10 Things We Learned from the Cincinnati Bengals' OTAs
The Cincinnati Bengals are now two weeks deep in their organized team activities. They have one more week of OTAs left, followed by a weeklong mandatory minicamp.
There have been plenty of expected happenings so far, but there have been some unforeseen events as well.
At this stage, we can only speculate as to how the team and new players are developing—practices are not open to media for the most part. But we have gathered enough press to give a good indication of where the Bengals stand at this point in time.
Let's take a look at 10 things we have learned so far during the Bengals' OTAs.
1. Younger Players Are Getting Reps
There are plenty of veterans who have been sidelined so far during OTAs. This is not as terrible as it sounds because very few are due to any serious injury.
The silver lining here is that many first- and second-year players are getting first-team reps as a result.
With the departure of Pat Sims to the Oakland Raiders, rookies Brandon Thompson and Devon Still will get more time on defense this season. Geno Atkins has been sitting out so far, which has allowed these two defensive tackles to gain experience with the rest of the starters.
The offensive line is in the same situation. Many young players are being shifted around and are gaining experience due to veterans being sidelined. Clint Boling and Trevor Robinson along with rookie Tanner Hawkinson have been the beneficiaries here.
The cornerback position is in the same situation as well. Brandon Ghee has been getting plenty of reps due to injuries to Adam Jones and Leon Hall. Ghee shined during camp last year, but his season ended before it even began due to an ill-timed injury.
2. Andre Smith Is Not Helping His Track Record
Newly re-signed right tackle Andre Smith is missing yet another period of offseason workouts. This time it seems to be due to personal issues.
According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Marvin Lewis has stated that Smith "needs to deal with some stuff." Reedy also says that it is not conditioning related.
Lewis is generally very vague with the media, but this absence is still rather alarming.
Year after year there seems to be something going on with Smith whether it is conditioning or injury. This should raise a good amount of red flags after the tackle just signed a lucrative deal to stay in Cincinnati.
3. Tyler Eifert Is as Advertised
The Bengals' 2013 first-round selection, tight end Tyler Eifert, impressed the coaching staff during rookie minicamp. Now he has continued that trend in front of his veteran teammates during OTAs.
Eifert has been catching everything thrown remotely close to him and has displayed a great amount of intelligence and ability to pick up the game quickly at the NFL level.
Dalton has this to say about his new weapon, via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com:
He’s got a real good feel for running routes and getting open. It shows you what he did in college by playing all over the place, whether it is split out wide or in the slot. He’s done a lot of the stuff we’re asking him to do.
From Day One nothing has seemed too big for him. It’s like ‘You want to go do this, OK I’ll go do this.’ He does it really well. That’s why we picked him with the first pick and he’s really well deserving.
4. Cobi Hamilton Is Not Going Anywhere
Sixth-round selection, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton of Arkansas, is not going anywhere. Barring any kind of misfortune, this wide receiver will make the final 53-man roster.
Hamilton has been impressive thus far during rookie minicamp and OTAs. Like Eifert, he has been impressing everyone involved with the workouts.
The only difference is that this kind of production was not exactly expected from a late-round pick.
Even the generally quiet Marvin Lewis had some praise for Hamilton in an interview on Bengals.com:
Cobi has not disappointed us at all. We really think he's going to make us better.
Being a late-round selection at wide receiver usually comes with a very short leash. However, Hamilton is certainly beginning to extend the length of that proverbial leash.
Not only will Hamilton make this team if he continues to progress at this rate—he could see some playing time during the season as well.
This is one storyline that fans are going to want to keep track of as offseason workouts continue.
5. Adam Jones' Injury Should Be a Cause for Concern
This does not seem like a major problem at first—a veteran who is familiar with the team missing these workouts will not have a serious impact. This is very true.
However, given Jones' injury history, this "calf tweak" could be more serious than it looks.
Jones has been dealing with nagging hamstring and calf issues for years now. Suffering a strain this early could be an indication of things to come during the season.
If Jones can not get over this injury and play at 100 percent, the Bengals will be without a crucial slot cornerback and punt returner. After Jones, the cornerback position becomes very inexperienced.
Cincinnati needs to take every precaution necessary to ensure that Jones is not rushed back too quickly and this injury is given enough time to heal.
