Training Camp Report: Defense Shines In Fundamentally Sound Practice

Jalen Davis 072723
CB Jalen Davis runs during day 2 of Training Camp 2023 at Kettering Health Practice Fields on Thursday, July 27 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The eighth practice of training camp proved to follow the back-and-forth trend between the Bengals' offense and defense.

The defense edged out the offense on this 90-degree day — a practice that was shorter than yesterday's by design.

"(Yesterday) was meant to be our longest day we've had so far," head coach Zac Taylor said before Friday's practice. "Today will be a good practice, but it won't be quite as long in terms of the team reps."

The shorter practice featured two team periods with a seven-on-seven sandwiched in the middle. During the first team period, receiver Trenton Irwin built off his memorable performance on Thursday by grabbing three catches. According to Taylor, Irwin's consistency in camp is far from a surprise.

"He's prepared his whole life for these opportunities," Taylor said. "So when he gets in there the person that is surprised the least is Trenton Irwin and probably the second least surprised is Joe Burrow."

While Burrow continues to rehab a strained calf sustained last week in practice, the quarterbacks sharing the high-volume reps have been Jake Browning and Trevor Siemian. Browning had a number of tight-window passes, including one to rookie Shedrick Jackson that Jackson had to rip and claw to control.

"Jake just put the ball on the money," Jackson said. "He put it up high for me. It was a great contested catch. I had a DB all over me and I just had to go up and make those type of catches."

The defense contested just about everything on Friday, forcing Browning and Siemian to scramble multiple times throughout the afternoon. Rookie edge rusher Myles Murphy, the team's first-round draft pick out of Clemson, laid out the mission: overwhelm the QBs.

"The guys that we have on our D-line all work together very well, just moving extremely fast, trying to make the quarterback feel like he's in an avalanche," Murphy said. "Just a whole bunch of pieces coming from every guy… effort gets you plays." 

Defensive Coordinator Lou Anarumo co-signed Murphy's statement by assessing Friday's practice as "very competitive." 

"Good pass rush coverage," Anarumo said. "It was a good day overall."

Despite all the positives from the defense, Coach Lou knows that there is still more to cover. 

"We're still early, still got a long way to go. But I like the direction we're heading in. And the good news is we've got plenty of time before we play the first game. There's a ton of stuff to clean up, but so far so good."

And that has been the mentality during these training camp practices — players and coaches assessing the good and focusing on what needs to be improved upon. 

Wide receiver Trent Taylor echoed this sentiment post practice. During the second team period, Siemian threw a catchable ball to Taylor. Although he had to jump and reach for it the ball fell right through his fingertips. He was frustrated as he hit the turf, but he managed to lock in on the next play when his number was called again. 

"You have one bad play, but it all depends on what you do after that, how you respond," Taylor said. "You can either learn from it or you can let it beat you down. I just try to learn from it and move on."

Other offensive highlights belonged to Kwamie Lassiter II, who came down with several impressive catches. In the first team period, he had back-to-back grabs off Browning throws — one of which he had to leap to from a knelt position. During the second team period he capped off his day with a one-handed grab from Browning again.

PLAYER OF THE DAY: CB Jalen Davis

"Sack!"

That's what Davis loves to scream in the quarterback's ear being that they are generally off limits from being tackled during training camp. He yelled that during, what appeared to be, Anarumo's unleashing of the slot corner.

Jalen Davis, who re-signed with the Bengals in the spring, has worked hard from being "overlooked to on the verge," said Senior Writer Geoff Hobson back in 2021.

"I'm just out here trying to get better every day," Davis said. "I just want to show my team they can trust me."

And Davis put on a showcase in Friday's practice. During the first team period he made a play that almost turned into a pick. He then followed with the previously-mentioned sack in the next team period, adding to the consistency that surrounds the Bengals' secondary.

"I'm just over here pushing Mike [Hilton] and just trying to get better," Davis said.

Davis saw action in three games as a rookie for Miami in 2018, then appeared in two contests the following year with Arizona. Since arriving in Cincinnati midway through the 2020 campaign, he has played in 36 games and proven himself to be a reliable special teams contributor in addition to his role as a reserve slot corner.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: CB Coach Charles Burks on CB Jalen Davis:

"Jalen, he's extremely consistent. He's a very important piece of our secondary and has been. Mike Hilton is Mike Hilton. He does a great job blitzing and does a great job communicating, playing fast, very instinctive. But I think Jalen Davis, for sure, could start at nickel on any other team in the league. He could be a starter here."

PLAY OF THE DAY: Wide Receiver Shedrick Jackson

Despite the defense highlighting most of Friday's action, rookie wide receiver Shedrick Jackson managed to claw his way to making the play of the day. As mentioned previously, he fought through a contested ball thrown by Browning — which easily could have been broken up — to wrestle down the reception. Jackson attributes his performance to the company around him:

"I've got a great coach that helped me out with that great offensive scheme, and obviously great players," Jackson said. "I think it's definitely helped me and I'm having a pretty solid camp."

FINAL NOTES: Friday's practice focused on the fundamentals. After high intensity on Thursday, Friday was a great way to cap off the week as the Bengals continue preparation for the preseason opener on Aug. 11 against Green Bay.

Defensive line coach Marion Hobby's post-practice summary on his unit: "We put in some good work. We've got a lot of veterans out there, so they have been in the system. We've got a high expectation for them to do things right. Young guys are coming on and they're still swimming a little bit. But the effort has been good. The second (team) has been good. They're picking it up as we go."

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