Marvin Lewis literally sees more growth from promising rookie hybrid Ryan Hewitt.
There is one training camp practice left (Thursday-11:15 a.m.) at the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields and it may be coming to an end at the perfect time.
With the Bengals wearing pads for the third straight day and tempers getting shorter than the shorts they wore with shoulder pads Wednesday, it got a bit chippy. That's not why head coach Marvin Lewis scaled down the last half of practice. He plans it when they take off the shoulder pads and the idea continues to be to get to the gate for the Sept. 7 opener in Baltimore.
Heck, they're just trying to get to Saturday. Their two Pro Bowlers, wide receiver A.J. Green and WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict, didn't work the second half of practice to rest the bumps and bruises.
The Bengals were down to two quarterbacks when they wrapped Matt Scott's shoulder in ice early in practice, leaving Andy Dalton and Tyler Wilson at the controls. And it was only Wilson's third practice since he got here Saturday in the wake of Jason Campbell's bruised throwing arm.
Lewis said after practice the sit-down was precautionary so Scott would be available Saturday. And they'll need him since Lewis said Dalton is going to play just 15 to 25 snaps against the Jets and its doubtful Campbell plays this week.
At the very least Scott's tweak means Wilson is going to have to play. Wilson knows his way around a playbook. He threw for a lot of yards out Bobby Petrino's multiple offense at Arkansas.
"When you've been sitting on the street, you learn fast. Anytime you put a quarterback in the game, the offense is what quarterback is and what he knows," Lewis said. "That's the way it works for any quarterback or linebacker or whatever position we put them out there for. We can only do what they know. I don't care if you're playing cornerback or quarterback. I do think he's been able to learn things to go out and operate. Second and a half day here, and he had plays in practice. He handled the verbiage and the terminology well and the adjustments he needed to make. He did a good job."
Wilson does look to have a good arm. He fired up a ball to wide receiver Brandon Tate on a post that he hung just a tad too long. But when safety Shaun Williams didn't break on the ball and stayed in centerfield, Tate knifed underneath him, stole it away, and went in for a touchdown.
If you were looking for offense, though, this was not your kind of day. Dalton didn't get a lot of help in the blitz stuff and in one period he was zero for his first four passes. If you don't count two sacks.
But with Green and Marvin Jones (broken foot) out of that last half of practice, Dalton got to work with a myriad of receiver combinations with the first group mostly consisting of Tate and Mohamed Sanu on the outside and Dane Sanzenbacher in the slot. Sanzenbacher again caught everything near him and
Cobi Hamilton caught a 17-yard touchdown pass when Dalton dropped a high one in between the zone and Hamilton went up and got it in the middle of the end zone
PLAY OF THE DAY: Dalton and Sanu burned rookie cornerback Victor Hampton when Dalton threw a nice back-shoulder ball. With Hampton not turning his head around, Sanu turned and seemed to swipe the ball off Hampton's helmet while battling the sideline the whole way.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, rehabbing the Halloween ACL, continues to stay out of team drills, but he is doing individuals and some one-on-ones. His legs looked pretty strong when he went against two undrafted rookie guards in one-on-one Wednesday, Trey Hopkins (twice) and Dan France. It was no contest. But don't look for Atkins in a game until Aug. 24 in Arizona.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Safety George Iloka got some of the offensive guys mad with a couple of hits he made Wednesday. Particularly the second time he decked college free-agent wide receiver Colin Lockett on a pass. Lockett refused Iloka's hand while on the ground and got up himself.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther knows there's a fine line between keeping the offense healthy and keeping his defense primed: "We're not playing against the Bengals, they're not on our schedule. Some things happen in practice. You can't tell a dog not to eat red meat. You just have to take care of our guys and continue to be aggressive."
Some of Burfict's shots haven't gone unnoticed, like Monday when he buried rookie running back James Wilder in the chest on a shallow crossing route and Wilder took a few minutes to get to his feet,
"We want to take care of our own teammates. But at the same time, that was about as good a striking position as you can be as a player. The guy coming across the middle," Guenther said.
Guenther says he doesn't mind it when it gets a little chippy. But it has to be within reason so no one gets hurt.