This is something that should be closely monitored over the next several weeks.
6. James Harrison Is Set Up to Rush the Passer
When veteran linebacker James Harrison signed with the Bengals, it looked as though his contributions would be mainly against the run. However, due to recent reports from OTAs, Harrison could be more involved with the pass rush.
Harrison does not see much of a difference in his transition from a 3-4 outside linebacker to playing the 4-3 strong-side position. Harrison had this to say about the switch in an interview on Bengals.com:
I'm playing SAM, so I'm basically doing the same thing I do in a 3-4 defense. It's just that I'll switch where I'm lining up. I'll be in a 40 or 30, stacked behind a tackle or guard or whatever it may be. And I'll do my job from there.
It seems as though Harrison is a quick study. He has also indicated that he thinks he would be used less in coverage and more as a pass-rusher in Cincinnati's defense.
It's really not that much of a difference. Actually, with some of the stuff they're doing now, it looks like I may be rushing a little more than I had in previous years. I think I'll be covering a little less here.
7. Andy Dalton Is Working on the Deep Ball
All word about Dalton out of OTAs is that he has been working feverishly on his deep throws with quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.
Zampese has Dalton making quicker drops and has also adjusted the trajectory in which Dalton throws certain passes. The results have been very good so far according to Reuters (via the Chicago Tribune).
Granted, all of the players are currently running around the field in shorts and there is no pressure on Dalton while making these throws. However, it is encouraging that he is making big strides on what seems to be the weakest part of his game.
It will not be until the regular season when we can actually see these new fundamentals in action for the Bengals' third-year quarterback, but word of good progress is better than none at all.
8. Emmanuel Lamur Could Earn Himself a Starting Role
For the second-straight year, Emmanuel Lamur has exceeded all expectations. He is currently impressing coaches and players alike during OTAs.
Lamur is already viewed as possibly the best cover linebacker on the Bengals roster. He has put on some bulk over the offseason—12 pounds to be exact.
Now, Lamur is looking to complement his great speed and athleticism with strength and physicality. Lamur had these comments in an interview with Dan Hoard of Bengals.com:
Last year I used my speed, which was my bread and butter, to play the game. But it takes more than that to play linebacker in this league. You have to be able to take on blocks and be physical. I had to gain weight and 12 pounds is going to help me a lot and I’m planning on gaining another five.
It appears that Lamur is looking to shed his role of playing nickel linebacker and become an every-down player.
Linebackers coach Paul Guenther has been very impressed with the second-year player, saying:
He’s built like a linebacker and can run like a defensive back. I’m really happy with him.
9. Leon Hall's Injury Is Not Serious
Hall suffered a torn thumb ligament according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. This injury is not as serious as it sounds, and Hobson even indicated that Hall could return at some point during OTAs.
When the word "torn" is used, the worst is generally assumed. However, this particular tear—which happened while Hall was lifting weights—is not threatening in any way.
This type of injury would not even allow Hall to miss a game if it were to happen during the regular season. This is something that would get taped up and given the time to heal during the week.
If anything at all, this could actually have a positive spin.
With Hall sitting out during the opening portions of OTAs, younger players have been able to see more reps with the first team.
Since the Bengals cornerback position is filled with inexperienced talent, this will be a great learning experience for these players.
10. Hopes Are High for This Team in 2013
It seems like such a redundant statement—the hopes are high for the Bengals this year. However, this season, players and coaches are starting to begin to see change happen early.
The offensive weapons added through the draft in Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard along with the now healthy Mohamed Sanu will transform what was a relatively stagnant offense from the second half of 2012.
The offensive line has remained intact and is working together after one full year to jell.
Dalton continues to work hard on his technique and is learning to utilize all of the weapons surrounding him this year.
The 2012 sixth-ranked defense has remained intact and should even be improved this year.
Last year was a good year and not a great year; we expect a great one. We've got a lot of young weapons on the offensive side of the ball we've continued to add the last couple of years. I'm really excited about the opportunity of getting out on field and going for greatness.
I mean, it's one thing to try and be good, it's another thing to try and win, it's another thing to try and be great. That's what we want to be.
Yes, the phrase may be redundant, but the Bengals certainly believe it.