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Quick Hits: Bengals NT Tupou Runs Back In Top Shape For Hands-On Return; Ogunjobi's Moving Debut At Three Technique

Josh Tupou has had a big camp.
Josh Tupou has had a big camp.

Let's see. The last time nose tackle Josh Tupou lined up on the Bengals defensive line in a game, he started on a five-man front and had a tackle for a loss in the win over Cleveland in the 2019 finale.

The only guy back from that starting line is left end Sam Hubbard, who lined up at right end against the Browns. The only lineman left who subbed on that day on four snaps is tackle Freedom Akinmoladum.

Welcome back and here's a seating chart for you. But Tupou, the fourth-year veteran who opted out last season, is unfazed. He says he's in the best shape of his career thanks to more running, he says new line coach Marion Hobby's philosophy has sped up his comeback and this is the NFL, so what else is new?

"It's a little different but that's the business of football," Tupou said before Tuesday's practice. "You're not always going to be with the same guys every year. There's always usually a lot of turnaround."

It will be recalled that Tupou's decision just before the 2020 training camp was the first of many earthquakes across the defensive front. In quick succession the Bengals lost Pro Bowler Geno Atkins to a preseason injury that basically had him playing one-armed before he had surgery late in the year and then nose tackle D.J. Reader suffered a season-ending quad tear in the fifth game. Not to mention Hubbard and tackle Mike Daniels each missing a patch of games.

But with Reader completing his rehab, their big free-agent pick at the three technique, Larry Ogunjobi, practicing for the first time as a Bengal in training camp Tuesday with his hamstring issue solved and Tupou impressing the coaches like he did in 2019, all is right on the defensive line.

"It was pretty hard, just being with the whole pandemic stuff, but I just had to make the best decision for me and my family, and I went with opting out," said Tupou, who made the tough call after his break-through year on 44-percent of the snaps in his first 16-game season.

Although his mates are new and his position coach is new, head coach Zac Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo know exactly what he did as a massive run stuffer two years ago. And Tupou likes what Hobby is teaching up front.

"He's brought in a new philosophy, playing with hands first, making sure we strike blocks and knock the line of scrimmage back. Those little things have been helping a lot up front," Tupou said. "Coach Hobby's helped a lot with his teaching and new techniques he's brought in for us to learn how to play the run. That's helped me learning it a little faster and get back up to speed."

Tupou says he's a little lighter than the 350 pounds of 2019 and says that's helped him get off to a fast start.

"I think it is," said Tupou, when asked if he's in the best shape of his career. "I worked hard to make sure my conditioning was going well this offseason getting prepared for this year.

"I just did a lot of change in my normal workout routines. Just implementing more running and a little less on the lifting and working on running."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Ogunjobi, the former Cleveland Brown, met the press before his first practice Tuesday. Keep an eye on him. He'll be moving. He refreshed everyone why he signed here for a year. He can slide into the tackle next to Reader and play his natural spot of pass rusher.

"There are similarities in every defense. I think the difference is just me playing 3 technique instead of nose, so it gives me the ability to use my athleticism and move around," Ogunjobi said. "I just think it's a good opportunity. I'm excited for it. I like the scheme, I like how the defense operates. I like the ability to be able to get to rush."

Ogunjobi isn't going to handicap the AFC North.

"I just feel like it's always up for grabs," Ogunjobi said. "Especially in the AFC North."

Fourth-rounder Tyler Shelvin, a very large D-Tackle, has been trying to acclimate his large frame to the NFL.

"For physical people, so things will come harder than in college," Shelvin said before Tuesday's practice. "You asked me about older guys and younger guys coming at you, you talk about having stability. Playing with your hands a lot and just getting down and dirty."

Like Tupou, he opted out last season at LSU, so he's EXTRA riled up for his NFL debut Saturday (7:30 .m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Tampa.

'I'm ready to get down and dirty," Tupou said. "Showcase my talents out there again. Start over fresh. Just get the process rolling."