We’re a ways away from training camp in July, but the Cincinnati Bengals are back practicing together as a team.
Tuesday was the second full-team practice session of their offseason program. Like the rest of them, it was not mandatory, but nearly every player was present on the practice fields. The exceptions were Jessie Bates III and Trey Hendrickson. Bates is planning on holding out in order to secure the long-term deal he’s asking forwhile Hendrickson is spending time with family and practicing on his own for now.
Pro Bowl DE Trey Hendrickson is expected to miss OTAs while training on his own and spending time with family, per source. He plans to report for mandatory work. https://t.co/RUqSENpwaD
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 17, 2022
Not only did we get glimpses of the newest Bengals getting work in on the field, we got to hear from a few players for the first time since Super Bowl 56. Let’s start with the quarterback.
Joe Burrow has watched the Super Bowl since it ended. He did so the very next day. He knows what went wrong, but also how his team made it that far in the first place. Every loss is a lesson, and according to Burrow, this was loss wasn’t any different than the others.
“We put this behind us,” Burrow said of the last game he played. “We lost. We had a great year. We’re going forward.”
You’ve probably thought about the Bengals’ last offensive play many times since February 13th. Burrow said he checked to Ja’Marr Chase’s route vs. Jalen Ramsey and anticipated throwing it.
Starting the offseason as AFC champions is a bit different than coming off a four-win season in which you only played 10-and-a-half games. Burrow recognizes that every team starts from scratch in the Spring and Summer, but there are things to carry over from the progress made last Fall.
“I mean, going into season everyone’s starting from scratch,” Burrow said. “But we’ve also worked really hard to build this culture that we’ve built the last couple of years that has enabled us to have the success that we did last year. So technically, yes. But as far as the grinding and the work that we put in to build the culture, we’re looking to carry that momentum from last year into this year.”
The difference between 2021 and 2022 for Burrow will be not rehabbing a reconstructive left knee. Burrow is not wearing a knee brace for practicing right now and “doesn’t anticipate” wearing one for games, but he’s not ruling it out as of yet.
Burrow: Fun practicing without a knee brace. Wear for a game? TBA
— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) May 17, 2022
New pieces together
Nothing was more important for the Bengals this offseason than improving the offensive line. Three new starters are locked in from center all the way to right tackle, and you can include left guard as well even though that spot isn’t solidified as of yet.
Second-year lineman Jackson Carman is taking reps as the starting left guard. He played 103 of his 501 snaps at that position during his rookie season.
Joe Burrow with his new-and-improved offense line
(Carman at left guard in photo, but that will obviously be determined in training camp) pic.twitter.com/uoh3QTyTNN
— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) May 17, 2022
It’s fascinating how the offensive line has been overhauled in different ways each of the last several years, including the two years that Burrow has been here. This new iteration expects to be the best group of blockers the Bengals have had in quite some time. That bodes well for Burrow and the offense to expand the playbook a little more, but time will tell regarding that.
“I’m going into [the season] Expecting that we can kind of open it up a little bit and know maybe throw some things in and that we that we weren’t able to do last year in the year the year before,” Burrow said. “But we have a really good core group of plays that we know really well and that we’re good at. So we’re not going to abandon that.”
Chase on target
Remember the Ja’Marr Chase headlines last offseason? Perhaps we won’t track the number of drops he has before playing in an actual game this time around.
Chase said he did let one ball hit the ground because he was just excited to get back out there. An apology to Burrow followed.
Uno’s rookie season mirrored the Bengals’ Super Bowl run in many ways. The amount of success that he had relative to outside expectations took many by surprise. Entering this year, no one’s going to be surprised anymore. They will be hunting instead, but that’s not something Chase and the team is worrying about.
He wouldn’t reveal what his goals for this season are, but we can assume they’ll be as lofty as the ones he set last year.
The number of players who want Jessie Bates III to be with the team right now matches the number who understand why he isn’t. Perhaps no teammate of his has been more supportive than Mike Hilton. Hilton has his bag, and he wants Bates to get his. That doesn’t mean there’s any confusion as to whether or not Bates wants to be out on the field. Hilton knows where Bates’ heart lies at the end of the day.
“Oh absolutely,” Hilton said on Bates wanting to play. “It’s just his love for the game, period. Not a lot of people have it. You can tell just by how much he puts into his body, getting in the playbook, you can just really tell how much he enjoys the game.”
It’s Bates’ passion and leadership that has the Bengals wanting to extend him for the long-term—that should never be in question. What’s happening with him right now is simply the result of two sides being so far apart that any leverage you possibly have is wasted in your back pocket.
The Bengals drafted two safeties, one in the first round, in April’s NFL Draft. Bates’ last resort is simply not showing up and not signing his franchise tender. Don’t confuse that with him being a completely different person than the one who showed out in the playoffs.
Getting to training camp as healthy as possible is always the primary goal. The Bengals have a few players still rehabbing injuries from last season, but all of them seem to be on track to participate in camp, including Joseph Ossai.
Joe Bachie (ACL), Brandon Wilson (ACL), Markus Bailey (TBD) and Joseph Ossai (knee) all working on the side with rehab director Nick Cosgray.
Bailey the only one that was not on IR at the end of last season.
— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) May 17, 2022
Tee Higgins wasn’t on the rehab field nor the practice field. He watched without a sling as he’s also on track to practice in camp.