Camp report: pick or no pick?; D-Line brings heat; Sanu pulls a Beckham

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Rookie safety Derron Smith still felt good about Wednesday's interception and he should.  Smith, the sixth-rounder from Fresno State, has shown a knack for making plays this spring and summer and so it was Wednesday on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields when the offense was on the 5 and quarterback Andy Dalton tried to let wide receiver A.J. Green in the back door on a weak-side slant.

Smith, holding the disguise until the end, dropped into a hole in the zone at the snap and picked it off. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson got the last word, though.

 "Wait a minute, wait a minute," Jackson told the media around Smith. "I told the quarterback to throw the ball. It's on me. I told the quarterback to throw the ball in that situation. I just want you guys to understand that."

Dalton has thrown only three career red-zone picks in his career with a ratio of TD passes-to-picks bettered only by Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. He confirmed after practice, "Never would have thrown it in a game. We were trying to see how much we could get away with on a certain look and it wasn't there."

Still, Smith didn't know that. It was heads-up all the way.

"You've got to catch the hard ones and you've got to catch the easy ones," Smith told Jackson.

As Jackson walked away with a smile "(You have to catch it. We threw it right to you"), Smith wouldn't downplay his play.

"That's part of playing DB," Smith said. "There are going to be times you make a play on a hard one and there are times the DB is going to be in the right spot at the right time, but you still have to catch it. That's the main thing with playing DB. Make sure you catch it when you get the opportunity."

And Smith did, which should aid him in a roster battle that seems pretty even, although veteran safety Shiloh Keo (49) played  more snaps than Smith (34) in the pre-season opener.

"It's nice in practice," Smith said. "But the games are where it counts."

PLAYERS OF THE DAY: Defensive line

It was supposed to be their day because the defense staged team drills with a blitz period and another period that featured third-and-long. Which didn't make for a very pleasant day for the offense, which has just started to prepare for the Buccaneers.

So they were able to get  off the ball pretty well. When first-team tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith weren't playing, linebacker Chris Carter was able to get some heat coming off the edge as an end. Tackle Pat Sims, who is supposed to be a run stuffer, blew up a pass when he led a push that collapsed the pocket on a play where he injured his leg and had to leave practice. Left end Carlos Dunlap also penetrated a fair amount. The line had the advantage, but they took advantage.    

 PLAY OF THE DAY: Who needs Odell Beckham Jr.? The Bengals' own New Jersey wide receiver, Mohamed Sanu, made a stunning one-handed grab in team drills when he leaped for a deep Dalton pass directly over his head in the middle of a Cover Two zone. And he made it despite some smart coverage by cornerback Leon Hall.

"Andy gave me a nice hole shot," Sanu said. "Leon was trying to stretch me out, trying to force me out of bounds. But I was able to keep my line. When (Hall) had nobody in his zone, he trailed me, so I just let (Dalton) throw the ball to where I could get it. If he didn't like the look the look, I expected him to throw it on the outside." QUOTE OF THE DAY:Cornerback Adam Jones, on if he ever wonders what is numbers would be if he was a full-time returner:

"If of, would have, could have. If I never would have got suspended, I'd have $100 million right now, so you know how that goes."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Backup quarterback AJ McCarron threw in team drills for the first time in nine days Wednesday and says he'll make his NFL debut in the second preseason game in Tampa Monday (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5 and ESPN) "no matter what."

McCarron, who suffered some kind of pull in his rib cage during practice a week ago Monday, said he felt sore but is more concerned about getting his timing back. It wasn't a great day for that since the No. 1 defense was working on its blitz packages as well as third-and-long situations.

He threw one interception, but it wasn't his fault. Rookie wide receiver Mario Alford dropped McCarron's ball over the middle, tipped it on wide receiver Greg Little's back and rookie cornerback Troy Hill grabbed it off the back of Little's neck . . .

Wide receiver Marvin Jones stacked on another productive day since he returned to practice last week. He was quite effective in the red zone and didn't mind mixing it up over the middle after a catch when he collided with Shawn Williams over the middle . . .

Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green barely missed making some big connections for most of the practice. Both appeared to be at fault on some various bombs that were mis-timed or mishandled. But they were determined to get one and late in the workout, when Green zipped by cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, Dalton threw Green a rope instead of a high bomb and Green tucked away the perfect line drive over his left shoulder . . .

It looked like Sims may have suffered a groin pull or hamstring issue. It would appear he may not be ready for Tampa . . .

Left tackle Jake Fisher (shoulder) also hasn't worked in about a week and sat Wednesday while Dan France continued to get a bunch of snaps at left tackle. Also out were cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) and cornerback Brandon Ghee (hamstring) . . .

The Bengals' last public training camp practice is Thursday at 1 p.m. with the gates open at 12:30 p.m.

 BENNETT ADDED; The dog days of training camp and the Bengals are looking for bodies at the busiest positions. And on Wednesday they went out and got one fresh body out of the gym in undrafted rookie wide receiver Michael Bennett.

They made room for Bennett by waiving tight end Jake Murphy, a member of the practice squad the last half of last season. With four rookie tight ends jostling to back up Tyler Eifert and two of them, Matt Lengel and John Peters, getting just four snaps between them in the pre-season opener, they decided to jettison Murphy after his five snaps against the Giants.

 With wide receiver Onterio McCalebb hobbled by a hamstring injury, Bennett gives them fresh legs. Really fresh. He's coming off Jan. 6 ACL surgery after injuring his knee in Georgia's Dec. 30 bowl game.

The Bengals are hoping to get a new contact for a Georgia wide receiver this training camp, as they try to reach an extension with four-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green. For now, the 6-3, 202-pound Bennett gives them some numbers.

"As a freak,' said Bennett before Wednesday's practice when asked what he remembered about Green during their one year together in Athens. "Awesome guy. Real down to earth. He's the best receiver in the NFL and he stills acts like he's one of the guys. That's pretty cool . . . He had a catch against Colorado one-handed. He brought it down in the corner of the end zone. I still remember it clear as day.  Best receiver I've ever seen in my life with my own two eyes."

Bennett fits the Bengals' desire for productive players in big conferences. In four seasons he caught 134 balls, 17 for touchdowns, while averaging 12 yards per catch in 27 starts and 43 games. He attributed his rapid ACL rehab to "good genes,' and the work of the University of Georgia training staff.

"The perception is it takes nine to 12 months," Bennett said of the ACL reconstruction. "But really, at six months the graft is totally healed and you're good to go. It's up the athlete at that point."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: The hope is that backup quarterback AJ McCarron returns to do some throwing in team drills Wednesday, nine days after he pulled rib cartilage, and that he'll be able to play Monday (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5, ESPN) in Tampa…

Head coach Marvin Lewis said before practice that he thinks some of the players that didn't play against the Giants can go against the Buccaneers. Heading the wish list are McCarron and Jake Fisher, the second-round pick they'd like to see get work at both guard and tackle…

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