The clock is ticking down on WR Jordan Shipley. With less than three weeks until final cuts, Shipley's rehab from ACL continues to be on a sluggish progression. The confidence Bengals coaches feel in the player who gained more yards than any AFC rookie in 2010 has been shown in his position in practice.
He's running with the second and third team and played out the string with the back end of the roster in Friday's preseason game.
In a young, crowded receiver room, the revelation is coming into clearer focus that if he doesn't find his explosion to pre-injury standards fast, he won't be making this roster.
“It's coming, it's just got to come quicker,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “He's doing everything right. He's coming to treatment. He's working hard. He knows what to do, I think (he) will tell you he's just not quite there yet. But he's getting closer. It's a tough deal for him. I know how good he was and thinks he should be. I know in his mind he's not quite there but he's coming along.”
For now, Andrew Hawkins, who is enjoying a fantastic camp, moved ahead to the clear starting spot in the slot. Also, third-round pick Mohamed Sanu has learned the inside spot and could serve as a backup. The six receiver spots fill up in a hurry with fifth-round pick Marvin Jones performing well behind Armon Binns, Brandon Tate and A.J. Green.
“That decision will play out in the next three weeks,” Gruden said. “We are all about playing the best guys and may the best guy win. We know what Shipley has done in the past. He's been a great player for the Bengals. These other guys are emerging great players. We will let it play out. We are not going to predetermine any moves right now. The competition is there at wideout, that's for sure.”
Dalton feels different: This point last year, the Bengals rookie combo of Green and QB Andy Dalton were dazed and confused in the wake of a 34-3 defeat at Detroit.
A year later, however, reacting to a first preseason game where the first-team offense put together a 15-play drive for a field goal felt as far away form 2011 as possible.
“A lot different from last year -- a lot different,” Dalton said. “Guys have a lot better understanding of what we're doing. We've got a little bit more time to practice. So, second year in the offense that's the way it should be.”
As for Dalton's individual performance, he finished 4 of 9 for 54 yards, but was impressive during the scoring drive. Gruden came away pleased with the first step of the sophomore season for his QB. Outside of holding on TE Jermaine Gresham too long on the third-and-goal play and an early missed throw, he didn't see any issues.
Maualuga pinpoints return: LB Rey Maualuga worked on the side of practice Tuesday for the first time since suffering what he said is a Grade 1 MCL sprain to his right knee. He will make the trip to Atlanta to help on the sidelines, but won't play.
He expects to return to the field for the Aug. 23 game against Green Bay.
Roland moves inside: OL Dennis Roland, whose played his entire career as a tackle and extra blocking tight end in short-yardage situations has made the move to the No. 2 spot at left guard. In the wake of starter Travelle Wharton's injury, Clint Boling moved in as the starter and Cincinnati likes Roland's technical ability so he jumped Otis Hudson in the pecking order -- at least temporarily.
Camp winding down: Only two more practices remain open to the public for the first downtown training camp. The attendance has dwindled of late as the team began playing preseason games. Only 450 people showed up for Monday's practice with a similar number on Tuesday. The practice field sessions approached the max capacity of 1,600 every day the first week of camp.
The attendance for the entire camp still rivals that of the best year in Georgetown (2010) and viewed as a success unanimously from inside the organization.
Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates from training camp on Twitter at @CBSSportsNFLCIN.