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Bengals OTA: What we learned

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The Cincinnati Bengals concluded the first week of OTA practices this week -- Tuesday's session was the only one under the careful eye of the local media. Anyway, here's what we learned this week.

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

George Iloka and Marvin Jones sat out on Tuesday:

All things considered, this is perhaps the least worrisome aspect that emerged from this week's OTA sessions. Both players are dealing with minor issues. Jones implied that his case was more procedural as he wasn't cleared to practice after allegedly tweaking a hamstring last week.

The media is only allowed to attend one session per week during these voluntary sessions and since the media only attended Tuesday's session, there hasn't been an update or follow-up on whether either practiced during the other sessions this week. We'll know more this Tuesday when practice resumes.

Shawn Williams under the spotlight now

The Bengals are focusing on their investment with safety Shawn Williams, who was selected in the third-round of the 2013 NFL draft; however this hasn't been a sudden development. Over the course of the year, there have been several quotes regarding the team's expectation from Williams (per the Cincinnati Enquirer):

  • "Don't be surprised about where Shawn Williams ends up," defensive backs coach Mark Carrier said via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He's about ready to break onto this next level, too."
  • "We've got to get a great look from Shawn," Lewis said. "This season he's got to challenge Reggie (Nelson) and George (Iloka) and give them everything he can to work to play."

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther made a similar proclamation this week. "George (Iloka) is a little dinged-up, so Shawn has the opportunity to run in there and get a lot of snaps. It’s a big time for him. It’s his time to make a move."

Margus Hunt reportedly out and Will Clarke taking over his snaps

A very VERY generic report surfaced this week that Margus Hunt could be out for awhile. Geoff Hobson with Bengals.com wrote that "it’s believed he has suffered some kind of injury that could take him out of all of the spring drills." As a result, second-year defensive tackle Will Clarke is taking over his snaps and impressing veteran Michael Johnson:

Per Paul Dehner Jr:

Hunt had been around for individual workouts in previous weeks and the nature of his injury is not known. What I've been told is that it's not threatening to his season or career. However, coaches weren't offering much in regards to specifics when asked about it.

James Wright (torn PCL) and Tyler Eifert (shoulder and elbow) are back.

It was a bit surprising when Tyler Eifert sported his uniform during Tuesday's session. It was an even bigger surprise when he participated in seven-on-seven drills. After spending the calendar year rehabilitating a shoulder injury and a dislocated elbow from last year's opener in Baltimore, Eifert offered the biggest high-five when he caught a pass from Andy Dalton on a quick slant.

In other words, he's back.

Also returning from injury was wide receiver James Wright, who sat the final month of the season with a torn PCL. While we're hesitant from locking Wright into a roster spot, he should be relatively safe.

"I have a lot of trust in James with his speed, athleticism and toughness," Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said via Bengals.com. "He knows how to play. He knows what to do. He does it with confidence. A lot of people say we won’t play young guys, but we play the best players. If you have a chance to help us, we’ll play you."

Andy Dalton looks good in OTA

Who knows if Andy Dalton looks better due to his work with Tom House, or if it's the result of facing 1) no pressure and 2) having a compliment of players that didn't play last year for one reason or another. Bengals.com:

...word filtering back from at least one long-time Bengals observer that quarterback Andy Dalton looked as good as he has in the four years he’s been here. It is no coincidence that he was throwing to The Gang. guys that were nowhere to be found during the stretch run.  Two of them, his best pass-catching tight end (Eifert) and 10-TD man in 2013 (Jones), never made it to the bank.

Pro Bowler Vontaze Burfict has a "long way to go"

The theme for Vontaze Burfict is don't expect much this summer. Whether or not Burfict is ready for training camp or ends up on the Physically Unable to Perform list, is up in the air -- most observers are set on the latter. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said that Burfict "will be in rehab all the way through summer. So he's got a long ways to go."

"Burfict wasn't able to run Tuesday and often walked with a limp moving across the practice field while hanging around the linebacker group during individual drills," observed Paul Dehner with the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Most of his time was spent forcing small steps against a resistant band while his teammates ran through 11-on-11 drills one field away."