Paul Brown Stadium officially opened for business this past weekend, with the Cincinnati Bengals inviting their new crop of rookies in for the annual minicamp.
Orientation is the phrase of the day, with practices easing players back into things with a focus on fitness over physicality.
We are still a long way off knowing which of these young players will earn themselves a starting gig, but after just a number of hours, some players are making their presence felt.
First-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick got off to a tough start on Friday, leaving some worried about whether he has the pace to take on top receivers in the NFL and close down in space. Kirkpatrick thrived bumping receivers at the line in college, and there are doubts he will be able to employ that strategy against bigger pro receivers.
Mike Zimmer has used this weekend to begin the transition, and there is hope that Kirkpatrick can get up to speed fairly quickly. According to Jeff Hobson at Bengals.com:
"I told him what to have fixed today and he was much better," Zimmer said on Saturday...He likes to press and the things he has to get better at are his off-coverage and those are correctable things," Zimmer said. "If a guy understands technique, it's easy to do if he's in the right position. That's what we're trying to get him to understand. Where he's supposed to be. His speed doesn't worry me...He was better today than yesterday and that shows you something."
Bengals fans continue to speculate as to who will line up opposite A.J. Green on opening day, and Marvin Lewis has given the indication that Mo Sanu could very well be the man for the job. Speaking to the media on Sunday, Lewis was quick to praise both Sanu and Marvin Jones:
"I thought Sanu was everything we expected him to be. I think he's going to be able to come in here and play right away as a rookie and he's going to push to start, play time," Lewis said. "To me, Marvin had a great five practices. His ability to be a returner as well will stand out. His height, and his ability to go catch and compete for the. He really tracks the ball well in the air. You see that speed paired with that size (6-2), that's big."
With Sanu going two rounds higher than Jones, he was always assumed to be the de facto starter, and it looks as though that will be the case, for now at least. Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer had called Marvin Jones the most impressive on Day 1; however, following a regression on Saturday it seems the coaching staff do not agree.
Other storylines to watch include boom-or-bust prospect Vontaze Burfict, with whom Marvin Lewis is "very pleased, very pleased."
Also worth note is wide receiver Armon Binns who, after some praise from Jay Gruden, gives the Bengals yet another headache at the No. 2 position.
"He's a better player when there's a defense out there...When he's out there just one-on-one or routes vs. air, he's probably the worst guy. He's probably not the fastest, he's probably not the biggest, the fastest. But when he gets out there in a team setting, he runs all the routes the right way and makes good strong catches. He's got a natural feel for the game."
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