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Around AFC North: New Bengals Tight End Draws Rave Reviews

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Irv Smith Jr. (81) makes a catch during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Irv Smith Jr. (81) makes a catch during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Bengals: New Starting Tight End Irv Smith Impresses Bengals at Minicamp

Irv Smith is making a strong first impression as Cincinnati's new starting tight end.

Smith is replacing Hayden Hurst, the former Ravens first-round pick who signed with Carolina during free agency. At mandatory minicamp last week, Smith was a primary target for quarterback Joe Burrow and looked ready to become another weapon in Cincinnati's offensive arsenal. The Bengals believe Smith could play a bigger role in their offense than he did in Minnesota, where he caught 25 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns last season.

"He's a talented guy," Head Coach Zac Taylor said via Geoff Hobson of the team’s website. "We knew that's what we've seen on tape so that didn't surprise me in anyway. But I think just how quickly he's integrated himself has been really impressive."

Fellow Bengals tight end Drew Sample also believes Smith's presence is going to help Cincinnati's already potent offense.

"He's a really smart, savvy player," Sample said. "We don't have a lot of new guys on offense, but he's picked it up seamlessly as far as a lot of adjustments go. He's done a great job picking that stuff up. (Former Bengal) C.J. (Uzomah) and Hayden are great. For Irv, I think he may be the smoothest of those guys. Getting in and out of his breaks. He's a very smooth route runner. He can get down the seam. Makes a lot of cuts like receivers. Irv just brings his different spin to it."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett and Allen Robinson Plan Workouts Together

Wide receiver Allen Robinson is looking to rejuvenate his career in Pittsburgh after a subpar 2022 season with the Rams (33 catches, 339 yards, three touchdowns). Robinson had surgery after the season to repair a stress fracture in his foot that kept him off the field this spring, but he feels on the road to recovery.

Over the next several weeks, Robinson wants to improve his chemistry with Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett by working out together in New Jersey.

"That is the plan," Robinson said via Joe Rutter of "We've talked it through. We're both in New Jersey, so it can happen."

Robinson had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Bears in 2019 and '20 and wants to prove he's got plenty left at age 29.

"Where I'm at right now, just recently getting back on the field the last few weeks, I've got a lot of stuff to do," Robinson said. "I'll be improving my body by getting out there and training and working with different people to get back to my (old) self."

Cleveland Browns: Amari Cooper Expects to Be Full Strength for Training Camp

After playing through the discomfort of a core muscle injury in 2022, wide receiver Amari Cooper had offseason surgery and participated in some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills during minicamp. Cooper hopes to be 100% by the start of training camp and viewed his participation in minicamp as progress.

"Just to come out here and be able to feel good again, it's a great feeling," Cooper said via Mark Inabinett at "You never really want to play hurt. It's not very pleasant to play hurt, but you got to do what you got to do."

Even with his injury, Cooper led the Browns last season with 78 catches for 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns. Cooper is eager to play a full season with Deshaun Watson, who has looked sharper during offseason workouts after missing most of last season serving an 11-game suspension to start the year.

"He looks in a bit of a better groove," Cooper said. "Just having that long layoff, of course, you're going to lose some form of rhythm. But he looks like he's really getting that back. …He's definitely getting more comfortable, getting his rhythm back, looking like Deshaun."

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