CINCINNATI -- It was just after the Cincinnati Bengals' first organized team activity (OTAs) practice last Tuesday when veteran cornerback Adam Jones started giving his assessment of the team's recently added rookies.
When he got to Tyler Boyd, the second-round pickup from Pitt, Jones found an automotive comparison.
"Eighty-three," Jones said, referring to Boyd's jersey number, "is like a Cadillac. He's got the nicest stride on the team, he's smooth as hell. It don't look like he's moving fast, but he's moving."
Now there's an endorsement for the American-made luxury car.
Timed at 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash in February during the NFL combine, Boyd shaved that down to about 4.45 seconds at his pro day a few weeks later. The Bengals believe his playing speed is in that mid-4.4-second range. That is to say, he plays faster than his times might indicate. Just ask Jones and his fellow cornerbacks. As they began learning last week, the receiver's 0-to-60 speed in and out of routes can be deceiving.
"He's quick, but that stride," Jones said. "It doesn't look like he's running fast, but he is gaining ground."
As an example, Jones brought up a pass during the practice when Boyd and fellow rookie, first-round pick William Jackson III, faced each other. They were entangled in a tight downfield battle deep. But Boyd started pulling away from the cornerback late in the route.
The pass hung in the air a little too long, and the long-armed Jackson was able to recover and break it up at the last moment. Still, that route confirmed to veterans like Jones that Boyd had the requisite breakaway speed.
Earlier in that workout -- the first offense vs. defense drills the veterans had with the rookies -- Boyd showcased another trait that impressed starting quarterback Andy Dalton.
As Dalton rolled right once, Boyd was coming back toward the sideline on a route. With few places to put the pass, the quarterback rifled a throw that forced the receiver to show off his toe-tap skills. As the ball neared the sideline, Boyd stuttered his feet a bit before diving to his left. He stayed in bounds and caught the pass, drawing praise from coaches and teammates.
"He's got a big catch radius," Dalton said. "He can kind of go up and make tough catches, and go get balls a lot of guys probably can't get. As spring goes on we'll see more of who he is and how he can help us."
This time of year is all about evolution for young players like Boyd. Although he appreciates the accolades from Dalton and Jones, his focus remains on learning the details of pass-catching in the NFL, and applying his lessons.
"Now that I'm starting to pick up on the plays quicker, now it's about me just going out there and knowing how to defeat the coverage and win at my particular route," Boyd said. "[To beat NFL corners] you've got to involve every aspect of the game to win in any type of situation you're in: using your hands, using your feet to get around people, catching the ball and knowing how many steps you've got to get in your depth. Just all of those kind of things have to unit into one."