The Cincinnati Bengals' rookie mini-camp is in the rear view mirror and head coach Marvin Lewis saw a lot during this weekend's five practices that encourages him about this year's crop of rookies. In particular, Lewis was generous with praise about his young wide receivers.
Now Marvin Lewis isn't one to be overly effusive with praise. During his tenure as Bengals head coach, he's been know to frustrate more than one reporter with his "non-answer" answers. So when Lewis started lathering rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones with praise, it was time to take notice.
Lewis said that Sanu, the team's third round pick out of Rutgers, was "everything we expected him to be." He said that he expects Sanu to come in as a rookie and contribute immediately and "push to be a starter." Lewis was similarly impressed with fifth round pick Marvin Jones out of Cal. Particularly noteworthy was Jones ability to "track the ball" both as a receiver and return man. Jones made a couple of nice catches where he simply outpositioned his defender and made a play on the ball, similar to how AJ Green did several times last year. If Jones shows his worth as a return man, that could make Brandon Tate's position with the team vulnerable.
First round pick, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick rebounded on Saturday and Sunday after a rough first day. Lewis really likes his work ethic and emphasized that Kirkpatrick would improve with more practice repetitions.
"There’s no more value than that experience and video that he is going to be able to sit down and watch it with Mike (Zimmer), Mark (Carrier) and Hue (Jackson) and really take a look at himself and see the progress he’s made and see the little things we’re trying to get him to change in his play and stature and stance. He will be able to take it on to the OTAs and build from that.”
Rookie tight end Orson Charles was also impressive, showing off his outstanding skills as a receiver.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict continued to progress. Lewis made comment on his ability to pick up special teams responsibilities, somewhere where Burfict may have to play impressively to earn a spot on the roster.
"I thought in the (three days) of special teams work we've had out here he's done a nice job of picking up the assignments. He's in great football position. Those are things. If you watch the tape of him you see him do it two or three times a game. Now you're seeing him do it three plays in a row. That's the key. He'll be fine."
While OTAs are the next organized team workout on the schedule, beginning May 22, everyone else will be back at work today doing off season conditioning. The only rookie who will be missing is guard Kevin Zeitler. He's ineligible to participate beyond this weekend because Wisconsin hasn't held their commencement ceremonies yet.
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