Andy Dalton prepped for the Jets Thursday with brisk 15-for-17 passing
From the media luncheon at the beginning, to the six-year extension in the middle, to Thursday's sharp effort in the last public session, this training camp belonged to quarterback Andy Dalton.
Indeed, Red Riflery is the camp activity that ruled many of the days at the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields.
With the Bengals set to play the Jets Saturday at 7 p.m. at PBS 11:35 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), the Bengals went through a regular-season Friday practice on Thursday and with Dalton expected to play the first quarter he tuned up hitting 15 of 17 passes.
"I know he's better," said quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese after practice. "I can see it in his decisiveness, his details, the ball placement, the confidence. What strikes me is the consistency. Something may not be right, but we bounce back quickly. Nothing lingers from one bad play to causing another bad one."
Of course, Zampese and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson expect Dalton and any another solid starting NFL quarterback to hit all but two passes where the uniform of the day is helmets and shorts.
"We're going off cards," Zampese reminded, but there's no question that Dalton has had more sharp days than dull ones the past three weeks and that bodes well for what Jackson has in mind.
And it is going to be different than what former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden asked Dalton to do in his first three seasons.
"I think we have a bond, which is important," Jackson said. "He's getting to know me and I'm getting to know him. I like everything about him. What I'm most proud of is he's allowed me to coach him. I've seen some guys bristle when change happens. He hasn't blinked and none of the guys on offense have and that's been good to see."
From the day Jackson became the coordinator when Gruden became the head coach in Washington, he has been an unabashed supporter of Dalton and Dalton has been repaying the encouragement all camp.
"I feel like guys have gotten better. Hue has done a really good job of putting in things I like and that a lot of the guys like," Dalton said. "Today was like what you want out of a Friday practice. You want to be sharp and I think for the most part we were."
Except early on, when Jackson wasn't happy with the performance of the play behind Dalton. Matt Scott didn't appear for about a half hour after Jackson expressed some displeasure and even though he's been here just four practices Tyler Wilson got the bulk of the snaps non-one snaps.
"I'm not going to say I benched him," Jackson said. "There's a certain level of play I expect from the offense. There's a certain way we have to play, a certain way to attack things. How you practice, how you prepare, that's the only way to make this thing happen.
"I'm sure they'll tell you I got after them today. Because there's a way we practice all the time and I'm not going to ever deviate from that because that's what gives us success."
With Jason Campbell not working because of a bruised arm, Scott eventually got back in the mix and he'll most likely play most of the game. The thinking appears to be that Wilson can finish up playing a decent portion of the fourth quarter.
With who was sitting out Thursday, here is a guess on the Won't Play List that's released 90 minutes before the kickoff:
Wide receiver Marvin Jones, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, right tackle Andre Smith, tight end Jermaine Gresham, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, linebacker Sean Porter, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
All of those guys, expect Atkins, didn't suit up. He did take one snap in team, a passing situation, but isn't expected to do a thing until next week, when it's hopeful he'll play in Arizona Aug. 24.
WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict might make that list. He wore everything but his helmet Thursday after sitting out the last half of Wednesday's workout. But Burfict always seems to end up playing, doesn't he? Maybe head coach Marvin Lewis makes Saturday only a cameo.
Defensive tackle Domata Peko is another guy that could get a DNP. He was back working but is just off the concussion protocol.
Tight end Tyler Eifert dressed early Thursday but didn't participate in most of the practice. He should be able to go Saturday.
OFFENSIVE LINE LINEUP: Left guard Clint Boling, center-guard Mike Pollak, and backup tackle Marshall Newhouse all returned Thursday with the interesting twist of Newhouse and Will Svitek flopping sides with Newhouse moving over to right tackle and Svitek to left. It wouldn't be surprising to see them on both sides Saturday with Boling and Kevin Zeitler the guards and rookie Russell Bodine at center. Figure Pollak to center the second group.
The 6-6, 3-5-pound Svitek, 32, a nine-year vet, is having a good camp and is going to be a hard guy to cut. He played guard for the first time last year in New England, has played in 74 games with 18 starts, has appeared in four post-season games with two clubs and his composure shows.
So it's getting tight, isn't it? If they keep two backup tackles to go along with the five starters, that's already seven of the nine offensive linemen they're projected to keep. Then there's Tanner Hawkinson, who has been playing both guard and tackle and looks to be a key guy because of his versatility. Plus Pollak, guard-center Trevor Robinson, and rookie guard Trey Hopkins all have been impressive this camp. There is much to be decided there in the next three games and it all comes down to how many they want at each guard, tackle, and center.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: You could give it to Dalton on Thursday, but if it wasn't for how Andy News dominated this camp, you would have heard a lot more about rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
Has a first-round pick ever had such a low profile in Bengaldom?
Probably because he's exactly what they'd thought he'd be right away. Solid, smart, physical, a Leon Hall clone, the No. 2 slot player. He'll be competing for third-corner snaps quickly and that should be interesting because cornerback Adam Jones' coaches say it's the best camp he's ever had.
"It's early, but at this point, he's the best rookie cornerback I've been around," Lewis said."
I was told at one point that one of his inadequacies was possibly playing the ball
down the field. And sometimes I think college corners get knocked for that,
particularly if they were a physical player. But one of the things that's impressed
me so much is his ability to track and play the football on vertical throws. If you
want to be a great corner at this level, you have to have those capabilities, and
he's shown those. Some things have been new to him, but he hasn't made the
same mistake twice."
On Thursday Dennard had another interception on which he sat on the route and just read the eyes of Scott all the way. He's done that a few times this camp. It was one of those throws to the perimeter that would have been a quick pick for six.
PLAY OF THE DAY: You could have gone with Dennard. Or Dalton to Green's pitch-and-catch—long-bomb-over-the-shoulder. Or rookie cornerback Victor Hampton outdueling Green on a fade in the end zone.
But give it to second-year running back Rex Burkhead. Burkhead has had a heck of a camp and this is another guy they'll have a hard time cutting. He showed his speed, hands, and drive on a wheel route in 11-on-11. After running by safety Daniel Manning down the sideline, Dalton led him with a beauty and Burkhead left his feet in a dive and juggled it against his chest and secured it as he hit the ground.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "He's better. He's improving. I see it daily. He does stuff that is really making me looking forward to having him in the rotation where I know he can do some stuff."
Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes on second-year left end Margus Hunt.
CROWD CALL: About 1,150 viewed the last public practice, leaving the final camp attendance at about 37,000, counting the crowd of 7,000 at West Carrollton High School.
COLD PLAY: The Bengals' responded to the Ravens in the Ice Water Bucket Challenge for ALS after Thursday's practice. The Bengals gathered their group who had been challenged by friends at the Ravens underneath one of video director's Travis Brammer's camera lifts.
All but Brammer worked in Baltimore, such as Hue Jackson, head coach Marvin Lewis, safeties coach Mark Carrier, Bill Walsh minority coach interns Duane Starks and Brad Jackson, and coaching assistant Jamie Janette.
One of Hue Jackson's challenges was to Raiders owner Mark Davis. It will be recalled that Jackson was dismissed as head coach in Oakland despite being there only one year in 2011 and coming within six minutes of the Raiders' first playoff berth in nearly a decade.
Lewis challenged former Bengals assistant strength coach Ray "Rock," Oliver, now the head of Kentucky basketball's strength program, as well as Cincinnati restaurateur Jeff Ruby and Michael Kayes, one of the Bengals directors of technology.
The training staff, aided by middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, then doused the group from the top of the camera lift with several buckets of ice water.