalton third-down pass as a nickel tackle. He also helped stone running back Jeremy Hill in the base at end. The kid has been all over the field. How good was that Clemson defense?
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Guenther said middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (hamstring) will be back "shortly," and Michael Johnson (MCL) in a "few weeks." He didn't give WILL backer Vontaze Burfict a timetable, but Burfict had a robust rehab session on the sidelines Saturday.
"When we get all those guys up and running and we just do what we're supposed to do, we'll be hard to beat," Guenther said…
Wide receiver Marvin Jones (hamstring) dressed out but he rehabbed on the sidelines. Hue Jackson indicated he anticipates him back shortly…Running back Cedric Peerman (unknown) didn't work…Left tackle Andrew Whitworth had a veteran's day off. It also appeared cornerback Leon Hall did, too, but he had on his uniform jersey…
Lewis said he was glad to see guys catching punts that didn't catch them last year for the Bengals. None appeared to get botched or dropped as Alford, wide receiver Denarius Moore and running back Giovani Bernard took turns…