FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Bengals offense survived a sleepy start, the searing heat of Georgia in August, and the obligatory verbal jabs of cornerback Asante Samuel on Monday to feel pretty good about their first of two workouts against Samuel's Falcons.
Not only that, quarterback Andy Dalton also had to overcome the absence of half of his 2012 receiving staff to string together a solid 5-for-7 effort in the last period of the day that was a team drill highlighted by wide receiver Mohamed Sanu's touchdown catch from about 20 yards away.
This Green-less summer without (A.J.) has opened up spaces for people, and with Andrew Hawkins (ankle) sidelined indefinitely and Marvin Jones still nursing a sore hamstring, you can't tell the players without a program.
"Early on we were a little concerned. We thought we struggled a little bit with the tempo. I think everybody was not really sure what to expect," said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. "But once they got in the flow and started competing, everybody started to play better. Guys made some plays. It was good to see. Different guys made plays, too, it just wasn't one guy, it was a lot of guys. Sometimes when you have A.J., you focus in on A.J. and now you get in here and you spread the ball around."
Rookie running back Giovani Bernard picked up a sizeable gain over the middle in that final drill, and caught a safety-valve pass, and wide receiver Brandon Tate continued his fine camp by catching a long one over the middle. That one came off play-action, as did the touchdown to Sanu. Wider receiver Ryan Whalen also had some big catches over the middle from both Dalton and backup quarterback Josh Johnson. Sanu, Tate and Whalen combined to catch just 36 passes last year while Bernard was lighting it up in Chapel Hill, N.C. as the Bengals flexed their depth.
"Everybody had their share of shining moments, but as always we have to go back to the film and make sure we correct the dismal ones and there were some of those, too," Gruden said. "Atlanta did some good things against us. We'll have to take the good with the bad and just get better."
The gregarious Samuel wasn't offensive, just joking around but Dalton knew it was coming.
"Right in front of you, 14," Samuel yelled from the sideline after he apparently thought Dalton missed an open receiver. "You'll throw it to him in the game, right 14?"
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