Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Eight observations from the Bengals' OTAs
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals held Tuesday their first organized team activity (OTA) of the offseason. For the first time since January's wild-card round playoff loss to San Diego, the Bengals were back inside Paul Brown Stadium, participating in full-team football activities.
Only one player appeared to be missing from the workout; tight end Jermaine Gresham. It's not clear why the veteran wasn't present for the voluntary workout, but he has been seen around the stadium since the team returned to town for voluntary strength and conditioning workouts last month.
Otherwise, the Bengals were all present and accounted for. Even injured defensive tackle Geno Atkins, injured cornerback Leon Hall, injured offensive guard Clint Boling and injured punter Kevin Huber attended the workout. Each took part in the stretching and warm-up period of the practice. Huber was the only one of the four who had his jersey on, and who actually participated in the rest of the practices. He spent much of the day punting across the field from sideline to sideline. Atkins and Boling continue rehabbing from ACL surgeries. Hall is nearly fully recovered from an Achilles injury that ended his season in Week 7 last year. Huber is coming back from a neck fracture.
Along with those absences from team drills, the Bengals also appeared to be without defensive back Danieal Manning and center Mike Pollak. Both attended the workout but were not in uniform and not participating in the drills.
In addition to those observations, here are a few more from what I saw during the hour and 45 minutes that practice was open to reporters:
1. We start with the beginning of the practice, when newly promoted offensive coordinator Hue Jackson loudly shouted "I love this day!" as players wrapped up stretching. Why is that worth mentioning? Because it was only the first of many things Jackson could be heard shouting all during the workout. He has been known league-wide for his energetic and intense style of coaching. Cincinnati's noticeably faster practice tempo certainly was a credit to him. Very seldom did he stay in one spot. He rotated regularly between the different position groups, and could be heard when he moved.
2. When it comes to depth-chart rankings, let me begin by saying this: Don't read too much into depth chart updates in May. Things are likely to change. Simply read the following and know it happened on the very first day of OTAs. Dig no further than that. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, as expected, Giovani Bernard did indeed take the bulk of the first-team snaps at running back. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had opportunities, as did rookie Jeremy Hill. Also of note in the backfield: on a high percentage of snaps, it seemed a fullback or H-back was also lined up behind quarterback Andy Dalton. Don't be surprised if you see the fullback make a comeback this season, folks.
3. Speaking of Dalton, he took snaps as the starting quarterback. Jason Campbell made the second-string throws, and recent addition Matt Scott made the third-string tosses. Fifth-round draft pick AJ McCarron was effectively the fourth-string quarterback, taking snaps primarily with reserve offensive players who primarily were comprised of undrafted free agents.
4. A former Bengals fifth-round draft pick who did make noise Tuesday was receiver Marvin Jones. As expected, he lined up as the No. 2 receiver opposite A.J. Green. Jackson told Bengals.com last week that he wanted Jones to push Green for the No. 1 receiving job; a sentiment Jackson first expressed to reporters at the combine in February.
5.Cobi Hamilton and Brandon Tate were two other receivers who caught their share of passes. Hamilton's size -- 6-foot-2 -- and leaping ability make him a good deep option. Tate's shiftiness as a kick returner makes him a candidate to be lined up in the slot or passed to in quick-screen scenarios. Although returning kicks takes a slightly different skill than dodging defenders, he still is being given a chance to prove he can wiggle on offense like he can on special teams. Tate caught one pass last season, and Hamilton wasn't active a single game.
6. Cincinnati's offensive line had a little bit of a different look in the interior with Pollak and Boling out. In Pollak's stead, Trevor Robinson and rookie Russell Bodine traded snaps at center. Robinson took the majority of the day's first-team snaps. In Boling's place at left guard, several different players saw action, including Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Undrafted free agent Trey Hopkins also played there. Free agent acquisition Marshall Newhouse lined up at left tackle when Whitworth wasn't playing there.
7.Outside linebacker Emmanuel Lamur was back practicing and going through drills for the first time since suffering a injury in the final preseason game last year.
8. Like Jackson, members of Cincinnati's front office and scouting department couldn't wait to see their recent signees in action, too. Along with team president Mike Brown and his daughter, executive vice president Katie Blackburn, Bengals scouts also attended the OTA from start to finish.