As you know Bengals OTAs have begun. The team's are fairly limited as to how much they can do (only two hours on the field and six hours total) but what do you hope to see from the first round of Organized Team Activities?
Lucas G. No injuries. I know there is no contact allowed in OTA's, but if the whole team can escape with their health intact, I will be a happy camper. Beyond that, I want to see our young playmakers accustom themselves to Jay Gruden's offense so they can make an impact early and often.
Anthony C. First things first, I hope to see everyone come out of the sessions healthy. After hearing that the Chargers lost their outside linebacker/rush end, Melvin Ingram for the year, it scared the life out of me. The Bengals have had the recent misfortune of losing important players in practice, so I hope that that doesn't occur this week. Other than that, I want to see how Andy Dalton builds a rapport with his new toys in Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert.
Jason G. I completely agree. Health is the most important part. While these are no-contact drills, it always seems that someone somewhere gets hurt and misses at least the rest of the offseason. That can set a team back badly. Hopefully that doesn't happen to the Bengals. I also want to see where some of the new guys, especially Eifert, Bernard and Shawn Williams fit in with the first-team offense and defense.
Are you guys as intrigued as I am to see what happens this week with Orson Charles? I really like his potential, but he appears to be getting lost in the shuffle a bit with the addition of Eifert in the draft and Alex Smith in free agency.
Jason G. I am. I'm glad the Bengals selected Eifert because I think he'll bring a lot to the team's offense, but I'm not sure what the move does to Charles. The Bengals have usually kept three tight ends at least and Charles could be a third tight end, but he could also struggle to beat out some of the older veterans signed to the team, like Alex Smith.
Lucas G. Ideally, I'd like to see Charles stick around. With Gresham's contract coming up in the next couple of season's, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a young buck already on the roster to replace him, but his inability to contribute last season is a little worrisome. The team needs a blocking tight end, so Smith will likely stick around and I can't see them carrying more than three tight ends, especially if they keep a fullback. In short, I have no idea what is going to happen with him, but I'd much rather have the problem of there being an abundance of talent, rather than a lack of it. Dan Coates, anyone?
Anthony C. Yep. I honestly am wondering if they keep four tight ends and move either Smith or Charles to a fullback/H-back role. I wouldn't mind it if it doesn't hurt the offense--whatever gets the most effective weapons on the field.
Which position group will you guys be watching the closest?
Jason G. I'll be paying a lot of attention to the backup quarterbacks and the safeties I think. We all know that Eifert and Bernard are going to have big roles and for the most part the roster is set. However, I'm looking forward to seeing what Josh Johnson and John Skelton have to offer as well as Williams at strong safety.
Lucas G. Linebackers. I'm excited to see how James Harrison fits into Mike Zimmer's defense. SAM backer isn't a position that's on the field too often, but if he can offer more than Lawson did, that would be a major boon. Beyond that, I want to see how a number of the younger guys respond to their opportunities this year. Burfict and Lamur have a chance to contribute heavily in 2013, while a number of our undrafted LB's look like they have the potential to stick around as well.
Anthony C. Yeah, hard to disagree there. I think I'll be paying close attention to the cornerbacks. While it's a relatively deep group, there are still a lot of question marks. It's a group with a lot to prove, especially with all of the guys coming off of injury. Dre Kirkpatrick doesn't sound like he's participating this week, and I think it's a big week for Shaun Prater and Brandon Ghee. I'll also be curious about Onterio McCalebb's continuing transition to the position.
Give me two specific players you guys will be watching closely this week--one veteran and one rookie.
Jason G. When it comes to the veteran, I'll be keeping my eyes on James Harrison. I'm excited about the spark he can add to the defense and seeing a player that every Bengals fan hated for so long in stripes is intriguing. As far as the rookies go, I'll be watching Bernard. I'm excited to see the extra dimension he can add to the offense in both the run and passing game from the backfield.
Lucas G. For veteran, I was tempted to say Kyle Cook, but without live contact it will be hard to garner any real information about the battle for the starting center position. Instead, I'll go with Gresham. His drops are still fresh in a lot of people's minds and 2012 will be a big year for him. For the rookie, I'll go with Onterio McCalebb. He's making a difficult position switch, but more importantly he has a chance to dethrone Tate as the primary returner. And I think that's something we can all support.
Anthony C. For a veteran, I'll say Taylor Mays. I loved watching him in his junior year at USC, where he looked like he'd be a top-ten pick, but he hasn't shown the consistency so far. It's a wide-open competition between four guys to get time at strong safety and I'd like to see him seize the moment and grab the coaches' attention by taking that next big step. For a rookie, I'll say Cobi Hamilton. I really like his college tape and I think he could not only make the team this year, but contribute down the road. He had a good rookie minicamp, but I want to see him go up against some veterans too.