Bengals minicamp observations

CINCINNATI -- The reigning AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals had their second day of minicamp Wednesday.

Here are some notes and observations:

  • I've been really impressed with two rookie draft picks: first-round tight end Jermaine Gresham and third-round receiver Jordan Shipley. Both players are producing as advertised in minicamp with a lot of receptions. They also seem to have a knack for finding openings in the defense. It's early, but both rookies could turn out to be key contributors for the Bengals.

  • Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco admitted that he's not as sharp in his return Tuesday. But he already looks better in his second day of minicamp than he did his first. Ochocinco made a pair of tip-toe sideline catches that were vintage Ochocinco. Both throws came from quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw ropes to Ochocinco through tight coverage.

  • The safety rotation in Cincinnati will be interesting to watch. On Wednesday morning, last year's starters -- Chris Crocker and Chinedum Ndukwe -- were getting reps with the first team. But Gibril Wilson and Roy Williams are also getting important reps. Defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle said this is the deepest and most experienced group of safeties he's ever coached in Cincinnati. Their roles probably will not be decided until late in the preseason.

  • There are also a host of kick and punt returners competing for the Bengals. Those getting kick return reps this week were Shipley, receiver Andre Caldwell and cornerback Adam Jones. Those receiving punt return reps were Shipley, Jones and receiver Quan Cosby. Of the group, I thought Jones looked good and surprisingly natural returning kicks, considering he was out of football in 2009.

  • So far there's not much separation between kickers Dave Rayner and Mike Nugent. Both are kicking well in minicamp. Rayner and Nugent combined to make all eight field goals in Wednesday morning's practice. The kicking job opened in Cincinnati when former longtime Bengals kicker Shayne Graham left in free agency and signed a contract with the Baltimore Ravens.