Jeremy Hill filling Giovani Bernard's pass-catching role in OTAs

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill is quick to pull a certain statistic out of his pocket if anyone questions his pass-catching ability.

It's a fairly impressive one at face value.

"I was the third leading receiver in my last year [at LSU], behind Odell [Beckham Jr]. and Jarvis [Landry]" Hill said. "It's a fun fact."

Hill didn't add that he was a distant third in that category, catching 18 passes for 181 yards in comparison to Landry's 77 catches for 1,193 yards or Beckham's 59 receptions for 1,152 yards. Landry and Beckham are now with the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants, respectively.

Hill's point was that he could catch passes if needed, and on Tuesday, he did that often. While Giovani Bernard rehabs from a torn ACL, his snaps will likely go to Hill and rookie Joe Mixon until he returns. The Bengals targeted several running backs throughout Tuesday's practice, but the bulk of the passes thrown to the group seemed to go to Hill.

Hill has proven capable of catching passes out of the backfield, with 63 career receptions for 468 yards and a touchdown. But that role has largely gone to the smaller, shiftier Bernard, who excels at pass blocking.

Now that Mixon is in the mix, it's likely the Bengals would want to use any of those three as pass-catchers in order to keep defenses on their toes as to whether the play would be a run or pass.

However, there will only be so many snaps to go around, particularly with a crowded group of wide receivers. Hill's primary role will always be as a traditional, workhorse running back. There won't be any radical shift in that philosophy going forward, although he and Mixon are expected to battle for those snaps this season.

Still, it couldn't hurt if the Bengals decide to mix it up a little going forward.

"If you watch New England play, that's something they do a lot, get the balls to the backs, get the ball out quick before the D-linemen get there," Hill said. "That's definitely something that could help us."

Hill said there's not much to take from OTAs at this point, as the real game-planning won't start until the season gets closer.

But as long as Bernard stays out, expect to see more passes thrown Hill's way during OTAs and training camp.

Injuries: Tyler Eifert and Bernard both spent the day on the rehab field for the second Tuesday in a row. Eifert is recovering from back surgery. Tight end C.J. Uzomah returned to practice after missing Tuesday's open practice last week with an injury. For the second week in a row, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick watched. He is not participating due to a fractured hand. John Ross was also not at practice due to school obligations. Jarveon Williams, Brandon Wilson and Cethan Carter did not participate.

Andre Smith sick: Smith, who is slated to become the Bengals' starting right guard this season, was not at practice due to an illness, according to a source. The Bengals rotated Trey Hopkins, Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman at his spot.

Kicking battle: Randy Bullock and Jake Elliott both made all four of their attempted kicks from 33, 43, 30 and 39 yards. Jonathan Brown did not kick on Tuesday, as part of the three-kicker rotation the Bengals have been using during OTAs.

Plays of the day: Wide receiver Monty Madaris, a Cincinati native, went up to snag a high pass from Jeff Driskel over the middle ... Nick Vigil broke up a pass intended for Cedric Peerman ... Jordan Evans also broke up a pass intended for running back Stanley Williams ... Linebacker Brandon Bell came down with an interception after tight end Mason Schreck that was thrown by AJ McCarron. ... McCarron was also intercepted by safety George Iloka. Vontaze Burfict and Carl Lawson both had "sacks" (no contact allowed) on Andy Dalton and McCarron, respectively.