The Cincinnati Bengals have completed the early offseason workouts.
After nearly two months of working in Cincinnati and getting in some light practice work, here’s a look at the five players who boosted their stock the most in offseason workouts.
The Bengals have liked what they’ve seen thus far from second-year tackle Jake Fisher. The former second-round pick had a rocky first two seasons in the NFL after spending time all across the offensive line, even getting some playing time at tight end and h-back.
But once Fisher settled in at right tackle last year, he proved to the Bengals he could be trusted to start at right tackle. Now, Fisher is getting a full offseason to work as the starting right tackle, a role he’s done well in during offseason workouts.
But Fisher is also a big winner coming out of OTAs and minicamp because the Bengals didn’t add any real competition for his starting job. Sure, Eric Winston is back, but he’s going to be a backup tackle and guard.
No one else on the roster is remotely close to challenging Fisher for his job, which it looks like he should keep for the foreseeable future.
Like his counterpart Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi has been a big winner through offseason workouts just from the fact that no other tackles were added to the roster. That all but assures Ogbuehi of keeping his starting left tackle spot to open the 2017 season.
The good news is it sounds like Ogbuehi is doing his best to earn the role, as opposed to just be handed the job. Ogbuehi has consistently drawn praise in OTAs and minicamp for his work protecting the blindside of quarterback Andy Dalton.
It helps that Ogbuehi is a very good athlete who should thrive in these pad-less practices, but it’s still great to see him drawing consistent praise from coaches and players.
“They're (Fisher and Ogbuehi) in good shape and they've got good attitudes,” offensive coordinator Zampese told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “And that's the best thing we can have from them right now because we have a chance to accelerate the learning curve. Their eyes are wide open, they're energetic, they're enthusiastic about what we're doing. They're on the spot to produce, and they know it. And they're doing everything they can to make sure they come through for all of us.”
As long as Ogbuehi keeps improving, he’ll keep himself entrenched into the starting left tackle spot. It will take training camp—and maybe actual games—to see how much Ogbuehi has improved since last year. But, for now, we can just hope for the best
One player who’s done very little but won big in OTAs is Giovani Bernard. The veteran running back tore his ACL late in the 2016 season, putting his ability to play starting in Week 1 of the 2017 season in grave jeopardy.
For much of the offseason, it looked like there was a real chance Bernard would miss most of training camp and the preseason before possibly opening on PUP, making him ineligible for the first six games.
However, Bernard has been killing it during his rehab, to the point he may actually be able to return some time during training camp, according to Geoff Hobson:
Giovani Bernard is already catching balls standing still as his supersonic ACL rehab continues. He’ll probably start practicing at some point in August.
The fact that Bernard is likely to avoid PUP is great news, so the possibility of him practicing in August is just icing on top of the cake in his recovery. If Bernard does practice in August or participate in the preseason, he’d become ineligible for the PUP list.
With so many offensive line spots lacking depth, Trey Hopkins has been making a strong push to make the final roster as a do-it-all lineman. With no clear-cut backup left tackle, Hopkins has actually spent time during offseason workouts getting reps there.
Hopkins has also been working at guard and center, which is where he spent his first three years with the Bengals. He even got some first-team reps at right guard at various points during practice, and it’s not crazy to think he could start some games in 2017.
After all, Andre Smith has had trouble staying healthy late in his career, and he’s never played right guard in his pro career. Even if Hopkins is a backup, that’s still a nice upgrade over bouncing between the practice squad and 53-man roster in recent years. It looks like Hopkins may finally be able to lock up his roster spot for an entire season if he can backup multiple players.
There’s no question who the biggest winner of offseason workouts has been. From start to finish, Carl Lawson was a guy drawing praise from coaches and teammates alike for his pass-rushing prowess.
“He’s smart. A real smart guy. Picks it up. Studies. He’s always up watching tape,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said, via Bengals.com. “He’s going to be good…We know he can go forward.”
Lawson may have been just a fourth-round pick, but he was a first-round talent who fell in large part because of durability concerns. With the Bengals, he’s going to be relegated to a situational pass-rusher role, which won’t keep on the field as much as he was in college. But it sounds like he’ll still do plenty of damage with the reps he does receive.
“He’s strong as hell. He’s fast as hell. He gets to the corner. Really, he can kind of be like a Von Miller off the edge type guy,” said Vontaze Burfict. “He never gets tired. He has a great pass rushing ability. I’m excited to see him play in the preseason.”