Cincinnati Bengals: NFL Nation TV

Take a listen to this week's NFL Nation TV podcast as the crew breaks down the latest in the league's coaching changes.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) are joined by four other NFL Nation reporters to discuss the recent hirings made by the teams they cover.

Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) discusses the hiring of Gary Kubiak, minutes before Kubiak was introduced to media in the Mile High City. Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears reporter) chats about former Broncos head coach John Fox's recent hiring in the Windy City. Rich Cimini (New York Jets reporter) talks about Todd Bowles becoming the Jets' new head coach. And Bill Williamson (Oakland Raiders reporter) and Gutierrez break down the decisions that brought Jack Del Rio back to the Bay Area, and kept Jim Tomsula there.

Be sure to watch NFL Nation TV live on ESPN.com each Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, and give the show's podcast a listen following each taping.

Listen to this week's podcast here.
Welcome to ESPN's first NFL Nation TV podcast.

Take a listen as the NFL Nation TV crew breaks down this past week's news -- from coaching searches to the ruling on Dez Bryant's catch-no catch, to this weekend's conference championship games.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) were joined by three other NFL Nation reporters.

Terry Blount (Seattle Seahawks reporter) and Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers reporter) chatted about the NFC title matchup. Wells and Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) filled us in on AFC Championship Game, and whether a win for him might solidify Andrew Luck's status as an elite signal-caller.

Be sure to watch NFL Nation TV live on ESPN.com each Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, and give the show's podcast a listen following each taping.

Listen to the podcast here.
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, for ESPN's NFL Nation TV's Spreecast episode No. 19. Host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests Mike Triplett (New Orleans Saints reporter) and Mike DiRocco (Jacksonville Jaguars reporter) discuss a range of topics from the latest in the Browns' quarterback drama -- fingers and all -- to Blake Bortles' impressive preseason and its impact on the Jags' quarterback race. We'll also chat about Saints receiver Jimmy Graham's costly decision to break new league rules and dunk twice on goal posts. Co-host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers) is off this week. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature at the top of the viewing box below.

 
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for ESPN’s NFL Nation TV’s Spreecast episode No. 18. Host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) and Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings reporter) will also discuss a range of topics from former Colts running back Chris Rainey setting off a tempest on Twitter to Eagles cornerback Cary Williams calling the Patriots cheaters to the Manning brothers' turn as rappers, among other timely issues. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

 
Join us at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT today for ESPN’s NFL Nation TV’s Spreecast episode No. 12. Host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests Eric Williams (San Diego Chargers reporter) and Mike Triplett (New Orleans Saints reporter) discuss a range of topics from the pending decision on Jimmy Graham's franchise tag grievance to Johnny Manziel's latest escapades to Randy Moss getting the coaching bug, among other issues. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions and contribute in the chat feature in the box atop the video player.

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After an extended weekend off, the Cincinnati Bengals are headed back to work (voluntarily, of course) Tuesday morning for the start of their organized team activities (OTAs).

We, too, are back after taking an extra day away from the blog. Once again, here's hoping you had a safe, relaxing and reflective Memorial Day weekend. Let's work to not only remember our fallen service members for one weekend out of the year, but to think often about their sacrifices that have kept this nation great.

As we get back into our morning Quick Takes, we start by taking a look at the OTA process and a few things we might be able to glean from the next few weeks:

1. What are OTAs about? The OTA period was rigidly set by the last collective bargaining agreement. While teams had OTAs before 2011, the rules on the amount of time workouts could be done, how often they could be done and what exactly can be done during them were firmed by the most recent CBA. Since late April -- or early April in the case of teams with new head coaches -- players have been able to work out at their team facilities. The first wave of that workout period included only strength and conditioning training indoors in the weight room with some in-stadium work. No coaches were permitted to be around. The next workout period allowed players to get some modified on-field instruction in a one-on-one style setting, but even then they weren't able to get the amount of coaching that potentially can go on during the OTA period. Some teams have already had informal OTAs, with rookies going through minicamps that started the week after the draft. The Bengals were one of two teams that opted against having a minicamp and will be practicing instead for the first time Tuesday with both their first-year players and veterans. They'll host the voluntary OTA workouts in three three-day increments between now and June 18. They also will have a mandatory minicamp for the full team June 10-12. Media will get a chance to view all of the mandatory minicamp, but is only invited to watch one OTA session per week. Tuesday is that one day this week.

