The second right of passage for NFL rookies (drafted and free-agent alike) after the NFL Draft is to head to Rookie Mini-Camp.
The Cincinnati Bengals start rookie minicamp this weekend and the players in attendance include draftees, undrafted free agents among others trying out to make the club.
However, most of the attention is on their three first draft picks tight-end Tyler Eifert , running-back Gio Bernard and defensive end Margus Hunt, then again a good 40 others are also trying to make their best impression on the Bengals coaching staff.
Beginning with rookie offensive linemen Reid Fragel and T.J. Johnson of which both signed NFL contracts on Friday. Fragel will undoubtedly be focused on showing the coaching staff that he can jump to playing tackle in the NFL after only one year of experience at the position. Johnson on the other hand was a seventh round pick out of South Carolina, will be trying to prove he is capable backup to starting Bengals center Kyle Cook.
Tryout players include Aaron McGlynn at guard and Dan Matha at tackle, hoping to get an invite to Training Camp later this summer.
A position to watch this weekend is running back. Along side of draft pick Bernard, the Bengals also selected Rex Burkhead the teams sixth rounder and former Wisconsin star John Clay is also in camp. Now for the first time in years the Bengals backfield seems a bit crowded with running backs that have a legitimate shot at making the roster.
On the defensive side of the ball, the story is their second and third round picks former SMU defensive end Margus Hunt and former Georgia safety Shawn Williams.
Williams has the size and reputation as a hitter to excel at strong safety. Hunt, a monster at 6'7, 277lbs, will receive a large share of instruction from defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's staff on the finer points of playing defensive end in the NFL. At this point Hunt projects as a back-up, but the injury bug has hit the Bengals defense line before and Hunt has the size and ability to not get swallowed whole if he's forced into the line-up before he’s completely polished-up.
The word out of camp is that rookie linebacker Jayson Dimanche from South Illinois looks impressive. The Bengals have a logjam at the linebacker position with three entrenched starters returning, including the sixth round pick from last year Vontaez Burfict. In essence Dimanche best shot to make the roster is on special teams.
Fourth-round selection Sean Porter, out of Texas A&M, will also be in the mix to win a backup role on the Bengals linebacker corps.
Undrafted free agents are also competing for camp invites. Ontario McCalebb from Auburn, brings a sub 4.3 forty time to camp, but he has an extremely small body frame (under 170 lbs). Originally a running-back in college, McCalebb switched to cornerback, to take better advantage of his speed and athleticism. Look for McCalebb to try to catch on as a kick-returner/punt returner.
The Bengals will wrap up mini-camp this weekend.
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