Burrow solid in Bengals’ intra-squad scrimmage

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Quarterback tosses pair of touchdown passes to Auden Tate

Zac Taylor is preaching a sense of urgency following the Cincinnati Bengals’ first intra-squad scrimmage.

The Bengals wrapped up the most intensive week they’ve had in almost nine months with an informal 11-on-11 scrimmage Friday, putting the first-team offense against a first-team defense, second-teamers against one another and the same for the third-teamers.

Three weeks from the season opener, they normally would be finishing their second preseason game right now, but instead they just on pads Tuesday for the first time and all teams this year will be relying on scrimmages to simulate games. The offense that came ahead, 18-11, in Taylor’s points system that provides different ways for the defense to score as well without having to run back an interception or fumble for a touchdown.

Cincinnati now gets a day off Saturday before ramping it back up Sunday.

“We kind of eased into training camp and today really felt like we’re finally tackling, but in a normal year this is the second preseason game,” Taylor said. “There’s really two weeks left if you’re trying to make this football team. We just have to make that mental urgency, that guys understand it and use this day off to get your body right, come back and we’ve got an important two-day stretch on Sunday and Monday when we’re in full pads. Then we have a three-day stretch after (another) day off. Just getting these guys to realize that there’s not a lot of time left and if you want to make a point to the coaching staff then we need to crank up the urgency in the walk-throughs and our meetings and the practice reps that you get.”

Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow looked solid in his first NFL game-like situation, completing his first eight passes before his first incompletion on a pass intended for C.J. Uzomah in the end zone. He followed that up with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Auden Tate, his second of the day from Burrow.

Through his first two drives, Burrow unofficially was 9-of-10 passing for 101 yards and two touchdowns, his only ones for the day. He completed 13 of 19 passes total.

“I thought he was in good control of the offense today,” Taylor said. “There’s one down in the red zone he’ll probably want back on an extended play (the incomplete pass to Uzomah). Other than that, I thought he led the offense. He did a nice job communicating and had some nice drives for us.”

Burrow seems to be developing good chemistry with Tyler Boyd in practices, but in Friday’s “scrimmage,” he established a level of comfort with Tate as well. Tate, who had a breakout second season in 2019, made six catches for 67 yards and both touchdown receptions through those first two drives, playing with the first-team offense.

The connection with Tate blossomed while A.J. Green, John Ross and Tee Higgins have been unavailable for team drills. Green has been nursing tightness in his hamstring and wasn’t going to be used Friday regardless, according to Taylor, and Higgins is only doing individual drills while coming back from his own hamstring issue. Ross is on the COVID-19/reserve list while caring for his son while the 3-year-old and the child’s mother have COVID-19.

Asked if some of the end zone passes to Tate were an attempt to explore another element of his game, Taylor said it isn’t about that.

“He has proven, on the film last year and the way he goes about his business that he can a lot for you as an offense,” Taylor said. “You can’t just say he’s a red-zone player. He’s a three-down guy for you. He can play in the field, he can play in red zone. When you are building a player, what you want from him mentally and physically and from a talent standpoint, Auden is one of the guys you can point to as a great representative of that because he comes about his job, he’s professional every day. … He’s going to make the plays that come his way and that is what you are looking for in a football player.”

The offense looked much improved from the first day in pads Tuesday when Burrow was forced to scramble out of bounds on multiple occasions and Carlos Dunlap picked him off once after a tip at the line of scrimmage. Trayveon Williams and undrafted free agent Jacques Patrick both had some nice runs, and Alex Erickson made a couple big catches to stand out as well.

Although the defense didn’t stand out as much Friday, Carl Lawson gave left tackle Jonah Williams a battle – which Williams handled well for the most part – and Taylor went out of his way to praise cornerback William Jackson for his play.

Taylor said overall Friday was a good day of work, even with areas that clearly need addressed, such as the four false starts that occurred in the first 20 minutes.

“We look at as an advantage for us,” Taylor said. “Other teams don’t get to see what we’re doing. That’s the way I’m going to view it. Teams have to try to guess what we’re going to look like on both sides of the ball. There’s not much we can do about it, everybody is the same spot. We have a lot of new players and so I’m not going to complain about the lack of coverage all 32 teams are getting, it just is what it is and we’re going to make the most of it.”

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