Every day there are three things, here are those three things.
Hope you're running on your own gas as much as I am this morning. With a ten-week old that was apparently too excited about the beginning of training camp to sleep, running on my own gas means running on fumes.
Anyway, the Bengals begin training camp practices today. I'm headed to Paul Brown Stadium this afternoon to watch the men go through their paces. Let's start there.
1) Camp matters. Some will call them camp storylines, others will label them things to watch for. I'll call them the things I hope to either see, read about, or listen to Tony Pike talk about as the Bengals prep for the season.
*Health. Early November of 2015 was a charmed time to be a Bengals fan. The AFC North race had all but been decided, the team was 8-0, and the injury report was essentially empty. The Bengals were benefiting from a lot of things, and good health was very, very high on the list.
Over the last season and a half though, this team's biggest issue has been health, from Andy Dalton missing the final four games - including the playoff - of 2015, to the way the roster started to get ripped apart as early as the first week of camp last year. By the time the regular season kicked off in New Jersey last season, the Bengals were without two of their top four picks, one of their top special team guys in Cedric Peerman, as well as Tyler Eifert. And things only got worse from there.
AJ Green and Tyler Eifert played only three games together last season. Green and Giovani Bernard missed most of the last seven. Eifert ended up missing eight. Eifert's top backup - CJ Uzomah - missed considerable time. Injuries affected Clint Boling's effectiveness.
There will, of course, be injuries throughout both training camp and the season. But a team that's searching for depth and coming off a year that was wrecked with all kinds of physical ailments, playing this season with a pretty small margin for error has to get through these next six weeks as healthy as possible.
I know. I'm not exactly establishing new ground here.
*The early returns of the offensive line. Some of the very first dispatches from PBS last season involved some pretty lousy reviews of the way the offensive line was playing. Part of us wanted to believe that the defensive front they were trying to block was just that good. Part of us wanted to give a unit that had been very good in 2015 the benefit of the doubt. A little part of me worried.
As it turns out, justifiably so.
We won't know until the season is well underway how much better or worse the Bengals are up front compared to a year ago, but given that the offensive line is arguably this team's biggest question mark, and given how the first few days of camp ended up being a precursor for things to come, I'm very interested in seeing and hearing about how they look early this year.
*Ken Zampese and multiplicity. It is almost impossible to not start drooling at the possibilities when you start thinking about the weapons the Bengals have on offense, and how they'll deploy them. We obviously won't have a firm idea of how Ken Zampese - who has a lot to prove - will make use of all the guys at his disposal - but I am interested in what things they're doing in camp that differ from last season, based on having better and deeper personnel.
Green. Bernard. Eifert. Ross (when finally healthy). Mixon. LaFell. Boyd. To a different, lesser, extent, Hill. How does Zampese line them up and where and how does he use this enviable collection of talent to create mismatches throwing and exploit things that haven't been tapped into in a while running?
*Depth. This applies both to areas where the Bengals have it and where they don't. How does competition play out at wide receiver, given what they return and how they've used to picks at that position in each of their last two drafts? What's the backup plan on an offensive line that has questions? Can camp ease concerns about the lack of experience beyond the top two guys at corner? Who else besides Vontaze Burfict and Kevin Minter can play linebacker? Can anyone besides Carlos Dunlap generate pressure off the edge?
And finally, of course, can I snag a Run On Your Own Gas t-shirt?
"When you have a guy upstairs that stands up for you, that sticks up for the players -- I haven't been around a guy like that in my lifetime, speaking of Mr. Brown," Jones said. "So I'm very eager to be the best and make sure our group is the best. As you can see, it's a little touching for me."
He later added: "The respect and the love that I have for Mr. Brown is undeniable. Words can't express the gratitude of how I feel about him. ... Words can't explain. I can't explain ... that I have somebody that understands me as a person and that's not quick to judge."
"I take all accountability for what I did and my actions and my words," Jones said. "So I accept it, the one-game suspension. I'm ready to move on, man. I'm happy to be here, I'm happy to be part of the 50th season here. I think it's going to be special."
Great quotes. Nice thoughts. Encouraging sentiments.
Consider me unmoved.
I wrote six months ago how Adam's behavior has me uninterested in what he says. He's good at public gratitude to his bosses. He's good at saying the right things. He's bad at making sure that his actions measure up to his words. He's really, really good at engendering cynicism.
I say this as someone who genuinely hopes that Adam Jones - entering his mid-30s - can establish enough of a pattern of normal, adult behavior that I'm able to one day believe his story and buy into what he says. I say this as someone who, as a Bengals fan, understands what his value - tangible and otherwise - to the team can be. I say this as someone who's felt fooled by Adam Jones every time he makes headlines with jackassery...
I'm not at all interested in what he says. I'm interested in what he does. Words won't change my mind about Adam Jones. Behavior will.
I hope he changes my mind.
3) BoB Stephenson. Robert Stephenson walked seven guys in four and a third innings last night in a ho-hum loss to the Marlins in Miami last night. Of his 92 pitches, 44 were balls. He appeared to have little command of his fastball, and at times it looked like he was overthrowing. There were also times when he took about 90 minutes between pitches, making the outing a little difficult to watch.
I'd still rather watch Robert Stephenson pussyfoot around the strike zone, and hopefully learn from his performances, than watch Tim Adelman and Scott Feldman. I can handle watching a young guy's growing pains. I can't stand to watch retreads cling to big league relevance.
Recommended Link Of The Day: Bengals WAR: Who can they least afford to lose?
Radio Show: Back on ESPN1530 Monday afternoon. Word.