No doubt this is Joe Burrow’s team and this is the Ja’Marr Chase stage and this is the Joe Mixon arena and the head coach calls the offense.
But Thursday’s first live brawl at training camp at Kettering Health Practice Fields sent a reminder that the Bengals made it to the Super Bowl allowing only six touchdowns and not even 60 points in the three games en route to the AFC title.
The defense prevailed with Thursday’s defeat in these kinds of things where the fouls get a traditional seven points for a touchdown and three points for a field goal while the defense gets seven for no and four points if they keep a field goal.
“Like I told them,” said defensive coordinator Lou Anarumu. “Sometimes the bear takes you, sometimes you get the bear. We got the bear today.”
They’ve earned Grizzly with a dominant performance with what’s new, their defensive line. And it wasn’t just the beginning as rookie tackle Zack Carter and rookie edge Jeffrey Gunther excelled in dashing passes one-on-one and in melee where the first attacker could barely pass with relentless pressure. With quarterback Joe Burrow on the lookout, first-team quarterback Brandon Allen is left trying to explain why defense always appears ahead of the attack in camp.
After, of course, the offense had to turn on the gases because they were hit in the red. Boru joined them, but was only driving his carriage back and forth.
“We try to do our best every time,” Allen said. “We will try to watch the movie and learn from the mistakes we made today and come back tomorrow with much better intensity.”
What is on display defensively is a scheme in its fourth year under Anarumo and on Thursday had a unit where nine of its starters are in at least their second year in the system. Consider the fact that Allen has noticed some new looks in her Anarumo covers which is a tricky number.
“There are some wrinkles in some of their defensive appeals,” Allen said. “I think they’ve always had a wide variety of controls and different things. But I think they’ve been in the system for a few more years, let’s just hide it all.”
The defense escaped from two high school juniors at Tier 1 Dax Hill with free safety and an unpolished corner back Alan George playing with aka Eli Apple and injured backup Tre Flowers while facing Chidubi Ozi. If the Bengals are trying to send a message to second-rounder Cam Taylor-Britt, consider it served because CTB only entered the second set.
The defense also played well on the day quarterback Logan Wilson (shoulder) played his team’s first seven-for-seven shots while still firing in late August to get back into team practice. Until then, full-back Achim Davis-Geither continues to play the best ball of his career in Wilson’s absence.
“It’s fixed,” Wilson said of his torn recovery. “We just want to wait a full six months before we move on to full contact type things. I think that’s clever. I feel like it’s more in control of 7 over 7. There’s a lot more room, and I can just be smart with it.”
Flowers expect to be back on Friday and Apple no more if it isn’t Friday.
“That’s how the practice went,” Anarumu said of George and Taylor Brett. “Don’t read into it. Nothing there. They’re still competing.”
Defense resilience can be seen in the individuals as well as in the schema. For example, Dax Hill is shown to be able to cover in some men’s situations. Then there’s reader nose treatment DJ having another massive day with his bull dash as defensive line coach Marion Hobby gave a post-workout warning when it came to calling Reader the best nose handler in the NFL.
“Now that’s a problem,” Hobi said. “I think he’s one of the best defensive tackles. You can’t put him in one category. He can play all three styles. He can play some running, he can play some passes. If we give him more rushing to pass, (You will see that).”
Not a bad first look at a defense that doesn’t get as much of a second look as it should.
“Our whole theme this year is brick by brick,” Anarumu said. “Today was a footer, I guess you’ll call it. It wasn’t just a single brick.”