Bengals unwrap gifts in minicampBy Carlos "Big C" Holmes
Cox News Service
If draft day is considered Christmas for NFL teams, then this past weekend must have been the day after with a number of teams holding rookie minicamps and the first opportunity for them to check out the new toys Santa brought them.
The Cincinnati Bengals kicked off their rookie minicamp on the field of Paul Brown Stadium Saturday, which is scheduled to run through Monday. There was a feeling in the air that this crop of rookies will bring even more excitement to the Bengals organization this season.
Once on the field, the rookies, starting with fifth-round pick LB A.J. Nicholson, wasted no time grabbing the attention of the coaching staff. Nicholson was all that and a bag of chips. No, make that a bag of Pepper Jack Doritos because he showed lots of flavor.
Nicholson ran wild all over the field hustling on every play. If he wasn't trying to strip the ball from a player's arms, he was trying to come up with a big play. He succeeded when he picked off QB Erik Meyer, who was attempting to throw an underneath pass over the middle and was picked clean by Nicholson. He also coasted into the end zone during 11-on-11 drills.
When I caught up with Nicholson in the locker room after practice, he was a man of few words, saying he was just excited to be here. When asked about his checkered past, Nicholson stated that he has matured, has put the past behind him and was looking forward to a fresh start. The linebacker seemed genuine and eager to silence his critics. Judging from the looks of it, I believe the Bengals got a gem in Nicholson because he's a playa!
Sixth-round pick QB-turned-WR Reggie McNeal showed why the Bengals were willing to take a chance on developing him as a wide receiver. McNeal fared well during camp, but it was obvious he is a work in progress. He fought the ball a lot, which caused him to have some drops, and his route-running ability was average. Where he excelled was running the deep patterns. He blew by a couple of defenders to make some long receptions. McNeal has tremendous straight line speed. This acquisition will pay dividends down the road rather than right away.
A guy who really caught my eye, as well as others', was seventh-round pick WR Bennie Brazell, who ran more like a gazelle. He beat a number of defenders on some deep routes and, for that matter, on some short routes as well. At a buck-seventy-six, Brazell was sleek and smooth. He showed good footwork, sticky hands and nice route-running ability. He was a hard worker and would be a force on kick returns because of his blazing speed. He was very impressive and sported number 81, the same number worn by former Bengals WR Carl "Slim" Pickens.
In all, this was a good showing for the Bengals and their rookies.