Though OTAs are generally non-events from the perspective of Bengals fans, they offer an evolving glimpse into a team that won nine games last season, the second wild card berth while acquiring more talent than they lost through the offseason. Expectations are gradually increasing; so much so that one must preach caution. We're not Chicken Little. We remember 2010. We've seen this song and dance before. Playoff season followed by a decent offseason, breeding expectations of postseason dominance.
But then it's hard not to be foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. Perhaps the Bengals will struggle in 2012, that's not the point. This is a team built for sustained success. At no point during the 2005 or 2009 seasons have the Bengals had players like Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Thomas Howard or even Reggie Nelson. How could anyone argue that Andy Dalton of 2011 isn't better than Carson Palmer of 2009 -- especially when factoring the intangibles. A.J. Green vs. Chad Johnson. BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Rudi Johnson or Cedric Benson. Jermaine Gresham against every Bengals tight end dating back to 2003. Jay Gruden vs. Bob Bratkowski. Mike Zimmer vs. Chuck Bresnahan (and perhaps Zimmer of '09).
Save for the coaching staff, every player mentioned will be here beyond 2012, if not for years afterwards. Saying something overtly dramatic like "the Bengals are hear to stay" sounds a little silly, homerish, outside our charge as balanced visionaries with steady hands and clear-thinking. But really. Is there any other way to phrase it?
+ First-round rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick finally returned to the field on Monday, during the first of a four-day week of OTAs -- the final sessions of the offseason before the mandatory veteran minicamp next week. Afterwards Kirkpatrick tweets:
Kirkpatrick missed the first three weeks after reportedly suffering a groin injury (initially reported as a tweaked hamstring).
Rookie defensive tackle Devon Still, Daniel Herron (without the boot), Nate Clements and Adam Jones also missed Monday's session, though the latter two worked on the side.
+ Former Bengals offensive guard Bobbie Williams spent Monday rehabilitating a broken ankle at Paul Brown Stadium, going through drills with rehab director Nick Cosgray. Since the sessions are taking place following the team's Monday practice, it's not taking away from the actual Bengals players.
I'm not very level-headed when it comes to Bobbie Williams. He's been a favorite of mine for some time. Not just because he's an offensive lineman, rather he's one of those all-around nice guys with a strong lockerroom presence. From our understanding, and someone correct us if we're wrong, it wasn't Andy Dalton, A.J. Green or any of the defensive players giving pregame speeches. It was Bobbie Williams up until he broke his ankle. And they were passionate.
We're not suggesting that the team should sign him. Quite honestly the team has earned enough trust and credit this offseason that they're more than capable to make decisions without our explosive responses of disapproval. Would we be upset if the team signed Williams to a one-year deal as a backup and allow him to retire on his own terms? Not one bit.
+ Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer aired frustration at Dontay Moch's direction on Monday. Rather Moch has spent so much time in meetings but hardly none of it on the field. We get the understandable feeling that Zimmer had hoped Moch would be further along by now. This isn't uncharacteristic of Zimmer either, who ripped Rey Maualuga following the 2010 season for being, lack for a better word, ordinary.
That being said Zimmer likes how his linebackers look, saying that rookie Vontaze Burfict looks "dependable so far." Zimmer, who is also teaching first-year coaches how to coach (explain that to me while you're at it), saying that someone is dependable is like someone else calling someone the best player in the history of Earth.
One last note on Zimmer, alluded to above. Mark Carrier (secondary coach), Paul Guenther (linebackers coach) and Hue Jackson (apparently assistant everything coach), are either new coaches to the team or coaching positions for the first time in their careers. Zimmer admitted some growing pains saying that it's a "Lot harder on me right now. Almost like first year here."
Carrier replaced Kevin Coyle, who took the defensive coordinator position in Miami while former linebacker coach Jeff Fitzgerald wasn't asked to return, finding work as the linebacker coach in Indianapolis.
+ One observation from Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer regarding a play during Monday's practice:
Play of the day in Bengals OTAs goes to Andy Dalton, who lofted a pass to A.J. Green that was about 72 yards in the air. Green then caught it near the goal line over rookie Shaun Prater.
+ During an interview with ESPN 101 in St. Louis, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis agreed that it was time for Jerome Simpson to move on, explaining that the whole drug issue that Simpson faced last year was too distracting on the receiver (not really the team). During the same interview Lewis left the door open -- though I'd contend he was diplomatically saying "oh, hell no" -- a return to Hard Knocks if HBO asked.
+ Wide receiver Brandon Tate keeps being that guy. And by that guy, we mean the wide receiver that keeps lining up as the No. 2 with the first-team offense. Not that one should read too much into it. It's June 5 and the Bengals could be merely giving Tate work to see if he's worth keeping (provided they found a replacement on kickoff and punt returns).
+ Since many are quick to pounce on character issues with Bengals players (**cough** ESPN NFL bloggers **cough**), we pointed out that linebacker Micah Johnson will be hosting a youth football camp after the team's mandatory minicamp next weekend. Not to mention several Bengals rookies (notably Orson Charles and Kevin Zeitler) once again visited the Ronald McDonald House following practice on Monday.
Just got back from the Ronald McDonald House, enjoyed meeting the kids and their families.