Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, who also calls the plays, called Friday's practice a draw after the first offense couldn't get a touchdown in the red zone.
"As the head coach, it's really encouraging. As the play caller on offense, I want more success on offense," said Taylor before Saturday's Back Together practice at Paul Brown Stadium. "But really good competitiveness. These guys are ready to ramp it up next week and put on pads and change the pace a little bit."
Taylor said he sees no problems with quarterback Joe Burrow's knee and chalked up the bulk of the misfires to tight coverage from a new and improved secondary. He does plan to back off Burrow just a bit as he recovers from his knee reconstruction.
For instance, he'll work Saturday before Sunday's day off after he sat out Saturday's walkthrough. And on Friday, Brandon Allen gave him a few snaps off with the first unit.
"He looks really good. It's on us to protect him through that process. There's times that we scale him back, just like Trey Hopkins, just like D.J. Reader, all these guys, that's the plan in place. But Joe looks good and seems to feel really good," Taylor said.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Taylor couldn't say enough about Friday's pass coverage.
"I think the defense won practice yesterday. There were some good plays by the offense, some guys made some good plays, but I thought overall the defense was a little more on top of the details than the offense. We have a lot of training camp to go, but yesterday that's how I felt," Taylor said. "There was probably more incompletions than we want, but you also see the DBs and those linebackers really competing. Trae Waynes and Tee (Higgins) had that one in the corner of the end zone and it was great throw, great shot at a catch and Trae just got his hands between the ball and the receiver's hands and knocked it out. There's been some really good competition early on between the DBs and the receivers."
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is stressing how early it is, but he likes that first glimpse of his free agent and his young linebackers.
"The energy, the enthusiasm guys are bringing, the communication, you can tell the guys that we signed played a lot of football in this league and those guys are bringing not only great impact on the field, but in the locker room as well.
"(The backers) really made a concerted effort. Coach (Al) Golden does a great job with those guys, playing downhill, playing physical. We're not even in pads yet. You can tell their sense of urgency over what they're doing. These three preseason games for guys are going to be huge. We want to see those guys really fighting for their playing time."
Anarumo summed up pretty well the difference between last summer and this camp.
"The good news is that we had the spring. And if we didn't have the spring, I can't tell you how valuable it is. And having not gone through spring last year, you always wonder as a coach, like, we took it for granted," Anarumo said. "I've got to be honest with you because it did not show itself. Today was one of our big install days. So there's a lot of volume of what we did today, and the guys didn't skip a beat. They had great recall from back in the spring."