Rookie Ryan Hewitt, moving from tight end to fullback, has fans in a couple of phases.
On Friday night Marvin Lewis brought out the full pads for the last time before the Bengals head to Kansas City for Thursday's preseason opener (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), but except for a robust six plays on the goal line, it was a brisk 75-minute no-hit practice before about 1,400 on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields.
And it proved new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's point. Even when you don't have a good day, don't have a losing one.
Backup safety Danieal Manning had a pick six on backup quarterback Jason Campbell's errant throw. The defense, without leader Vontaze Burfict, shut down the offense on the goal line four out of six times, with the first group led by surges from end Carlos Dunlap and tackle Brandon Thompson. And after rookie running back Jeremy Hill fumbled, the 233-pound big back got racked up on the goal line by defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi and Will Clarke and couldn't punch it in.
This all coming 24 hours after the Bengals put on an offensive show in Thursday's practice.
"After yesterday they wanted to anoint us the greatest offense since applesauce," Jackson said. "We were going up and down the field, Tyler (Eifert) was catching the ball, all that. But that's the nature of football. It gets that way some times and when it does you take care of the football, you take care of the ball, you play tough and great things happen. It's not supposed to be like it was yesterday every day."
But quarterback Andy Dalton didn't turn it over and Jackson went back to his if-we-don't-turn-it-over mantra of a few days ago.
Critics are now going to be looking for three Daltons on Sundays. Good Andy, Raggedy Andy, and now Uncle Andy. The other day Jackson observed that sometimes the quarterback has to just say "Uncle," and either throw it away or eat it as opposed to trying to make a play and getting intercepted.
"Andy played excellent today," Jackson said. "It's tough. We're backed up and he took care of the ball."
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Running back Giovani Bernard, who is just oozing with slippery speed and unbridled confidence during this camp.
On the first goal-line snap from the 3 against the second-team defense, Bernard nearly got in despite getting absolutely no blocking on the right side and he skittered and mashed and crawled to the half-yard line before he went down.
Earlier in the practice he scooted away after catching some balls from Dalton and against the blitz he was all by himself to the end zone as Dalton hit him on the run over the middle.
"You're doggone right, he was trying to get there," Jackson said. "He made some sensational plays today. There were times they didn't even touch him."
PLAY OF THE DAY: Manning, the sly one who turns 32 in a week, showed what savvy is all about. All he did was stand in the right place at the right time and was there when Campbell blew a fuse and threw it right at him and he walked in for six.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Bernard when he heard Lewis say the goal-line period wasn't live:
"Goal line is live. I don't care what anyone says. Trust me. When Marvin says it's only live on the goal line, especially, guys are like, 'How are we supposed to stop the offense?' So it's more don't take the guys down to the ground, but it still kind of happens."
BATTLEFIELD PROMOTION: With rookie fullback Nikita Whitlock dinged in the foot area, rookie tight end Ryan Hewitt has been taking snaps as the No. 1 fullback ahead of Orson Charles and he got a taste in goal-line against the No. 2 defense. When the Bengals did score their one touchdown, he got a good block on cornerback Adam Jones.
"He's a good player. He's a guy learning very well and very quickly, too," Bernard said. "He'll definitely contribute this year."
Fullback doesn't get a lot of snaps. Especially on this team with three top-notch wide receivers and two dangerous tight ends. When told his fullback looked to be totally up in the air, Lewis said, "It probably is the nature of that job throughout the league. I'm pleased where we are with the guys we have."
So that doesn't sound like the Bengals are looking for a veteran fullback and that it's going to be one of these three guys. Whover it is may not got a lot of snaps but Jackson is looking for quality.
"That's not a good job. That's a dirty job, but someone has to do it," Jackson said. "He's smart, he's tough, he makes plays, he's s big guy. He likes the competition and that's what the position is all about."
Hewitt, undrafted out of Stanford, is smart enough to say, at the moment, his position is "inverse," to the one he had in college.
"I played mostly fullback at Stanford with some tight end reps. Here it's been mostly tight end reps, but it's been a little hole we need to fill now," Hewitt said. "As a fullback, your mentality is always the same whether it's live or not. You have to move the defender. It doesn't matter if you're not tackling, you still have to bang."
Hewitt's stock keeps rising. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons says he's been a standout for him and a few days ago he held on to a ball despite a hellacious hit from Burfict that knocked out Hewitt's mouthpiece. No problems.
"Vontaze is just a competitive dude. It was a nice hit. I just popped up and went back to the huddle," Hewitt said. "Can't give him the satisfaction of knocking (the ball) out."
The 6-4, 254-pound Hewitt certainly has the mindset as he talked about blocking at Stanford compared to now.
"The biggest difference is the willingness to hit by the defensive players," Hewitt said. "In college I felt sometimes you could wear them down and get them to back down and here everyone is willing to hit at all times."
WHIT ITCHING: Reading in between the lines of left tackle Andrew Whitworth's post-practice interview with Jay Morrison of the Dayton Daily News, it sounds like a guy who is going to be ready to return to practice when the club gets back from Kansas City and starts working Aug. 9. Out since the July 22 conditioning test with a strained calf, Whitworth is taking it slow after a fabulous offseason got him into the best shape of his life.
"I also have to realize I have to be smart. I'm in fantastic shape, best shape I've ever been in, and feel great," Whitworth said. "I have a calf strain and I have to make sure it's OK and 100 percent before I get going…. It's no different than pulling a hamstring. The calf's the same way. If you rush it, it can end up being a six-month injury, and if you take your time it could be fine."
Whitworth, heading into his ninth season, is in a much better place than a year ago when his balky knee prevented him from practicing until he started the second game of the year and missed only one more the rest of the way.
"Last year I couldn't train. I couldn't do anything. All I was able to do was rehab up until training camp. Then when I got here I re-injured it and I couldn't do anything at all," he said. "This is the most I've worked out in probably the whole time I've been in the NFL. In the offseason I trained great. During this time I've trained my butt off over there. So yeah, physically, I feel wonderful."
Whitworth has been getting an eyeful of the kids with right tackle Andre Smith (concussion) sidelined, left guards Clint Boling and Mike Pollak alternating days off as they ease back in off knee issues, and fourth-round pick Russell Bodine taking over at center.
"The best of their game is going to be the tenacity they have to finish every play. When you can build from there, to be honest, offensive line play's not that hard," Whitworth said of young offensive lineman. "The hardest thing is to teach young guys to play with that kind of effort and that kind of focus every snap. It's starting to get better and better. It needs to be better. But I think they're definitely on the right track. Those guys are making progress to being really good this year."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict got a veteran's day off Friday night…Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins (knee) was dressed in pads but again didn't go near team drills…
Kickers Mike Nugent and Quinn Sharp each hit field goals from 35 and 52 yards and missed from 40…
When the Bengals lined up in the first defense Friday, Carlos Dunlap was at right end and Wallace Gilberry at left end while the second team had Robert Geathers at right end and Margus Hunt at left end…The second team was filled out by tackles Devon Still and Christo Bilukidi, linebackers Vincent Rey, Brandon Joiner and James Davidson, safeties Taylor Mays and Danieal Manning and cornerbacks Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick…
Here's why special teams coordinator Darrin Simons likes rookie wide receiver James Wright. Wright had no problems Friday speeding past the blockers as he covered a punt as a gunner on the outside. Meanwhile, when rookie cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks played gunner, once he had trouble trying to get off the blocks of a single blocker at a spot that usually has two blockers. But Westbrooks is going to get his shot in games, just like Wright.