2. What can be learned at OTAs? Not much, really. The rules stipulated by the CBA make it pretty clear that the amount of time players are on the field during the workouts has to be closely monitored and no contact is permitted during the practice sessions. Normally teams would be working on fundamentals this time of year anyway, but in the past, it wasn't uncommon for some low-intensity contact to occur. Now, you won't see it at all really, even in one-on-one, offense vs. defense drills. That's done with player safety in mind. Besides, the OTAs are still a time when players are just trying to get back to regular-season playing shape and trying to keep up with any playbook changes. It's particularly important for rookies who are learning a new system. From a depth chart standpoint, you probably won't hear too much the next few weeks. The real action will occur when the position battles get going in earnest during training camp that starts July 24. Still, this is a crucial time for players to get educated, healthy and conditioned. That said, OTAs are important, but they also aren't necessarily making or breaking a player's standing on the team, either.

3. Position battles to watch. Again, we'll see more later this summer, but there are a number of position groups to keep an eye on starting this week. Although there are some obscure reports to the contrary, nothing has changed or will change anytime soon at the quarterback position. Andy Dalton is the starter and will stay the starter unless he does something in the next three months to completely lose that opportunity. There's absolutely no reason at this point to believe he'll be in any real danger of losing his starting job. By extension, AJ McCarron is the No. 3 quarterback behind Jason Campbell. It still will be interesting to see how their snaps will get broken down. Center is another position to watch, with rookie Russell Bodine expected to challenge for the No. 1 job with versatile interior lineman Mike Pollak. A.J. Green and Marvin Jones appear to enter OTAs as the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, but behind them, there's a jumble; much like there is a jumble beyond Giovani Bernard, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Jeremy Hill at running back. The defensive end rotation could get some clarity these next few weeks as Will Clarke joins Wallace Gilberry, Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers and Margus Hunt. Cincinnati's other tweaks at defensive end, as well as at "Sam" and "Will" linebacker might get a little clarity, too, as they start putting in the skeleton of their blitz-heavy, multiple defensive system.

4. NFL Nation TV returns. The seventh episode of ESPN.com's NFL Nation TV will air Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. I'll be coming off the practice fields when we begin, so I should have some updates from the Bengals' first OTA practice. Also, Colts reporter Mike Wells and Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss will join co-host Paul Gutierrez (Raiders reporter) and myself. Indianapolis has had a busy offseason off the field, and Arizona has a cornerback who has to be applauding all the cornerback contracts that have come recently. Take a long lunch break and join us.
In case you haven't checked a calendar lately: it's May.

Why do I bring that up? To make it clear that at this time of year no team is officially providing a depth chart ahead of training camp. No one is leaking depth-chart information to reporters because, well, there is no real depth chart information. I have to make that plain because at least one other outlet misinterpreted this depth-chart projection from Monday as a report from yours truly.

Nope, that's not an actual depth chart, folks. It's just my read (in May) on what we could see when the Bengals break things down later this summer.

We begin these Tuesday Quick Takes right there:

1. Projecting the offense. As mentioned in the link above, we're breaking down the three phases of the Bengals' game this week with looks at how the depth chart could shake out when the team takes to Paul Brown Stadium's practice fields for training camp. It bears repeating again, these are only projections, and are not actual reports of the depth chart. So, let's chat a bit about some of my positional rankings. Quarterback is pretty straightforward, as is running back, where Giovani Bernard gets the No. 1 back nod over BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Again, we know the Bengals are saying they stand behind Green-Ellis and continue to believe he's a key part of their offense, but there are reasons to believe he might not be on the opening-weekend roster. We'll see if he makes it. If he does, Bernard still likely would be viewed as the premier running back, but remember -- like last year -- the Bengals have plans to use more than one back regularly. It could even be a three-back rotation depending upon how things shake out in training camp.

2. Jones as No. 2 WR? Mohamed Sanu entered last season as the No. 2 receiver lining up opposite A.J. Green, but after Marvin Jones' breakout second season, a strong case could be made for him to be the Bengals' No. 2. He was, after all, their second-leading receiver behind Green last year, and was targeted the second-most times behind Green. On 78 targets, Jones caught 51 passes and only dropped two. Sanu and Green each dropped five passes last year. While receivers coach James Urban has pledged to make Sanu a greater part of the offense this season -- that could include running off reverses or even throwing the ball on a trick play or two -- you still have to figure Jones' recent success makes him a good option to line up opposite the Pro Bowler Green. The NFL is all about "what have you done for me lately," and Jones has some solid recent statistics under his belt. Also, in the projection is a reference to Dane Sanzenbacher likely playing slot receiver for the Bengals. He certainly won't be the only one. All the receivers will line up in the slot and on the outside with some regularity. It's just that Sanzenbacher best fits the role that went to Andrew Hawkins before his free agency departure to Cleveland.

