It’s just practice — and one in shorts sans pads at that — but a Cincinnati Bengals defense that has struggled forcing turnovers the last two years will take them when they can get them.
And Wednesday they got a lot of them with three interceptions, which had to please new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
“It’s plus and minus for me,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis joked.
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All three interceptions came in the final 20 minutes of the practice.The first was a leaping snag by George Iloka on an overthrow by Andy Dalton intended for Brandon LaFell.
“I thought the play Iloka made was a nice football play,” Lewis said. “That was good to see, for (Austin), for George. A good confidence play for him. It’s probably the best catch I’ve seen him make here on an NFL field. That was an impressive play for him today.”
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Backup quarterback Matt Barkley threw the other two picks, the first of which came when he threw to the sideline off his back foot and cornerback Sojourn Shelton jumped in front of Ka’Raun White.
Barkley’s second pick came during a red-zone drill when his pass intended for rookie receiver Auden Tate went right to cornerback Darqueze Dennard for what would have been a pick 6. Defensive end Carl Lawson had what would have been a sack of Barkley on the next play.
Other notable plays came from rookie defensive end Sam Hubbard, who jumped and batted down a Barkley screen pass. Hubbard also ran stride for stride with running back Joe Mixon on a wheel route, although he probably should have been called for pass interference when he ran over him as the ball arrived.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict ran with receiver John Ross across the middle got a pass breakup, while Lawson and defensive tackle Andrew Billings each blew up running plays with what would have been tackles for loss if it were a contact drill.
Offensively, Tate was one of the standouts with a couple of highlight reel touchdown catches. The first was a leaping snag of a ball that seemed beyond him, with Tate contorting his body get both feet down. The second was a corner route in which get the second foot down with a toe tap according to one of the officials working the practice.
“He did a lot of that at Florida State,” Lewis said of the 6-foot-5 Tate. “We did a little red-zone drill today, so that’s good. Now it’s 2 on 2, so one of them is going to get the ball. But yeah, he has made some nice, physical plays.”
A.J. Green made his requisite “wow” catch on a ball thrown behind him by Dalton, and tight end C.J. Uzomah made an athletic snag along the sideline in a two-minute drill.
Tight end Cethan Carter caught a contested pass from Barkley deep down the seam, and LaFell did the same on a pass from Dalton against Dennard.
Among the oddest plays was when an official flagged the second-team offense for illegal substitution.