Coordinator Lou Anarumo’s defense, and the front four in particular, thoroughly dominated the offense with Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader, B.J. Hill and Jeff Gunter sparking a performance that may have actually produced more sacks and false starts than completions allowed.
“Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. We got the bear today,” Anarumo said. “Trey’s a premier rusher in our league, and that’s evident now. And Sam is one of the more underrated guys in the league at that position. Certainly not in the run game, he’s not underrated. But I think some people maybe sleep on his pass rush a little bit. He’s better than what people give him credit for. Between those two edge guys, the guys inside, D.J. and B.J., we’re happy.”
On one series of 11-on-11 later in practice, the offense had a false start on first-and-10, then Hendrickson, Reader and Hubbard all met in quarterback Brandon’s Allen lap on first-and-15. On second-and-25, Hendrickson got into the backfield so fast that Allen didn’t even have time to get to his second read.
“It’s hard when you’re going backward,” Allen said. “We need to get some things cleaned up. We needed to lock in much better mentally. They’re good players, obviously. We’re going against Trey and Sam off the edges. Those are hard for anybody to block. We’re getting really good good-on-good work. It’s only going to make us better. But it’s frustrating when you get a period like that.”
Hendrickson let loose with a foot-stomping roar following his sack on the second-and-25 play, then looked at the crowd and yelled, “Come on!”
Quick example of today’s pass rush that played on loop pic.twitter.com/9DRSrSjM5b
— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonATH) August 4, 2022
“I don’t know if he’s playing up to the crowd,” Anarumo said. “It’s training camp. He’s getting ready to play. And generally during the season it’s against the scout team and it’s a little more scaled down. We’re working good-on-good, and he’s gonna work like it’s the game. That’s his job. As I said, he’s an elite edge rusher in our league, and we’re happy he’s ours.”
With an officiating crew in attendance — headed by Super Bowl referee Ron Torbert — the offensive committed 11 penalties, ranging from false starts to holding to illegal formation to a delay of game.
But the sloppy display was due more to the havoc the defense was wreaking, particularly during some of the live-action periods with actual tackling, than the mere presence of officials and their flags.
Gunter, the rookie seventh-round pick from Coastal Carolina, had one sack and would have had another had he not gotten tackled to draw a holding call.
“I ain’t hit nobody since my bowl game, so I was excited,” Gunter said. “Today was a good day. I learned a lot of stuff, and I think I made some plays. And watching Trey and Sam? Man, those are some of the best football players in the world. Just having both of them here at the same time, learning from each, I’m a kid in a candy shop. I’m just soaking it up.”
“It was a little high, just tried to get my hand on it,” Bailey said. “There’s a saying in football: tips and overthrows, gotta get those. Uncle Mike back there, Mike Thomas, was able to grab it for us, so a good collective effort.”
Cornerback Mike Hilton thought he had an interception but an official on the spot ruled the ball touched the ground. Hilton also came on a blitz to get to Joe Mixon for a tackle for loss and recorded an interception of a pass intended for Tyler Boyd in one-on-ones.
Head coach Zac Taylor told the team whichever group lost the final red-zone period would have to run gassers afterward. When the offense, which lost every single period, lined up to do them, Burrow was right there with them, covering ground in his cart.
Joe Burrow going through conditioning drills with the team (on his golf cart) 😂😂😂
— Caleb Noe (@CalebNoeTV) August 4, 2022
So was Anarumo.
“I just tried to do four,” he said. “They’re not fun. They hate ’em. I remember when I was playing, I didn’t like them either, especially after practice.”
Asked if Thursday marked the most dominant practice his defense has had in his four years here, Anarumo said it was up there.
“We had some pretty good ones last year, too, but today was good,” he said. “Our whole theme this year is brick by brick. Today was a footer, I guess you’d call it. It wasn’t just a single brick.”
Cappa goes live
One of the few positives for the offense was seeing right guard Alex Cappa in for the live period.
Cappa signed a four-year, $35 million free agent deal in March but missed most of OTAs with a core muscle injury that required surgery. The Bengals have been easing him back in, having him split first-team reps in the team periods.
The reps have been increasing each day, and on the hardest-hitting practice thus far, it was a good sign to see him in for the most physical period.
