DJ Turner, Trenton Irwin Make Plays of the Day in First Bengals OTA Practice

    Cincinnati Bengals players DJ Turner II and Trenton Irwin made leaping plays in the team's first 7-on-7 drill of the voluntary offseason program.

    CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Bengals held their first OTA practice of the Phase III today, and two players fighting for more playing time came up with the offensive and defensive plays of the day.

    While most of the practice looked a lot like Phase II, which featured mostly position drills and plays against air, head coach Zac Taylor put a 7-on-7 period in the script for the penultimate period.

    It marked the first time Joe Burrow had thrown passes against a defense since he suffered his season-ending wrist injury in November at Baltimore.

    And that pass defense played a big role in the two biggest plays of the day.

    DJ Turner II, Trenton Irwin Turn in Highlights of Practice

    After going 6-for-6 on a series of short crossers, Burrow’s second set of reps in the period began with an out route to Trenton Irwin.

    Burrow put the ball where only Irwin could catch it, and yet it still took an impressive effort to haul it in due to the coverage from slot cornerback Mike Hilton.

    Irwin went up to grab the contested pass and fought through Hilton’s hands as both players ended up on the ground.

    That’s when Irwin looked at Hilton and signaled first down.

    “It’s a blast getting back into 7-on-7,” Irwin said, “Air is only so good. It’s not that much fun. You get to work on little things, but being able to work against someone else and try to be crafty within that, it just brings back the joy of ball.”

    There’s always a sense of unease when players go to the ground in a non-contact drill, but Irwin said he didn’t have any problem with what happened on his catch, and he doesn’t think Taylor did either.

    “[Taylor] doesn’t want people to go to the ground when it’s an aggressive move into someone,” Irwin said. “I got up there, and Mike tried to make a play on the ball, but we sort of fell softly-ish.

    “There’s a fine line for sure. If he would have really tried to go and maybe swiped my legs out, then [Taylor] would have been pissed. But I think in that situation, it was all good. In my mindset, if we get up healthy, we’re cool. Unless there was malicious intention, which, of course, there wasn’t.”

    Irwin is in competition to earn some of the 640 snaps in the slot vacated by Tyler Boyd signing with the Tennessee Titans this offseason. Irwin, tight end Mike Gesicki, rookie third-round pick Jermaine Burton, 2023 fourth-rounder pick Charlie Jones, and even Ja’Marr Chase — who remains absent from the team — are all in the mix to split Boyd’s slot reps.

    The second most impressive catch of the day came from wide receiver Kwamie Lassiter II, who made a one-handed stab of a Burrow pass early in the practice while running a route on air.

    “It was on air. That doesn’t count,” Lassiter said.

    Irwin, who was sitting next to him, insisted it did.

    “I just re-posted a catch I had that was on air,” Irwin said. “If video of that one-handed catch is out there, what would you do?”

    “I’d re-post it,” Lassiter admitted.

    Burrow’s last throw of the period ended up being the defensive play of the day, as corner DJ Turner II made a leaping breakup of another pass intended for Irwin.

    Turner had a chance to gather the ball after deflecting it, but the interception eluded him.

    He said he was proud of the play he made, but also lamented the missed opportunity.

    “Both. It definitely goes hand in hand,” he said. “Good play, but it could have been better.”

    The expectation is that Turner will be battling former Michigan teammate and converted safety Dax Hill for the starting outside cornerback job opposite Cam Taylor-Britt.

    Like Irwin, Turner has been itching for more competitive action in practice.

    “The last time I covered somebody was in a game,” he said. “It definitely was good to get out there and get some 7-on-7 in.”

    “Last year it was like, ‘All right, I’m here now, I definitely can do it,’” Turner added. “So now it’s time to take the big leap from Year 1 to Year 2.”

    A literal big leap today could be the start of that figurative big leap Turner discussed.

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