Ever since they drafted Josh Malone, the Bengals eyed a roster spot for him.
This is one of the seven reasons the Bengals want to keep seven wide receivers:
Josh Malone, the Bengals rookie who was born the same month as Paul Brown Stadium, is staring at a third down from the Tampa Bay 8 in his first NFL game Friday night. He sees the safety playing low and figures the Buccaneers have decided to defend his 4.4-second 40-yard dash with man-to-man coverage. Instead of trying to run past the coverage, Malone runs the route called.
And that's a big deal in the receivers room.
"I challenge them all the time," said wide receivers coach James Urban before Monday's practice. "Do you have the intestinal fortitude, the guts, to run it exactly, the way we run it in practice, when the opportunity presents itself?
"You get so excited," Urban said. "You look at the coverage and say, 'Oh my gosh, I can score a touchdown.' So sometimes you get shorter or faster. You stem inside when you're supposed to stay straight. Can you react the way you're supposed to over and over? We're looking for that consistency from Josh."
Malone, a fourth-rounder, ran the route like a first-rounder. A post. Third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel waited for Malone to clear the safety and Malone beat everyone else when Driskel hung it high and the 6-3 Malone easily grabbed it.
"It was kind of funky," Malone said of the coverage. "My initial read is the way the safety was low I felt like it just man. But I just took what he gave me. I had the play in my head. I wanted to release and get in there."
The encouraging thing is that Malone ran the route so well. It's not that he can't, it's just that the route tree at Tennessee isn't exactly overgrown. And, next to rookie running back Joe Mixon, he's the youngest player on the team. At a gangly 208 pounds, there is time to grow into his body. Want to feel old? Malone was born March 5, 1996. Two weeks later the stadium referendum passed.
"I'm focused on the little things. The details. The things like route running," Malone said.
That's easy to do when you sit next to the old man in the room, eight-year veteran Brandon LaFell, 30, who has taken Malone in hand even though he was born a good decade before.
"I look at how he conducts himself in the meetings, on the practice field, off the field," Malone said. "He's all business. He goes about perfecting his craft."
So far, so good.
"Perfect, very well run route," Urban said. "He did (the consistent things) on that particular play very well."
PEERMAN RETURNS: Running back and special teams co-captain Cedric Peerman, sidelined all training camp with a hamstring issue since the conditioning test, was cleared before Monday's practice. He joins a roster battle that became heated Friday night when Tra Carson, a practice squad player last season, looked good with 32 yards on eight carries.
Cincinnati Bengals host Training Camp at Paul Brown Stadium Practice Fields 8/14/2017