The beginning of OTAs means the start of on-field action for the Bengals, the first semblance of football for the team since January. It's a great feeling for the players and fans alike as the Bengals get back on the field and start working toward achieving their goals this year.
Unfortunately, one pair of Bengals players are starting the season off on a less than stellar note. Those players are Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, who sat out for Tuesday's OTA. Fisher did participate in last Tuesday's OTA session (OTAs are only open to the media on Tuesdays, so it's unclear if he's taken part in other sessions, or, if he's gotten hurt already.) Ogbuehi has not participated in either of the two Tuesday OTA sessions the media has attended so far.
Ogbuehi and Fisher were the Bengals' first and second round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, respectively. At the time, it was seen as a fairly controversial move to spend two early picks on tackles when the position was seen as one of the stronger ones one the team. But, a bit more of an in depth look at the depth chart would have shown an aging Andrew Whitworth, who had still yet to sign a contract extension that's keeping him in Cincinnati this year, as well as an inconsistent Andre Smith, whose regularly bad performances were starting to become a significant hindrance to the team's overall performance.
As we head into 2016, the move seems to have been a very wise one, to say the least.
One of Ogbuehi's main downfalls going into the draft was his critical torn ACL that he suffered in his last college game, requiring a significant amount of rehab time in the NFL. But, going to a team like the Bengals who had the luxury of allowing him to sit and learn during his rookie season, seems like exactly what he needed. Providing he can practice at a high enough level this offseason, it seems like a pretty safe bet to say that he's expected to fill in for Smith, who left for Minnesota in the offseason. But, Ogbuehi does reportedly have an injury that's keeping him off the field. Though, it's not supposed to keep him away from training camp this summer.
Fisher's downsides going into the draft seemed to have more to do with technique refinement. If he could just fix some issues with his hand work and pass blocking angles, he was known as a guy who could come in and compete for a starting job right away. The Bengals didn't need him to start right away, but they did give him some in-game action at various points in the 2015 season to allow him to get some work in to experience live game action.
Now that the team is preparing for the 2016 season, it's certainly not a good thing that neither of their highly-valued tackles practiced with the team on Tuesday, right?
In Fisher's case, it's probably not a big deal. Yes, it's true that it would be preferable for him to participate in every practice, rather than completely missing early activities. But, he is seen as more of a left tackle, or even an inside lineman if he can bulk up. As of right now, there don't really seem to be any open positions for him on the Bengals' line.
There has been talk about Fisher working at center and potentially making different moves to contribute in whatever way he can, much like he did last year filling in for an injured Ryan Hewitt at H-back. But, there's not really much expectation for him to become a consistent starter this year. His time will come, but for right now there's bigger things to worry about than a backup player missing optional activities. Though, it would be ideal for him to be on the field, gaining experience and competing to push Ogbuehi for that starting job.
But, the fact that Ogbuehi is practicing on the rehab field and not on the practice field could be seen as a minor cause for concern. There has been talk about him taking over at right tackle this year with Smith now in Minnesota, but it seems pretty tough for him to do that if he's injured. How is he going to take over at right tackle if he's not actually practicing?
Ultimately, it's still very early in the offseason and you can't really read too much into what does or doesn't happen at OTAs. There is still so much time left before the season starts (98 days!) and there will be plenty of time in training camp for the duo to compete and learn the right tackle position. Hopefully, we'll see both Ogbuehi and Fisher practicing with the rest of the team sooner rather than later.