Fast to the Core

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Cody Core has come out fast.

Start this reunion tour for the Bengals offense on Tuesday's first practice of the spring with a fast stop. And it's got to be fast because we're talking about Cody Core, the sophomore wide receiver who just very well might be one of the next big things in Bengaldom.

Sure, the Bengals draped perennial Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green with ultra-speed in last month's NFL Draft. Yes, they drafted first Washington wide receiver John Ross, the fastest man to ever run the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. And then, right, with one of their two extra fourth-round picks they got another fleet receiver they never though they'd get their hands on in Tennessee's Josh Malone, the guy that ran the 40 right before Ross' mid-blowing 4.22 seconds, so nobody really noticed that Malone had shot his 6-3, 210 pounds through in 4.4 flat.

But it was the 6-3, 215-pound Core who earlier this month had the Bengals' GPS gadgets going haywire. He clocked the fastest time of any Bengals veteran skill player running a down-field route at 22.8 miles per hour. Guys like Kansas City's Tyreek Hill of Kansas City blur at the top of the league playing games at 23 miles per hour or so. The great Green moves in the 22 range himself.

"He's fast," said quarterback Andy Dalton. "You can tell he's put in a lot of work. He looks really good."

  When Core stepped on the field Tuesday for the first practice of 2017, it will be recalled the last time he wore his helmet he snared a career-best 83 yards on New Year's Day in the season-finale win over the Ravens next door. He went right from there to the weight room.

"I like Cody Core. He competes every day," said cornerback Adam Jones, who starts jawing with him the minute a sweep is coming his way  and Core is deployed to take him on. "He's a good kid. I love guys that can compete, that live to go out and have fun. He can run and he's going to do all the work going in there blocking. He's a competing player. Cody has a chance to be something special."

Core looks down at his core and notes that he weighs 215 pounds like he did as a rookie.

"It's a different 215," Core said. "Fast. A muscled 215. I came in at 217. Still fast."

As he watched Green go crazy in the first nine games with a damn-near 1,800-yard pace before suffering a partially torn hamstring that ended last season, Core took notes.

"You have to take care of your body," Core said. "A.J. Green is in his what? Eighth year? Maybe Seventh. He takes care of his body. He's the guy I watch. He's a receiver in my room."

He took the notes back to Ole Miss and changed his body. He also spent 12 days working on his speed at Tony Villani's well-known house of fast at XPE in Boca Raton, Fla.

"Just being smart. Eating better. Sleeping better," Core said. "Last offseason we were just coming out from college pro day and the combine and all that going on. You just have to go with the flow. There was no strategy. After my first year I had time to figure out what I wanted to do. How I wanted to train and eat."

It's not just Dalton and Adam Jones. You don't find anybody that doesn't like Cody Core. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton talks about his work ethic and the coaches talk about his size and tell you not to sleep on Cody Core. Everyone talks about his speed.

When the last day of the 2016 draft arrived, the Bengals came into the fourth round wanting another receiver before the end of the day after taking Tyler Boyd in the second. The University of Mississippi's Cody Core intrigued both the scouts and wide receivers coach James Urban and Core was the one guy left Urban really coveted.

Speed at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash. Not much experience. But speed.

They got him in the sixth round. He pays no mind that they then went out in the next draft and drafted a 4.2 guy in Ross and a 4.4 guy in Malone.

"I didn't think anything about it. Just another fast guy to add to the mix of a lot of fast guys we have now. I come in every day and just work and do what I'm able to do and do what they brought me into to do.

"It just helps the team in general. The competition level goes up, which makes you raise your game up. Just to see different guys come in, that helps build the team completion level. Everyone gets better at the same time."

Core has been moving all over the place. In one formation on Tuesday he found himself lined up next to Malone.

"That's 4.4 speed going down the field at the safety and the DB," Core said. "I think we're more energized than last year with just all the speed and talent and knowledge out there. We're just getting better every day."

He certainly is moving. Cody Core could get pulled over in some school zones.

  "Just training and being smart," he said of his top speed. "Just wanting to be great."

In the next stop of the tour, one found the Dalton exhibit quite pleased.

"I thought for the first day it went smooth, especially for the ones. I feel like that's how it should be," Dalton said. "There's not much with the first day, first install. But I thought guys ran well, they were in the right spot. There were a lot of completions out there."

He looked over at Green after his first day back since he grabbed his hamstring against Buffalo and shrugged.

"Just like riding a bike."

Offensive line coach Paul Alexander looked like he was riding high after the first glimpse of Cedric Ogbuehi at left tackle following what they hope is a break-through in his first healthy offseason. It's early, so Alexander is taking it day by day, but the first day was good.

"He didn't miss a block today," Alexander said. "He's worked really hard. He looks strong."

Ogbuehi agreed. After a nightmarish season at right tackle he was benched after 11 games, he looked relieved Tuesday. "It's good to be home," he said of left tackle. "It's a whole natural feeling. The body angles felt good."

He was also relieved to just be able to go back out there Wednesday. After being taken with the 21st pick in 2015, Tuesday marked the first time he's taken a snap in the spring. Now no longer tethered to rehab specialist Nick Cosgray, he smiled and offered, "It's good not to be with Nick."

Meanwhile, a few doors down on the offensive line the tour stopped at a familiar landmark that re-opened Tuesday in a different location. After eight seasons at right tackle and a starter on six post-season teams, Andre Smith didn't exactly feel like a rookie. But his first snaps at right guard were, well, different.

"Everything happens a lot faster," Smith said. "It's like, 'Wow, that's fast.' I'm not worried about picking it up. I love football. It comes back to playing football."

Alexander has no worries: "It's not like he's moving there a week before the season. Plenty of time. He'll be fine."

Veteran backup right tackle Eric Winston has been there and done that and he also sees a pretty smooth transition.

"It's the little stuff when you move down from tackle to guard that's hard," Winston said. "The certain landing points, the guys being on top of you, the short amount of area to move in. He's just got to get a ton of reps, but he's so physically talented I'm sure he'll be fine."

But Smith's most important contribution may be working next to new right tackle Jake Fisher. The days when the O-line led from the outside in with the tackle tandems of Smith and Andrew Whitworth and Willie Anderson and Levi Jones have evolved into the guards now being the most experienced and battle-tested with Smith on the right and Clint Boling on the left.

"Leading the pack, so to speak," Smith said.

"He's been bouncing questions off me in different situations. He's been working on technique, his hand placement in the run game and stuff like that. Jake's doing some great things. It's going to be fun playing next to him."

 

Cincinnati Bengals host OTA's at Paul Brown Stadium Practice Fields.

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