On day eight of the Bengals’ organized team activities, the secondary enjoyed a highlight-filled day with numerous pass breakups, an interception and multiple stops. It was such a dazzling performance, head coach Zac Taylor couldn’t help but agree the defense won the day.
“I do, I absolutely do,” Taylor said. “They came out and played like their hair was on fire. They did a nice job of getting to the quarterback. I'm happy with the job the defense did.”
Playing like “their hair was on fire” certainly summed up the intensity and playmaking ability the secondary showcased. From safety Jessie Bates’ interception during a red zone drill, to rookie cornerback Jordan Brown breaking up consecutive passes during a two-minute drill, the secondary played with confidence throughout the session.
That budding confidence continued to help the secondary congeal as a group, and have a chance to be really good in 2019.
"I think this OTA period is very important for us to build a foundation of what we want to be," Bates said. "You head into training camp not just for camp, but for the season. I think right now it is important that we continue to focus on the little things and build that foundation."
Bates credited defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and the defensive captains with the infusion of energy and attention to detail. The result has manifested into long periods where the secondary has dominated, whether it was 7-on-7 or 11-on-11.
For a veteran like cornerback B.W. Webb, bringing the right mentality is key to getting the defense back to an elite level.
“We're going to fly around, make plays and have fun doing it,” said Webb. “That’s our mentality. We are up for the challenge. We feel like we can be a top 10 defense this year and we're coming in ready to work.”
WEBB, SHARP STAND OUT: The Bengals have held eight OTA practices and several players have already put forth solid performances.
Two players who have caught the coaches' eye are Webb and wide receiver Hunter Sharp. Both continue to show great communication and ownership learning the offense and defense.
One of the things Taylor appreciates about Sharp is how he pays attention to details. He was impressed how Sharp gets guys lined up and if somebody doesn't know the play, he stops it and teaches what needs to be done.
Taylor stated there could still be considerable movement on the depth chart and for roster spots. To move up the depth chart, executing the basics at a high level certainly gives players a leg up on others.
“Attention to detail, having confidence, lining up the right way, getting off on the snap count, knowing the coverage, knowing the coverage checks on defense,” Taylor said. “Guys who play with a lot of confidence and show ownership in the system are guys who grab our attention for sure."
Check out some of the best images from the Bengals' Organized Team Activities on day eight.
ERICKSON TAKES ADVANTAGE: The development of the offense continues to be a process that can vary within a single practice. While Taylor is pleased overall with the progress, he understands a lot of guys are still learning and believes their best days are ahead of them.
“I think we talk about that stuff every day,” said Taylor. “Right now we are getting good reps. Regardless of the unit guys are working with everyone is getting about the same amount of reps right now. We talk about moving guys around, but we evaluate it every single day. If a guy is making a big jump and a guy is moving down, we won't hesitate to move them.”
One player who is starting to make a big jump on offense is wide receiver Alex Erickson. With both A.J. Green and John Ross out, Erickson took advantage of the opportunity making a couple of contested catches for touchdowns during the 7-on-7 drills.
Erickson is looking for a more expanded role on offense. The fourth-year pro from Wisconsin is best known for his return prowess. Erickson ranked second in the league in kick return yardage (1,049) last season and was Pro Bowl third alternate as a returner.
OFFICIALS ON THE FIELD: A wrinkle by the coaching staff with the third week of OTAs are the use of NFL officials during various parts of practice. From the players to the coaches, their presence allowed the team to work on aspects in more game-like situations.
While most of the referees’ calls were easy, some of them helped bring out a competitive spirit to jolt a routine day of work.
“I get into it,” Taylor joked. “It feels as real as can it gets this time of the year. I have to back off the officials sometimes. They are out here doing a job like we all are. It was a good day, it was fun day.”
WORKING BACK: Several Bengals continued to work back from injury during OTAs. Among those on the rehab field were tight ends Tyler Eifert (ankle) and Mason Schreck (ACL), defensive linemen Carl Lawson (ACL) and Ryan Glasgow (ACL), wide receivers Green (toe) and Ross (unknown), tackle Kent Perkins (unknown), guards Clint Boling (unknown), Christian Westerman (unknown), Alex Redmond (shoulder), Rod Taylor (ACL), safety Trayvon Henderson (ACL), safety Shawn Williams (unknown) and running back Rodney Anderson (ACL). Linebacker Germaine Pratt was back in action after missing some OTA work last week with a hamstring strain.