"Sometimes I'll tell a guy if I don't think practice is going the way we want it, to get some stuff going so it gets everybody into practice a little bit," Guenther said. "Yeah, that gets some attention for sure. But we want to take care of our guys."
CAMP FUTURE? Citing some of the cross-pollination with the Jets coaching staff, Lewis said the Bengals tried to get them into Cincinnati for a couple of practices before Saturday's game, much like they did last year with the Falcons in Atlanta. Like Falcons head coach Mike Smith, Jets head coach Rex Ryan worked under Lewis on the Baltimore staff. Plus, Bengals safeties coach Mark Carrier worked under Ryan in New York in 2010 and 2011. It's believed that the Bengals were all in, but the plan fell through in May from the Jets end.
With players and so many others lobbying for just two preseason games, that may be the camp of the future: fewer games and more intersquad scrimmages.
"I think everybody would to try and work against another team, maybe two teams possibly (in practice). But you would want exposure against guys in other helmets," Lewis said. "Not necessarily live, but it's great for the skill players to work against different configurations, different coverages, different plays, schemes, passing concepts, tempo and so forth. I think you would look to do a little bit more of that if it went that way."
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals representative to the NFL Players Association, says the owners will never go for just two preseason games because of money.
The Bengals are ending their third training camp at home and here's a number for you. Only 22 players on the roster, or a quarter of the team, ever went to Georgetown College for camp. Whitworth can see the benefits of staying at PBS, the base of the Bengals' rehab and technology programs. But he also admits, "I'm old school."
"I kind of like going away. I like going off to some apartments and being with the guys and staying in the same place," Whitworth said. "The hotel just isn't the same thing. It's all separate rooms. You don't even see anybody. It's just a different thing. I'm kind of old school. I like being in the four-bedroom apartment and everybody having a chance to talk at night and talk through things. I think that's a lot of fun. I enjoy both, but I lean toward the old school."
SLANTS AND SCREENS:With left guards Clint Boling and Mike Pollak (knees) sitting out, Hopkkins was back at left guard...Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (hip) didn't practice and won't play Saturday, but is expected to return to practice next week...Defensive tackle Domata Peko came off the concussion protocol Wednesday and practiced...
Lewis figures Dalton to play the first quarter or so Saturday. "We'll see how the game goes and how we are when we put the team together on Saturday to see who's out there and who's suited up and who's not," Lewis said. "That will determine how much and when to take him out. That's how I kind of do it when I've seen enough then I start substituting players."
At a noon news conference Wednesday, Lewis also revealed Marshall Newhouse left Tuesday's practice late with a sore shoulder. He didn't work Wednesday, so Tanner Hawkinson played right tackle for his first extended work on that side in pads during his two seasons as a Bengal... Lewis had high praise for Ryan Hewitt, the undrafted rookie from Stanford that has been playing a lot with the first team as the hybrid fullback-tight end-H-back. He offered that incumbent Orson Charles is in a fight for a spot and said he anticipates the 6-4, 246-pound Hewitt to grow:
"Being an effective blocker, but also adding pressure in matchups vs. the defense and I think Ryan can provide a little bit of that. He's an excellent receiver of the ball and it's not been too big for him. I think as he grows and he's fortunate enough to stay round here, I think by next year we'll have a real, big , physical man.
"I think as a receiver he's done a nice job. As an interior blocker he's done a good job. I really think he's got a bright future."
Iloka may not makes a lot of plays stat-wise but this is why Lewis likes him opposite Reggie Nelson in the starting lineup:
"The ball gets closed down the middle of the field. That's good," Lewis said. "When we're supposed to be in half or whatever coverage we're in. He goes out and executes the coverage. He played (all last) year with a broken hand….I thought he did a good job of tackling while playing with a somewhat maimed limb. We're expecting George to continue to grow." ...
Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has been pretty vocal about how his club owes the Bengals one after last October's 49-9 verdict at PBS. Whitworth, who sounds like he can play but isn't sure Lewis is going to let him, likes the sound of that even though the game doesn't count.
"That's good. We want their best," Whitworth said. "Its kind of disheartening when you go out there and guys are playing but not really playing. You want to get better. That's what it is for and you want to be able to make mistakes so you can learn from them and have guys playing their best." ...