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Quick Hits: New Bengals S Geno Stone Knows Who To Study; No. 1 Pick Amarius Mims Bringing The Energy

OT Amarius Mims during practice at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
OT Amarius Mims during practice at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

These days in May when the weather can both swelter and chill are where gigantic, NFL season-making plays are born through bonding.

Take Geno Stone, the cagey AFC interceptions champion who signed with Cincinnati back in March. He's bonding with fellow safety Vonn Bell in those legendary dawn workouts as well as watching Jessie Bates III's Bengals tape later in the clear light of day.

As every Cincy school kid knows, Bell and Bates used their instincts and intellect to help quarterback the Bengals defense to two straight AFC title games. They left last season, but while Bates is savoring his first Pro Bowl in Atlanta, Bell has returned to mentor guys like Stone and Jordan Battle and settle down the secondary that gave up so many big plays last season.

"It's kind of hard watching Vonn when Vonn is here," said Stone of the tape with a laugh after Tuesday's voluntary practice baked into the high 80s. "Jessie and I are two different players. We're kind of similar in the way we go get the ball, but his style is different than mine. I like to put my own spin on it.

"I hang around Vonn all the time. He'll tell me, 'Do this,' or I tell him what I see. We're having the conversations already. We've both been in different systems. We're trying to put how we see everything all together into one."

Whenever Bell and Stone are in Cincinnati for the voluntaries, Stone joins him in the Kettering Health Performance Center as soon as the day begins in one of those first-things-first workouts Bell favors. What goes around comes around. When Stone was a high school sophomore in the Pittsburgh area, he went to the Ohio State football camp where the Buckeye Bell gave his group a tour of the facility.

"It's good because I can get in here early and then watch film and get up to speed on everything," Stone says. "Since then, we ran into each other a few times in Miami. It's pretty cool ending up on the same team with him. Knowing how smart he is and what he means to this organization."

Stone realizes how fortuitous it is to have Bell tutoring him in this defense because, after all, other than coordinator Lou Anarumo, who knows it better?

"I know it inside and out mostly," Bell says. "(It helps) having somebody that has experience with it in high-level games. Knows what it takes to get the job done with it and knows how you can cheat it a little bit within the call, and you get a little greedy sometimes. It's a good thing to have for sure."

They've already golfed together three times (Blue Ash, Reeves, Glenview) and while Stone has taken Bell by surprise with his game (Stone got as hot as the weather Monday and fired a 75 at Reeves with a friend from Pittsburgh), Stone is a bit surprised that Anarumo's scheme seems to be a mix of the two he played in Baltimore.

So Stone is not only getting comfortable with Bell but also with the look. He says the defense leans to the safety-over-the-top-man-to-man press looks he broke in with under Wink Martindale with the Ravens, but he says there are also similarities in the zones Mike Macdonald played the last two seasons.

"Jessie is a little more aggressive than I am. That's why I want my corners to trust me whenever I'll be in the post, or wherever I'm at," Stone says. "I'm going to be me."

With more than a little help from the man who helped Bates.

IRON MIKE: Before the Bengals even drafted him in the fifth round last month, TCU cornerback Josh “Fig” Newton had been watching Bengals slot cornerback Mike Hilton on film. Smart kid. If Hilton isn't one of the NFL's top slots, he's the best.

And Hilton reports Newton looks good playing both inside and outside.

"He's picking up both positions. He's communicating well already. We'll see how he does when someone is across from him," Hilton said. "He can move his feet and he catches it well.

"He has to balance between inside and outside. I don't want to do too much because he's got to get one thing down first and then go from there. There's so much more to inside than outside. You have run fits, blitz patterns, and probably the better route runners are inside. I feel like being inside you need a complete overall game."

And, yes, he can see a bit of his own edge from Newton's five-year college career that began modestly.

"I feel Louisiana-Monroe gives him a chip-on-the-shoulder and he showed he could play when the lights are the brightest at TCU," Hilton said. "So we expect the same thing."

Hilton, undrafted out of Ole Miss, sees it as a positive that the young folks are watching him ("I feel like at this point in my career a lot of guys are looking at me and emulating me") and believes, "I've played a lot of football, but I still feel good."

Hilton, who turned 30 in March, remembers the day he was the kid watching. At 5-9, 184, he watched guys like Tyrann Mathieu and even before that, the Colts' Bob Sanders, a 5-8, 204-pounder who played with two-time All-Pro abandon in the run game.

Hilton remembers William Gay taking him under his wing as a Pittsburgh rookie. It goes fast. He looks at this year's Bengals draft class and there are two from his alma mater, sixth-round defensive end Cedric Johnson and seventh-round safety
Daijahn Anthony. He has seen Anthony in action.

"Rebels in the building," Hilton said. "He looks good. Tall (6-0, 190), athletic, he can run. I feel like we can definitely use him this year."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: There's nothing like a good first impression and first-rounder Amarius Mims is making one, according to some of his teammates, as he continues to take first-team reps at right tackle while Trent Brown tends to a personal matter.

The 6-8 Mims played at 340-345 pounds in college, but he's at 350 pounds now and still looks svelte.

"I feel like I'm getting broader," Mims said Tuesday of his upper body. "The coaches like me at 350, so I'll play at 350. I feel good. I'm taking care of my body. I adjusted last week. This week I'm not asking as many questions."

Mims impressed at least one vet with his energy. Despite the 87-degree heat, Mims, a Georgia native, bounced around the offensive line drills and at one point dribbled the big exercise balls the linemen use for technique like a basketball as they moved a drill.

"This is nothing. This is a step below Georgia heat," Mims said. "I'm fortunate to play the game I love at the highest level possible and still get paid. Why not smile and all that extra stuff?" …

The Bengals go to phase three of the voluntary workouts next week, meaning the offense can go against the defense in seven-on-seven and walk through 11-on-11 with no live contact. They can hold ten of those practices until the June 11-13 mandatory minicamp.