Saturday’s practice marked the first time fans were allowed back in attendance at Paul Brown Stadium in well over a year. The weather had an early September football-like feel to it. The players made plays while the fans got to look on and experience football in person again.
I was lucky enough to make it down myself for a day of Goetta Fest and football.
- Joe Burrow was moving around comfortably like himself
- Tee Higgins, as advertised, looks bigger, stronger and faster
- Ja’Marr Chase was really smooth and looks every bit of a superstar in the making
- Riley Reiff looks good. He and Sam Hubbard had a few competitive reps.
- Jonah Williams put on a noticeable 10 pounds and looks healthy
- Joe Mixon was explosive and running a lot of routes
- Pooka Williams can flat out fly and is fielding punts along with Trent Taylor and Tyler Boyd
- Vonn Bell looks like a leader and star of the defense
- Chidobe Awuzie and Trae Waynes are holding their own against Higgins and Chase
Early in the day, the clear emphasis for the offense was to work on screen passes to the tight ends and running backs. Joe Mixon’s highlight of the day was a pitch to the right side where he followed Riley Reiff for a 70 yard TD. Of course, nobody chased him after the first 15 yards. But when 11 vs 11 started, there were plenty of downfield throws and flashy catches. (You can find more highlights over on our Twitter page @CincyChronicle)
Despite all of that, it wasn’t all pretty for the offense. Burrow missed Chase on one deep ball where Chase beat Trae Waynes. On a few plays, Burrow scrambled around while no receiver had separation. Granted, it wasn’t always the trio of Chase, Boyd and Higgins on the field. Burrow also floated a ball over the middle on a scramble that landed in no mans land.
Practice ended with an Evan McPherson vs Austin Seibert kicking battle. McPherson finally missed his first kick of camp, a 60 yard attempt wide left. They both made kicks from 38, 41, 47 and 53. Seibert missed from 60 as well.
- The offense has work to do but the flashes of an elite offense are there. I’m confident that Joe Burrow will rally the troops and field a top 10 offense.
- The secondary is going to be the strength of the defense, and pass rush is likely to be the biggest weakness once again. Awuzie, Hilton, Waynes, Bell and Bates form a tough matchup for just about any offense.
- Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan need to find ways to incorporate Chris Evans and Pooka Williams into the offense. The undrafted Williams has an uphill battle to make the final roster, but he’d probably be the fastest guy on the team.
- Jackson Carman isn’t being handed the starting job at either guard position. He ran with the two’s for a majority of camp, and Frank Pollack is making him earn the starting job. In the event he’s moved into the starting 5 right before the season, it would be a major confidence boost for the rookie.