Camp observations: Defense rallies, o-line shuffles, kickers kick

The 2016 Cincinnati Bengals lost a number of close games because the offense was unable to make key plays late in games.

That theme resurfaced somewhat Saturday, which is one of our three observations from the second day of training camp.

Defensive redemption

The offensive had its way with the defense for much of Saturday’s practice, with quarterback Andy Dalton repeatedly connecting with Brandon LaFell and A.J. Green all over the field in addition to hitting Cody Core on a deep ball after the second-year receiver got behind Adam Jones.

Among the few highlights for the defense were a couple of pass breakups by Dre Kirkpatrick. Then came the final session of 11s, when on the third play Kirkpatrick stepped in front of LaFell for a pick-6 against Dalton.

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Three plays later, William Jackson nabbed his second pick-6 in as many days, jumping in front of Alex Erickson to grab a poor pass from AJ McCarron, who was rushed into the throw on a blitz by George Iloka.

Kirkpatrick, who missed a portion of OTAs with a fractured hand, said doctors told him not to put his hands on the ball early in camp.

“At the end of the day it was natural instinct,” he said. “We’ve got great receivers. They’re making good plays. They’re making us compete every day, and just going out there making plays that’s my job.”

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Swapping Smith

It was curious to see veteran offense lineman Andre Smith – who is making the switch from right tackle, where he’s played for his first eight seasons in the league, to right guard – back at right tackle with the second string while Trey Hopkins took first-string reps at right guard Saturday.

Smith struggled at times in Friday’s first practice, but offensive line coach Paul Alexander said the move wasn’t performance based.

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“Early here in camp we’re working with what we have,” he said. “We’re looking at this, we’re looking there, we’re looking at matchups. Because usually it’s 1s against 1s. So today Trey went with the first group.

“It doesn’t do any good if Trey’s always going against the second guy because you don’t feel like you know how good he is,” Alexander continued. “So OK, you go against Geno today. So that’s what we’re doing. We’ll move them around so that different guys get a different chance to go against guys.”

Alexander admitted it would serve Smith better to take every snap at right guard, but he said it benefits the team more to see what other guys can do there. When asked how Hopkins performed, Alexander said, ‘Well, I didn’t say “Damnit, Trey” one time, so that’s probably good.”

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Kicking competition

The first kicking competition took place Saturday, with the Bengals following the same schedule they used in OTAs, where only two of the three kickers attempted field goals.

Saturday it was incumbent Randy Bullock, who connected on field goals of 23, 30 and yards, and undrafted free agent Jonathan Brown, who hit from 23 and 34 but missed his 30 yarder.

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Rookie fifth-round pick Jake Elliott should get his first shot Sunday or Monday.

“We kind of rotated every day in the spring, with two guys each day,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “(Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) has them work. He has done this for a long time and has been involved with it for longer, so I’m very comfortable with his plan. We sat down and discussed his plan before training camp.”

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