Bengals head coach Zac Taylor believes quarterback Joe Burrow is on schedule, so he gave him two straight off days when he sat him down for Wednesday's practice before the team's off day on Thursday.
"I've sat up here many times, it's my job as head coach to protect these guys coming off of injury," Taylor said before Wednesday's practice. "So we'll rest Joe today, because we've got that three-day burst next week (after an off day on Thursday). As we sit down and talk, 'What do we want from each one of our players?' We want certain guys ready Week 1, we want certain guys ready for preseason Game 1, so we get a chance to work those other quarterbacks today and give him a day off so he can have a great three days next week."
Taylor said he adjusted the schedule staring at three straight practices Friday through Sunday and with Wednesday's emphasis on the first short-yardage and goal line team drills of training camp.
Taylor is far from panicking over the struggles of Burrow and his offense in the first week of training camp that closes Wednesday. He's chalking it up to all the quarterbacks getting used to the pass rush, the restricted practice scripts, the tight focus of installation and the dominant play of the defense.
"I think it's the whole unit right now. We're just getting a feel for each other," Taylor said when asked if Burrow is bothered by the pass rush. "You'd like to be throwing touchdowns on every play right now but we got some progress to be made. But there's no cause for panic for any reason for that. We still have 39 days before our first game, so we have a lot of practices left to be had. I'm excited because we know that we can continue to get better and be more detailed and that's going to come."
Taylor predicted the offense is going to get rolling next week when it is allowed to go off script and keep the ball for more than the five-play segments they're doing now. Burrow was 19-for-40 the past two days, but Taylor says there are reasons for that.
"The install is coming to a completion here. You're putting in X amount of plays on offense and defense these first 10 days," Taylor said, "and then after that, you set the reset button, let's go play some football, get ready for this first game, so now as we get to about a week out from that first game, you're going to see way more moving the ball up and down the field to get guys in the flow, have to sustain eight-play, 10-play drives. Right now it's all four- to five-play stuff, so that part is exciting, and that's when you'll be able to have a measuring stick on where this team is at is next week when we start doing more of that before that first game."
As for Burrow, Taylor says he's happy with the way he looks against the rush and in the pocket eight months off surgery.
"For all of our quarterbacks, it's just getting used to that pocket movement," said Taylor when asked how he thinks Burrow looks with people around him. "We've been doing (routes on air) all spring, and it's the first day in pads, where guys are really coming off the ball and tightening up the pocket. I only expect that to improve going forward … Joe's as expected. He's got great retention of what we're looking for on plays even if we're installing it for the first time since the spring or last fall. It's just those guys getting to work with each other and putting the pads on is a little bit different for all of our guys."
Slot receiver Tyler Boyd also thinks Burrow looks fine, but he isn't surprised he's getting a rest.
"I think he looks good. Just watching him move around in the pocket, his pocket presence seems great," Boyd said before Wednesday's practice. "I think he's kind of a little iffy on his knee, but it's kind of hard to tell. I feel like he's ready to go, but I also think he doesn't want to do too much. We are not going out there trying to destroy a defense. We aren't going out there worried about killing them and trying to score every single play. It's a whole unit thing so we have to make sure all 11 guys are tied into that play knowing their exact job. Just figuring out the progression. I think he's on the right track."
Taylor thinks a major reason the first few practices have been like this is because the revamped defense is the best his Bengals defenses have ever looked.
"Let's give credit to the defense right now. They're playing better than they have in the last three training camps I've been to," Taylor said. "That's just the confidence that they're playing with, the chemistry that they've developed over short time, the understanding of the principles that we're employing. So you've got give credit to those guys. Those guys are making it hard on any offense right now."
They have simply suffocated the Bengals pass offense and Taylor has noticed.
"Where I've really seen a giant step is in the pass game. So all the things you see from the offensive pass game, to me, I'm seeing how tight these corners are in coverage," Taylor said. "Vonn Bell making plays, Jessie (Bates), it's expected, Mike Hilton, it's hard to get away from him. And then these linebackers have really taken the next step because now they all have at least two years in the system of how to play the coverages. That has been really, really cool for me to see."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Taylor says not to make too much of rookie right guard Jackson Carman and third-year left guard Michael Jordan working with the ones right now because it's going to evolve in the preseason. But he loves what new offensive line coach Frank Pollack has percolating with the youth.
"(Carman) flashes all reasons why he's here. Like any young player it's the consistency, the consistency of the technique," Taylor said. "To the naked eye things may look great on a certain play and Frank just wants that detail to be exact, which is what's really going to make us great in the running game. That's the standard Frank sets and it's awesome to watch. It's really going to benefit those young guys, Jackson, D'Ante (Smith), Trey Hill. They're good players and they're going to improve very quickly as well."
Taylor doesn't see any long-term issues with defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and cornerback Trae Waynes after they've sat out the last couple of practices. Right tackle Riley Reiff (ankle) could be back as soon as Wednesday after he participated in the walk through …