After a few weeks of camp and one preseason game, coaches are starting to see what they have to work with when it comes to their players. Some have been outperforming their expectations, and others may be on their way out because of new additions to the team or because of underperforming. Here are three winners and three losers from the Cincinnati Bengals 2014 training camp.
Ryan Hewitt: The rookie fullback out of Standford was signed by the Bengals after the draft. Hewitt was projected as the fifth-best fullback in the 2014 draft class but went undrafted. The Bengals saw the opportunity to bolster their running game and took a chance with Hewitt, and it worked out.
Hewitt stands at 6-foot-4 and 246 pounds. He is a strong guy who has really impressed coaches at camp with his ability to break through Bengals’ linebackers, like Vontaze Burfict. He has competed and earned a spot on the practice squad for sure, but will have to battle it out with Orson Charles for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Andy Dalton: Not only has Dalton walked out of training camp with a new contract keeping him in stripes until 2020, he has seemed to be thriving in new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s scheme.
We all know about the Dalton to AJ Green hookup, but Dalton has been building a strong chemistry with other receivers like Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and second year tight end Tyler Eifert. Eifert has been very impressive during camp and if Dalton can get him the ball often this season he will be able to make things happen.
Dalton has to prove this year that he can cut back on the interceptions and improve his accuracy and timing. So far in training camp, it seems as if he has improved his decision making skills, making decisions faster and getting the ball out of his hands. It is a turning point in Dalton’s career this year as a fourth year player, and he has to show that he is in fact the quarterback that can take this team to the promised land.
Brandon Thompson: The interior defensive tackle that saw more playing time last season after Geno Atkins‘ injury has shown coaches this camp why he deserves to stick around despite Atkins returning from the injury. Thompson obviously doesn’t play to Atkins caliber, but its been enough to earn him reps in camp next to starter Domata Peko. Atkins is cleared to perform in any drills in camp, but has been slow to come on and that could mean some playing time for Thompson in the regular season if Atkins can’t go 100%.
Now, for the guys who haven’t had the camp they would’ve wished for:
Brandon Tate: Tate seems to be the odd man out in Bengaldom lately. The receiver is behind multiple super talented receivers on the depth chart, already limiting his duties as a receiver. After the Bengals took Darqueze Dennard in the first round of the draft, he was automatically seen as a potential kick returner, Tate’s main job the past few seasons. Adam Jones has seen more time as a punt returner lately, and it seems for Tate that he is slowly losing grip on a spot on this team.
J.K. Schaffer: The linebacker out of the University of Cincinnati has had a role mainly on special teas during his time with the Bengals. The linebacking corps on this team has gotten deeper in the past few seasons making it tough for the undrafted free agent to find a spot on the team.
During this year’s camp, Schaffer has had to miss a lot of time due to concussion protocol and has diminished the time he has to prove that he is useful to this team.
A.J. McCarron: McCarron is a loser of the 2014 training camp because he hasn’t really had one. After being drafted, he re-aggravated a shoulder injury and this time it was worse than the first time he had the injury. He has been doing work in the rehab fields down at training camp and looks as if the Bengals might place him on the IR. Cincinnati usually only keeps two quarterbacks, and it seems as if Jason Campbell will be Dalton’s backup, while McCarron will spend the season on the IR.
Putting the final roster together for this team will be a tough challenge. The Bengals have one of the most talented teams they have had in the team’s history, and there is no shortage of position battles and tough decisions ahead for Bengals’ coaches.