The Cincinnati Bengals are commencing the final phase of organized team activities this week.
It's always a good sign when mandatory minicamp rolls around that real NFL football is not too far away. That will be the case for the Bengals this week as the team will be in Cincinnati and ready to work from Tuesday to Thursday.
Here's a look at what to watch for this week as the Bengals wrap up their offseason workouts before heading into a summer break. After this week, the team will be off until training camp begins.
There aren't a lot of major difference between minicamps and normal OTAs. There is still no contact work allowed, including live blocking, tackling or bump-and-run pass coverage. Players won't be wearing football pads either.
The big difference is that workouts are now mandatory for all players, whereas OTAs have been voluntary up until this point. There are a few exceptions for guys recovering from major injuries and those who have something important to attend to if they get excused by the team to do so.
This typically can lead to some new storylines arising or previous ones being resolved. One example is veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga, who has been absent for the open OTA workouts thus far, apparently due to being overweight. He was in attendance for last week's open session for the media, but still did not do any work. Second-year offensive tackle Jake Fisher has also missed much of OTAs thus far, though no word on why has surfaced.
It's also worth noting that players not in attendance for these could be fined. Under rules of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, all veterans under contract must report. Those who do not are subject to a $10,000 fine for missing the first day. That figure then increases by $10,000 daily for a maximum fine of $60,000 for three days of missed minicamp.
Ideally, you'd like to see even the longest-tenured veterans get a workout or two in during OTAs. When they don't, the concern of there being an undisclosed injury can grow, as too can the hole in their wallets.
2. Injury Updates
Building off the last point, minicamps are when we can expect to get some more definitive updates on injured players and/or guys recovering from offseason surgeries. This applies to Tyler Eifert, Darqueze Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick, Ryan Hewitt and Brandon Thompson who are all coming off surgical procedures or injuries.
Hopefully, we can get updates on some of those guys and a possible timetable for their return. Dennard, Kirkpatrick and Hewitt should be back on the field by training camp. Thompson is likely to sit out during training camp and possibly open the regular season on the PUP list, based on his recovery timetable. Eifert is unlikely to participate in any activities before the preseason, if not even later.
The Bengals are one of the NFL's stingiest teams when it comes to discussing injuries though, so don't be surprised if we hear nothing on those guys' status as OTAs end.
3. The Newbies
Another thing to look for in this final OTA phase is how the new guys are acclimating to the team. Whether it's a rookie like Tyler Boyd or a tenured vet like Karlos Dansby, you like to hear good things from one of the lighter NFL-type practices they'll go through this year.
But really, the rookies are the players who will get the most attention paid to them during minicamp, especially when it comes to high draft picks like cornerback William Jackson III. He's been impressing coaches and teammates in offseason workouts thus far, so hopefully he will continue that this week as he gets more work against the likes of A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell.
Seeing how new pass-catchers like Boyd, LaFell, Antwane Grant, Cody Core, Alonzo Russell and Alex Erickson do will be very intriguing given the fact that any one of those guys can take on a big role in this offense with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu gone.
What are you looking forward to seeing and hearing about from minicamp this week?