Updated: 6:15 p.m.
One of the many reasons Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden covets rookie running back Giovani Bernard is what he can do between the tackles as a complement to BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
You can't see that in a rookie minicamp. But what you can see is another reason Gruden thinks Bernard is going to help quarterback Andy Dalton right away.
"He's got great hands. He makes people miss on the second level," Gruden said after Saturday's second practice. "Get him the ball in space, make a linebacker miss, a safety miss. We need some of that.
"Andy needs some of those short passes that turn into 25-yard gains. It's a lot easier on a quarterback. Instead of grinding out every first down with the exception of throwing one deep to A.J. (Green) every now and then. We need some guys to get better running after the catch, breaking tackle after contact."
The Bengals are hoping Bernard takes them out of the middle of the pack. According to Elias, the Bengals finished 15th in yards after catch with 1,801 while New England had 500 yards more to finish first with 2,319 on the way to being the NFL's No .1 offense.
HAMILTON CATCHING ON: Naturally, the Bengals ended up with two receivers in the Chad Johnson trade. Cal's Marvin Jones looks like he's here to stay after arriving via the fifth round last year and Cobi Hamilton, this year's sixth-round pick out of Arkansas, looks every bit the part as he puts on a good camp. Kobe Bryant and his Lakers may be shelved for the playoffs, but this Cobi has plenty of life.
The 6-1, 212-pound Hamilton has shown some nice hands in traffic and elsewhere and he says the Arkansas offense under head coach Bobby Petrino has helped smooth his transition.
"I feel like I'm no sixth-round pick. I don't feel like that," he said after the Saturday morning practice. "With Petrino, a lot of it is the same terminology. A lot of the stuff is not a brain freeze for me. It came simply from being around Petrino for four years."
Hamilton, who became the third of the 10 draft picks to sign Saturday, has caught Gruden's eye. Gruden has been pleasantly surprised and thinks Hamilton is going to be a factor come training camp.
"He'll challenge to make the squad and become a player," Gruden said. "Cobi's an exciting guy. He's bigger than I thought he was. He's taller. He's got good stride to him, he's got good hands, he's tough. In Arkansas he ran a lot of crossing routes so we knew he wasn't afraid to go across the middle. We like Cobi. We're impressed with what he's done so far."
Gruden has already noticed that Hamilton has moved fairly seamlessly into the playbook.
"He's a smart kid. He's a bright kid. He hasn't messed up anything yet. He's picked it up quickly," Gruden said.
Gruden already has four pretty good locks from the last two rookie classes (Green, Jones, Andrew Hawkins, Mohamed Sanu) and he says Hamilton is a worthy challenger.
"That receiver room just gets stronger and stronger, younger and younger," Gruden said. "He's got big strong hands, long arms, long body; he definitely looks the part. You take a guy like that and you know he can handle it mentally, you've got something."
HAWK CHALK: The Tanner Hawkinson Show continues Saturday afternoon into the fourth practice of the Bengals rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium when the fifth-round pick is expected to get some snaps at right tackle and right guard.
Since he's snapping the ball during drills, that is going to make a clean sweep of playing all five offensive line spots this weekend and it should say something that offensive line coach Paul Alexander can't remember if anyone else has done that for him so early in his career.
"I'll have to get back to you on that," Alexander said after the Saturday morning practice. "He's got good quickness, he's smart. He's an instinctive player."
The 6-5, 298-pound Hawkinson, who played right and left tackle at Kansas, has worked at left guard and left tackle in the team periods.
"It wasn't bad (at guard)," he said. "It's a little different, of course, but when they drafted me they told me they thought I could play all five positions."
It's the first time Hawksinson has touched the ball and he's not sure if he'll get the call to center it in team sessions, but he'll feel better about it than he did Friday.
"It was a little awkward," he said. "(But) getting that muscle memory down, then it's just like its second nature."
THE OTHER SIXTH: Gruden is also pleased with the other sixth-round pick, Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead. He doesn't have the long speed, but the coaches like his quickness. Like Hamilton, Gruden thinks Burkhead has made it known this weekend he'll be a factor in the roster scramble.
"He's quicker than a cat. He has (one of the fastest times) in the short shuttle," Gruden said. "His quickness is above average, if not great. His 40 time is not great, but the intangibles he has, the size he has, his strength, his work ethic, all that makes him to be reckoned with come camp time."
The 5-10, 214-pound Burkhead has shown some pop in the little-things category.
"He's got great feet and quick; it's what we thought we had," Gruden said. "He's a great option for us. He's little bit thicker and bigger to handle the pass protection. He's tough as nails, we know that."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» The Bengals may end up not having a spot for tryout wide receiver Nick Truesdell, but he's turning into an evolving feel-good story. After virtually disappearing from the face of the earth following his dominant performance in the Division II Ohio championship game for Cincinnati's Anderson High School in 2007, the 6-5, 236-pound Truesdell resurfaced here five and a half years later and he has looked pretty good for a guy that has just one catch since he led the Redskins to glory.
A few problems with the law got him bounced out of the University of Cincinnati as a freshman after just eight games on special teams, and on his 16th play or so at Grand Rapids Community College he blew out his knee in 2011 and hasn't played since.
But with the help of former Bengals Solomon Wilcots and Eric Thomas, strength guru Ted Lambrinides, and the community at Anderson Hills Methodist Church, Truesdell looks to be back on track.
"I made some dumb mistakes when I was younger," Truesdell said. "I just felt like I was on top of the world and I could do whatever I wanted. I've tried to work as hard as I can to get to this point. Now that I'm here, it's great and I've just go to keep working at it, pushing forward."
» Tryout running back John Clay, struggling with leg issues, went limited in the Saturday afternoon practice.
»The veterans are taking an interest in this group of rookies. On a chilly Saturday morning left tackle Andrew Whitworth, cornerbacks Leon Hall and Adam Jones, and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga checked out their position groups.
»Karl Schaulin, the Bengals season-ticket holder who made the fourth-round pick in New York City, was a guest at practice Saturday morning. The man whose name he called, Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter, autographed for Schaulin the back of the card that was handed in.
» Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer appears on Cincinnati Channel 9's Sports of all Sorts Sunday at 11:30 p.m.