Three Things to Look For on Day One of Cincinnati Bengals’ Training Camp

Three Things to Look For on Day One of Cincinnati Bengals’ Training Camp

CINCINNATI — Bengals training camp opens on Wednesday and even though Joe Burrow won’t be practicing, there’s plenty of storylines to follow. Here are three things we’ll be watching for before, during and after practice. 

The Safeties Without Jessie Bates

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dax Hill (23), left, talks with Cincinnati Bengals strong safety Vonn Bell (24), right, during organized team activities practice, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Cincinnati Bengals Football Practice June 14 0022

It’s no secret that Bates didn’t report to training camp because he’s unhappy about his contract. 

That opens the door for first round pick Dax Hill to get valuable reps at safety alongside Vonn Bell. Will the rookie play exclusively at safety? Hill is known for his versatility. The Bengals planned on moving him all over the field before Bates’ holdout. Will that plan remain intact or will he slide in and essentially replace Bates? 

It’s also worth noting that Bell could be in line for a contract extension. He’s a locker room leader, he’s only 27-years-old and he’s entering the final year of his deal. 

Bates is going to report to the team eventually, but the Bengals could do much worse than having a safety tandem of Bell and Hill in 2023 and beyond. 

Special Teams Battles

May 14, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals punter Drue Chrisman (4) punts during NFL minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Drue Chrisman is hoping to dethrone Kevin Huber at punter. His quest starts on Wednesday. 

The same thing goes for undrafted rookie Cal Adomitis. He’s trying to replace Clark Harris at long snapper. 

Those two position battles are key, especially with Evan McPherson emerging as one of the best kickers in the NFL. Will Adomitis and Chrisman be able to build a strong rapport with McPherson? If they can, then there’s at least a chance Darrin Simmons’ crew gets much younger this season. 

There’s also a battle at the punt and kickoff return spots. Trent Taylor, Kwamie Lassiter and Pooka Williams are expected to push for the starting punt returner job. 

Brandon Wilson (knee) is currently on the PUP list, but he could be the favorite at kickoff returner if he can return to form after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Chris Evans is also in the mix on kickoffs. 

No. 2 Running Back

Chris Evans

Speaking of Evans, will he be able to beat out Samaje Perine for the backup running back job? 

He has good size, he’s athletic, he has great hands and runs routes like a wide receiver. The key for Evans is pass blocking. If he can earn the trust of the coaching staff and Burrow, then he has a real shot at being Joe Mixon’s backup this season. 

Perine missed OTAs and is currently on the PUP list, but the veteran has the trust of his teammates and coaches. 

Evans flashed at times last season and even caught a key pass on third down in Super Bowl LVI, but he has plenty of untapped potential. If he takes a step forward, then it would give opposing defenses another weapon to worry about when preparing for the Bengals. 

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