Center Ted Karras, one of quarterback Joe Burrow's three new starting offensive linemen, was thrilled to meet the Bengals' greatest offensive lineman of all-time after Wednesday's practice and he was glad the offense timed it up its best day of training camp to welcome Anthony Munoz.
"He's kind of been a fictional figure for me. A Hall-of-Famer. Probably the top player for the franchise," Karras said. "I'm glad we put on a show for him today. I would say our best execution day. It's nice to go into the first game with a little momentum."
Karras and most of his fellow first-teamers won't play in Friday's preseason opener (7:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) at Paycor Stadium against the Cardinals. Probably only left guard Jackson Carman and Wednesday's Bengals.com Player of the Day, quarterback Brandon Allen.
Working against the 1s, Allen, his first unit flummoxed most of camp by the defense, led them with two touchdown passes and drove inside the 10 on another possession.
"The defense has played well. They've gotten the best of us on some occasions," Allen said. "It's good to be able to go out there and get a really good feel for what this offense can do. It was our best "Move the Ball," Day.
"We had a little bit of everything on third down. Third-and-short. Third-and-long. We had a couple of play-action check downs to keep us ahead of the chains. Good offense is taking the completions when they're there and taking shots when they're available."
Allen threw two shots into zone coverage, touchdown passes of 17 yards to running back Joe Mixon and 18 yards to wide receiver Michael Thomas. Both got lost in zones with Mixon getting a little help from wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
"I'm not sure what they played," Allen said. "But when Ja'Marr goes in the slot, he gets a lot of attention and we were able to suck them down on Ja'Marr and get Joe over the top for a hole shot. You can put (Chase) wherever. He does it all."
Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie has been immense this camp. Except for Allen's 35-yard wobbler that didn't matter because Chase had so much separation on Awuzie, a rarity this camp. Awuzie guessed and jumped the route. But Chase was running by him on the right sideline.
"Chido guessed and he usually doesn't guess wrong. For once he did," Allen said. "I threw a punt up to Ja'Marr and he was able to catch it. No pictures (of the pass) in the scorebook."
For the first time in training camp on Wednesday, Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La'el Collins were in pads. It was Collins (back) on the field for the first time in camp after getting cleared Wednesday.
He'll start out slow, with walk-throughs and individuals, but it's unclear if the three are ever going to play in a game together before the Sept. 11 opener here against the Steelers.
It doesn't seem urgent. Indeed, it actually sounds like head coach Zac Taylor just wants to make sure they get a bunch of practices in.
"I'm pretty comfortable if we can get them as much practice work as possible," Taylor said.
Munoz and his line mate from the first Bengals' Super Bowl team, radio analyst Dave Lapham, made them feel comfortable when offensive line coach Frank Pollack called them over at the end of practice to speak.
"I mean, he and Lapham are ready to go out there and kick some ass," Karras said.
Collins, the eight-year vet from Dallas wearing Willie Anderson's No. 71, got a thrill, too.
"It's the first time I ever listened to him. It was nice to see Munoz up close," Collins said. "After hearing his words, you can see why he was one of the best."
Karras promptly told Munoz that if he ever needed the offensive line for anything, like one of his foundation's fundraisers, to just call. Taylor, who has also hosted Anderson, Chad Johnson, Adam Jones and Shayne Graham the past few days, is clearly enjoying the post-COVID return of the old players.
"It's really fun for all of us. You can feel the excitement a lot of alums have towards this team," Taylor said. "It's a fun team to be around. We've got a lot of alums that are fun to be around. I love having these guys back in the mix."
PLAYER OF THE DAY: QB Brandon Allen
PLAY OF THE DAY: WR Ja'Marr Chase
This time, Chase threw the ball in the crowd after he made this play and it looked like nobody went in and got it back.
"I think a lucky fan might have got one. They deserve it," Allen said.
A quick fade on the left sideline and, as usual, cornerback Eli Apple was all over him. There looked to be some contact as they both began to leap and it just shows how strong both Chase's hands and body are. While fending off Apple, he stuck out one hand, his left, and plucked it from over his shoulder.
"That's sad because I see it so often now I almost get used to it," Allen said. "It's an incredible thing to see. But that's a casual Wednesday for him. Our DBs are pretty good. They cover well. But you can put that thing anywhere and he's going to make the catch for you."
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Bengals Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz on what he said to the O-line after practice:
"You have No. 9. You have No. 1. You have No. 28. They're studs. But when it's all said and done, it's the five up front. I told them I just want to let you know we have a lot guys that played for this team that live in Cincinnati and you have a lot of big fans here. And we each want the best for you … Remain coachable. I talked about Frank being a great technician. Listen to what he says… It's all about attitude and getting after it."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Kicker Evan McPherson had just his second miss of training camp, a 54-yarder that slid right. Watching was Shayne Graham, the most accurate kicker in Bengals history who also coached McPherson in 2020 at Florida. As Graham took some video on his phone, McPherson lined up one and someone joked he looked like Picasso checking out his protégé.
"Believe me, I didn't have to tell him very much," Graham said ….
Graham is no longer coaching, but when he was in the ranks he scouted Bengals punting challenger Drue Chrisman at Ohio State. In his rookie season in 2009, incumbent punter Kevin Huber was Graham's last Bengals holder.
"(Chrisman) has a good touch, especially on pooch punts," Graham said. "They downed a lot of punts inside the 5." …
Huber and Chrisman, who are both going to punt Friday, punted Wednesday and again Chrisman seemed to have more consistent length.
"He's hit the ball well. He needs more consistent placement, but he's certainly shown he can get the ball down field," said Simmons before practice, where he charts and dissects every punt in practice but also knows the games are the decisive grades …
It's not often you hear head coaches rave about media access. Maybe rants, but not raves. But Taylor is glad the media is back in the locker room after COVID's two-year banishment.
"Because we have such great personalities on this team that I want people to see that so they can appreciate that and enjoy it," Taylor said. "So when they watch these guys on game days, they got their favorites that they're pulling for. You can ask 20 different people who your favorite Bengals player is and you'll get 20 different answers. That's a really cool thing about this team." ,,,
Rookie cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt didn't practice Wednesday and watched from the sidelines ...