Safety Michael Thomas, the only offensive and defensive player on the Young Gun Bengals with at least 100 games (105) in the NFL, already has the scouting report in on new tight end Hayden Hurst.
"As advertised," Thomas says.
With the Paul Brown Stadium gates opened for Saturday's "Back Together," practice on the sun-soaked river, a chunk of Bengaldom is going to see quarterback Joe Burrow's new target enjoying the fresh start in head coach Zac Taylor's playbook.
"I'd have to say yes," said Hurst, when asked before practice if this is the most comfortable he's been in his five NFL seasons. "It's really that the coaching staff sees what I'm able to do. The confidence from the coaching staff. They believe in you and talk to you about stuff. Very transparent. It gives you confidence to go out and do your thing."
And Hurst's thing as a former first-round pick is showing his easy athleticism. After stints in Baltimore and Atlanta, Hurst can feel Taylor noting his strengths and calling corresponding plays:
"Using my speed. Bodying people on certain routes. Getting open across the middle. Separating from man coverage."
The Bengals have high regard for Hurst's predecessor, C.J. Uzomah, a huge part of last season's Super Bowl run. But there are differences between the 6-4, 245-pound Hurst and the 6-6, 260-pound Uzomah. Hurst is just a more natural receiver as he dips in and out of his routes and is probably a better fit for what Taylor is running.
"He can really move for his size," said slot cornerback Mike Hilton. "He gives the quarterback a big frame to go across the middle. I feel like he'll be a mismatch in our offense.
"I think this is the perfect spot for him. With all the weapons and quarterback we have, he's going to get a lot of opportunities to win his one-on-ones."
Hurst doesn't have the quarterback yet as Joe Burrow recovers from his appendectomy. But's he's got a good vibe with Brandon Allen.
"Brandon's very similar to Joe in his thought process," Hurst said. "He's helping me be on the same page of what Joe would expect. He's watching film. My focus is getting on the same page with the quarterbacks and things like that."
He's also getting on the same page with the guys he goes against in practice daily. Hurst renewed his NFC South battle with sack ace Trey Hendrickson and they're trying to make sure the old Saints-Falcons chippiness doesn't surface in practice.
"Atlanta-New Orleans is a big rivalry. It kind of gets chippy. There's the back and forth. I'm sure over the years we probably ran into each," Hurst said. "We're trying to figure out how I can get him ready and how he can get me ready. The first few days, you try to figure each other out and how to make it work for both sides. He's a great guy. Hell of a player."
At the moment, the Bengals feel like the signing is working for their side.