Bengals newcomers get first NFL reps at rookie minicamp

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

CINCNNATI -- NFL rookies last year didn’t get a chance to settle in at all with their new teams until training camp because offseason workout programs were canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cincinnati Bengals are now relishing a chance to get their draft picks and college free agents some NFL reps before resuming a somewhat normal offseason program May 25.

Cincinnati held its rookie minicamp Friday at Paul Brown Stadium, and those participants – along with some players trying out – will continue into “Phase 2” next week before veterans are introduced for Organized Team Activities at the end of the month.

“Today was a pretty good day overall,” first-round draft pick and former LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase said. “It was good learning stuff today for me and the rest of the offense. I feel like we got a lot accomplished but there’s still more work to get done. Of course, you know, this is the first time learning something new, so of course, it’ll be a little difficult.”

Chase was working with tryout quarterback Eric Dungey – a former Syracuse player who spent time in 2019 with the Browns and Giants but never on the active roster.

The duo’s connection improved during the course of practice, but for Chase, it was about getting acclimated to the NFL field and learning the playbook and a new terminology for routes.

Dungey is one of five minicamp tryout participants, including tight end Cheyenne O’Grady and wide receivers Jimmie Robinson, Trent Taylor and Trevion Thompson. Six college free agents also signed and were announced Friday – former Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman, linebacker Darius Hodge (Marshall), wide receiver Riley Lees (Northwestern), cornerback Antonio Phillips (Ball State), tight end Pro Wells (Texas Christian) and halfback Pooka Williams (Kansas).

“It definitely showed that you know this is our first time throwing but you know that’s the reason why we would run a route again, you know get the feel for it again, to feel for the quarterback and the wide receiver and I think that’ll play out once we get more practice in,” Chase said, also noting that he’s getting a feel for the tighter NFL hash marks that provide more space on the outside and in the slot for receivers to move around.

Soon enough he hopes to be catching some passes from Bengals starting quarterback Joe Burrow, his college quarterback in 2019. That’s when he will really be able to start settling in with his new team.

For now, Chase is enjoying a chance to compete again after he opted out of the 2020 college season.

“It was just a blessing to be out there you know with this (No.) 1 on,” Chase said of his jersey number. “I know I’m the first player ever to have 1 on at the Bengals so you know, I’m pretty excited to start up this legacy with 1 on and build something out there.”

Second-round draft pick and former Clemson left tackle Jackson Carman, a local product out of Fairfield High School, has perhaps an easier transition off the field, already being familiar to the city and the Bengals organization.

But on the field, he’s also preparing for a big adjustment from college as he is moving to guard for the first time in his career.

“(It’s different with) everything being on both sides of you and having your stance the majority of the time compared to being in a two-point stance,” Carman said. “… We were working on me getting more comfortable in my guard stance and critiquing the nuances and different weight shifting and where my feet exactly should be. Different weight angles and things like that. Just fine-tuning some things.”

Carman said the main thing for him is just getting reps and repeating so it becomes muscle memory what he needs to do at guard compared to the left tackle position he played at Clemson and in high school.

He’s been working with former Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander and did some pre-draft training with former Bengals lineman Willie Anderson, as well as with Duke Manyweather in Texas. Being able to work on strength and conditioning and technique has been helpful in preparing as well.

As for his back, which he had surgery on to repair a herniated disc in January, Carman said he’s feeling “great” and glad to be back to playing football – especially in his hometown.

“It’s awesome, it’s a blessing, it’s an honor and it’s a great responsibility,” Carman said. “I’m looking forward and excited to fill that role, step into my role as a player and putting my head down and getting to work.”

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