“We are just getting back to it,” he said.
With right tackle La’el Collins still out, there is a feeling-out process with D’Ante Smith and Isaiah Prince rotating reps along with Cappa.
“It’s not easy,” Cappa said. “It’s just about working together. We can work together better, for sure. But that’s what it’s all about.”
Anderson addresses the team
Former right tackle Willie Anderson, who will be inducted into the Bengals Ring of Honor on Sept. 29, was at practice Thursday after addressing the team earlier in the day. He said he flew in to shoot an in-house video for the Ring of Honor ceremony and to handle some other business in town.
As for being a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall after advancing to the finalist round last year, Anderson said he’s trying to keep it out of his mind, unlike last year.
“I was coaching with Marvin (Lewis) at the NFLPA and eating dinner at the hotel when they called me,” he said. “They had told us they would call us either way, so I knew the call was coming, but I didn’t know when. It came and I heard the guy’s voice on the phone. It was real somber, and I was like, ‘Aw, shit.’ He told me who he was and unfortunately, I didn’t make it this year.
“I’m definitely not going to go through that anxiety this year,” he added. “It’s out of my control. It’s all about those guys in the room and if they choose to believe the information they’re getting. I think if they look at it unbiased, if they look at my stuff and the guys who have been put in before me, I think it matches up. You just never know. I’m more excited about the Ring of Honor here.”
Talking to Torbert
Given how much was made about the defensive holding penalty on Logan Wilson on third-and-goal late in Super Bowl LVI, it was interesting to see Anarumo and Torbert having an animated conversation featuring pantomimed football moves prior to the start of practice.
But Anarumo clarified after practice what the discussion was about.
“I’ll just say this, it was nothing about last year,” he said. “It was just really asking more about what is the emphasis of the year. Because there’s always an emphasis from the NFL on what penalties they’re looking at specifically. So I just wanted to hear from him and how he saw it so I could relay it to the players.”
Tight end Drew Sample left practice on a cart after appearing to suffer a knee injury, the extent of which is unknown.
Cornerback Eli Apple, who left Tuesday’s practice with a leg injury, participated in individual drills but not any team sessions, while defensive back Tre Flowers also returned to the field in limited fashion after missing the last few practices.
Collins (back) did rehab work on the side, along with the three players on the Physically Unable to Perform list — defensive end Khalid Kareem (undisclosed), linebacker Joe Bachie (knee) and safety Brandon Wilson (knee).
• Hubbard and Hendrickson had their way in one-on-ones, which included a little post-rep altercation with D’Ante Smith. Nothing materialized, but plenty of dog-days-of-camp chatter during the most physical session yet.
• At one point as third-round pick Zach Carter was enjoying a string of impressive reps in one-on-ones, defensive line coach Marion Hobby sent him back for one more and fired out, “beat his ass again!”
• Joseph Ossai continues to show his explosiveness off the edge and looks ready to live up the expectations built in his preseason debut last year.
• In the receiver/DB one-on-ones, rookie Cam Taylor-Britt had a second consecutive rough practice. The second-round pick allowed receptions to Trenton Irwin and Kendric Pryor and got beaten deep by Kwamie Lassiter only to have Allen overthrow the undrafted rookie receiver. With Apple sitting out, undrafted rookie Allan George got some first-team reps ahead of Taylor-Britt, but Anarumo tried to deflect any meaning behind that, saying, “Just how practice went today. Don’t read into that one. They’re both still competing.”
• Rookie first-round pick Dax Hill had great coverage against Irwin on a deep pass and knocked the ball loose at the last second. He also had a PBU against Chase, although he might have come over the receiver’s back as an official was discussing the play with him afterward.
• Lassiter had the most impressive catch in the session, hauling in a short cross from Allen despite Hood holding one of his arms on what would have been an obvious pass interference call.
• The Evan McPherson train keeps on rolling as the kicker went six-for-six on field goals of 45, 49, 50, 53, 53 and 54 yards. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons mixed up the battery on those attempts, with Clark Harris snapping to holder Drue Chrisman, and Cal Adomitis snapping to Kevin Huber.
(Photo of Sam Hubbard: Kareem Elgazzar / USA Today)