As the players took the field for Saturday's first practice, ominous black clouds filled the skies over Georgetown College. Soon, the team was forced inside as bolts of lightning and torrential rains came from the skies. Is this a portent of the explosiveness of the Bengals new offensive talent, or an omen of darker days as the Bengals move forward from the Palmer/Ochocinco era?
The weekend saw the Bengals open up the 2011 season with the first two practices of training camp. What observers saw was plenty of reason for hope along with some obvious holes that still need to be filled.
With Jordan Palmer and Bruce Gradkowski unable to practice until August 4, Andy Dalton took the lion's share of snaps this weekend. His arm strength passed the test as he made all the throws required of him, including a couple of long hookups with fellow rookie AJ Green. He also showed some nice touch Saturday on medium range routes with Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham. Sunday saw Mike Zimmer applying some heat with his defense, however, and Dalton displaying inconsistency in his response. Meanwhile, Green awed all onlookers with his combination of speed and athleticism. Green was able to beat defenders deep while also displaying some acrobatic moves around the sideline. Most impressed was Gradkowski who told Sirius/XM radio "You got to see this guy practice."
Saturday's practice also claimed the first injury victim as rookie LB Rodrick Muckelroy went down for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. This injury further depleted an already thin linebacking corps. Mike Zimmer declared that new acquisition Thomas Howard will be installed at the WILL LB while Keith Rivers recuperates from his wrist injury. We should also see rookie Dontay Moch get plenty of reps. Cincinnati is still in the market for help at LB. Rumors that the team might reach out to Dahntay Jones or former Seattle middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu appear to be unlikely, however, as the team desperately wants to keep Rey Maualuga in his more natural position in the middle. Another possible target may be Manny Lawson of the 49'ers.
Cedric Benson signed a one-year deal with the club on Sunday, keeping his options open for another free agent option after this season. Getting Benson into camp comes in the nick of time as Bernard Scott was already sitting Sunday with tightness in his hamstrings.
The excitement over signing FA guard Deuce Lutui was short-lived as he failed his physical and returned to the Arizona Cardinals. That puts the Bengals back in the market for another interior offensive lineman in a market that doesn't have many options left. Former Bengal Evan Mathis signed with Philadelphia on Sunday, putting him out of the equation. The team is unlikely to give up the draft picks involved in pursuing a restricted free agent like New Orleans guard Carl Nicks, so it would appear that hopes for improvement and depth rest in rookie Clint Boling and the further development of converted defensive lineman Jason Shirley.
Monday could see the arrival of safety Donte Whitner, another Ohio State alum. The free agent who has played his career thus far in Buffalo was said to be close to an agreement with the Bengals per ESPN's John Clayton.
The team will practice Monday morning and Tuesday evening before taking a scheduled day off Wednesday. Stay linked to Bengals 101 and follow @Bengals_101 on Twitter for all the latest updates from Georgetown.
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