There’s no doubt this is Joe Burrow’s team and this is Ja’Marr Chase’s home yard and this is Joe Mixon’s yard and the head coach is calling the offense.
But the first extended live scrimmage of Thursday’s training camp at Kettering Health Practice Fields served as a reminder that the Bengals reached the Super Bowl, allowing just six touchdowns and not even 60 points in the three games en route to the title. AFC.
The defense prevailed by a rout Thursday in this stuff where the offense gets the traditional seven points for a touchdown and three for a field goal while the defense gets seven points for a zero and four points if it holds for a field goal.
“Like I told them,” defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “Sometimes the bear catches you, sometimes you catch the bear. We have the bear today.”
They got the Grizzly with a dominating performance by, what else again, their defensive line. And it just wasn’t their starters as rookie tackle Zach Carter and rookie edge Jeffrey Gunter excelled in the one-on-one pass rush and scrimmage where the first offense could barely be done. pass against unrelenting pressure. As franchise quarterback Joe Burrow watched, first-team quarterback Brandon Allen had to try to explain why the defense always seems to be ahead of the offense in camp.
Afterwards, of course, the offense had to run gassers as they were beaten into the red zone. Burrow joined them, but only by driving his cart back and forth.
“We try to do our best on every outing,” Allen said. “We will try to watch a movie, learn from the mistakes we made today and come back tomorrow with a much better intensity.”
What’s on display defensively is a program in its fourth year under Anarumo and on Thursday had a unit where nine of its starters are in at least their second year in the system. Add to that the fact that Allen noticed new looks in the Anarumo covers and it makes for a tough number.
“There are a few wrinkles in some of their defensive calls,” Allen said. “I think they’ve always had a wide range of different checks and things. But I think they’ve been in the system for a few more years, let them disguise all of that.”
The defense survived two rookies in the first-round secondary Dax Hill at free safety and undrafted cornerback Allan George playing for injured Eli Apple and injured replacement Tre Flowers against Chidobe Awuzie. If the Bengals were trying to send second-round Cam Taylor-Britt, consider it sent because CTB only came in with the second group.
The defense also played well one day, center linebacker Logan Wilson (shoulder) played his first team snaps seven-on-seven as he still shoots for a late August return to team drills. Until then, third-year linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither continues to play the best ball of his career in Wilson’s absence.
“It’s fixed,” Wilson said of her torn labrum. “We just want to wait the full six months before moving on to full contact type stuff. I think that’s smart. I feel like it’s a little more controlled in 7v7. There’s a lot more space, and I can just be smart with that.”
Flowers expects to be back on Friday and Apple not much longer if it’s not Friday.
“That’s how practice went,” Anarumo said of George and Taylor-Britt. “Don’t read this. Nothing in there. They’re still in competition.”
The flexibility of the defense can be seen in the personnel as well as the scheme. For example, Dax Hill shows he can cover some male situations. And then there’s nose tackle DJ Reader having another huge day with his bull rush as defensive line coach Marion Hobby offered a post-practice warning when it comes to calling Reader the best nose tackle in the NFL.
“Now that’s a problem,” Hobby said. “I think he’s one of the best defensive tackles. You can’t put him in a category. He can play all three techniques. He can play a run, he can play a pass. If we gave him more than pass, (you would see that).”
Not a bad first look for a defense that doesn’t get as many second looks as it should.
“Our theme this year is brick by brick,” Anarumo said. “Today was a footer, I guess you’d call it. It wasn’t just a single brick.”