3. O-line intrigue. There's some intrigue on the offensive line in the projections. I have Mike Pollak listed as the No. 1 center, although fourth-round draft pick Russell Bodine could certainly contend for starting time, too, this camp. And don't dismiss Trevor Robinson, either. Where the center position once looked like one the few true position uncertainties on the team, it now looks like an area of real strength, both literally and physically. Robinson competed well with former starter Kyle Cook last training camp, and now he'll be matched with a hungry rookie and Bodine, and Pollak, a player the Bengals coveted for his versatility on the line's interior. If the Bengals go with Bodine at center, it could be an extension of the Bengals possibly moving Pollak to left guard at the start of the season to make up for Clint Boling's possible absence. Boling is trying to return from an ACL tear by camp, but it's possible he won't be fully healthy by that time. The offensive line could have some of the more interesting position battles on the team this summer.

4. NFL Nation TV returns. We're back with another edition of the "NFL Nation TV" Spreecast live video chat Tuesday afternoon on ESPN.com. Make sure to take a long lunch break and stop back by at 1 p.m. ET where we'll be hosting another one of our interactive video chats, featuring yours truly and ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez. We host "NFL Nation TV" each week at that time with a different guest. This Tuesday, we're welcoming Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure, who is at the NFL's spring meetings in Atlanta, and Rams reporter Nick Wagoner.
Since Saturday afternoon, the following has been one of my most-asked questions on social media:

"Now that AJ McCarron has been drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, will they keep three quarterbacks on the roster this season?"

That question got a little added spice Monday afternoon when the player who had previously held the title of likely No. 3 quarterback in 2014,Josh Johnson, was released. It was largely expected when chatter about the Bengals looking to draft a quarterback became real several months ago. After realizing they were able to make their pick with McCarron's fifth-round selection, Johnson was gone.

The three-quarterback question is where we begin this Tuesday's Bengal Quick Takes.

1. Keeping three QBs? To answer that question, you've got to start by throwing out another: Why wouldn't the Bengals keep three quarterbacks on the roster this season? It only makes sense that they'll have a triplet at the position this season with Andy Dalton entering the final year of his rookie deal, veteran Jason Campbell around for a season to serve as a mentor and McCarron coming in as a rookie who will be expected to learn the offense right away. While he may not end up receiving a large financial windfall because of where he was drafted, McCarron still will command his share of attention between now and the end of training camp. It's the fact that they drafted him in the first place and the success that he exhibited in college that makes it pretty plain that he's not going anywhere anytime soon.

2. But why keep three? The Bengals brought McCarron in for a reason: They believe he can contribute if needed and learn. If he's part of the 53-man roster, he's able to learn not only how to be an NFL quarterback, but he's able to get a feel for opposing stadiums and crowds and at least getting the experience of being inside buildings that might be reminiscent of the intimidating road venues that he torched through while playing for Alabama in the SEC. As part of the main roster, McCarron would be forced to keep challenging for playing time. If he doesn't make the 53-man roster, he still will be part of the team, attending every meeting and practice session as the likely practice-squad quarterback. So, no, don't expect to see him get cut. Don't expect to see Campbell cut, either. He was brought on earlier this offseason for a reason: To give Dalton and the new draft pick a chance to actually have an in-room mentor. That's something Dalton hasn't really yet had. Campbell may have had his troubles winning in the playoffs, too, but he at least has been there. It will be helpful for the Bengals to have that added experience in the room as Dalton tries to uncover ways to get the Bengals past the first-round hump. They haven't yet won a game while he's been the starter. Oh, and they aren't cutting him, either. He's the starting quarterback for a reason, and the Bengals are deep in talks with him to ensure he remains their leader for years to come.

3. Updated contracts. As NFL teams start preparing for the start of OTAs and minicamps, their rosters are, by extension, getting larger. In the past when we've talked about contracts and the Bengals' salary cap here, it has all primarily been seen through the lens of the top 51 contracts on the team (technically in the Bengals' case, of late, it has been the top 59 because of free-agency additions). With expanded rosters coming as a result of the camps, ESPN Stats & Information late last week released contract numbers for the additional bottom-earning players. Ten additional Bengals were added. Rookies, whose deals are still being worked on, have not yet been added. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Onterio McCalebb, David King, Cobi Hamilton, T.J. Johnson, Quinn Sharp, Bruce Taylor and Brandon Joiner will be making base salaries of $420,000 this season. Chris Lewis-Harris, Zach Minter and Kevin Brock will make $495,000. Back in January when they signed future/reserve contracts, McCalebb, Hamilton, Johnson and Minter agreed to two-year deals that end in 2015.

4. NFL Nation TV. We're back at it this Tuesday afternoon with "NFL Nation TV," the new, interactive video chat that yours truly is helping host with ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez. This is the show's fifth straight week. It has been growing exponentially from the beginning. We'll be chatting some about the Bengals and the quarterback situation, and we'll be wrapping up the entire draft in this latest installment that begins right here on ESPN.com at 1 p.m. ET. Along with Paul and I this week will be Jets reporter Rich Cimini and Giants reporter Dan Graziano. Please join us.
The week keeps humming right along. Good Tuesday morning to you. While the Cincinnati Bengals won't be talking again to reporters until next Monday, you still ought to see a little news from them here and elsewhere for the rest of the week. So be on the lookout and keep checking back.

Let's get to this edition of the Bengal Quick Takes, shall we?

1. Andy wants to be paid. As I'm sure you read here, there and virtually everywhere Monday, the Bengals quarterback turned into a more relaxed, more confident and even more comedic version of himself when he spoke for the first time to reporters about his contract talks. They are occurring, he acknowledged, adding that his camp is doing everything it can to get him the best deal. While Dalton didn't talk numbers -- he wouldn't anyway -- he does believe quarterbacks ought to get large contracts because they are the "face of [their] franchise." Multiple starters are being given upwards of $20 million annually on second and third contracts. Asked if he felt he was the face of this franchise, Dalton didn't flinch when he said, "I do." Finally, he's starting to claim full control of his team; just like any truly competitive quarterback would do. He didn't seem to fully grasp that style of leadership and ownership previously. We'll see if he's thinking this same way by January. If so, maybe a more confident-than-ever Dalton goes into the playoffs. He is perfectly within his rights of wanting a competitive contract offer this offseason, but does he deserve one? Does he deserve $20 million a year? At least $18 million? Therein lies the rub. Some salary-cap experts believe $15 million a year could be the base of where his contract talks begin. People like me believe that ought to be the 10-foot, vaulted ceiling.

2. What A.J. Green's option means. It wasn't the most shocking news, but it was news that had to come at some point before May 3, nonetheless. According to the NFL Players Association records and a Bengals official, the team picked up Green's fifth-year option Monday. It means Green will be here another two seasons as the team tries to work out a longer-term deal that might keep him in Cincinnati well into the future. Like Dalton, Green's rookie contract expires next offseason. As a top-10 pick, though, the former No. 4 overall selection has provisions in his contract that permit being extended a fifth-year deal. He also will be slated to make in 2015 the equivalent of the 2014 transition tag compensation for receivers. That figure is around $10.1 million. Since that money will count toward the 2015 cap, the Bengals and their more than $24 million remaining on this year's cap can focus more on Dalton's extension, as well as linebacker Vontaze Burfict's. With the draft on the horizon, though, it's still hard to really see them offer Dalton a 2014 salary that competes with the aforementioned projections. They still would probably have enough to adequately pay Burfict, but then the question becomes, where does the money for the draft picks come from? Even though Green is taken care of for 2014, there's still some number crunching that has to be done.

3. Gio's mission. If you have the time, be sure to sit down and check out this lengthy, but very, very good piece from NFL.com on running back Giovani Bernard. NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala traveled to Haiti with Bernard earlier this offseason to tell a story about the back that few knew. Aditi's tweet promoting the story said it all: "He lost his mother, then his home. But [Bernard] kept working. Now he's building a legacy to his mom." I don't want to give all the details away, so just check it out for yourself. Well worth the time.

4. Huber's comeback. You'll read a little more from me on this later Tuesday, but punter Kevin Huber spoke briefly about his return to the field following the devastating blindside hit at Pittsburgh last December that ended his season and broke his jaw. The wires and stabilizing head piece are long gone. Now it's all about focusing on kicking and building up to kicking with the same ferocity and fearlessness as before. Here's Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson offering a few of Huber's thoughts on his return.

5. 'NFL Nation TV' is back. We're going to start calling these Personal Plug Tuesdays. Seriously, though, be sure to drop everything and come to ESPN.com at 2 p.m. ET where yours truly will be helping host the second episode of our new "NFL Nation TV" show. The show is interactive, meaning you can chat with other NFL fans and ask our panel questions that will be read live. This week, Raiders reporter and lead host Paul Gutierrez and myself are chatting with Browns reporter Pat McManamon.

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