After an extended weekend off, the Cincinnati Bengals are headed back to work (voluntarily, of course) Tuesday morning for the start of their organized team activities (OTAs).
We, too, are back after taking an extra day away from the blog. Once again, here's hoping you had a safe, relaxing and reflective Memorial Day weekend. Let's work to not only remember our fallen service members for one weekend out of the year, but to think often about their sacrifices that have kept this nation great.
As we get back into our morning Quick Takes, we start by taking a look at the OTA process and a few things we might be able to glean from the next few weeks:
1. What are OTAs about? The OTA period was rigidly set by the last collective bargaining agreement. While teams had OTAs before 2011, the rules on the amount of time workouts could be done, how often they could be done and what exactly can be done during them were firmed by the most recent CBA. Since late April -- or early April in the case of teams with new head coaches -- players have been able to work out at their team facilities. The first wave of that workout period included only strength and conditioning training indoors in the weight room with some in-stadium work. No coaches were permitted to be around. The next workout period allowed players to get some modified on-field instruction in a one-on-one style setting, but even then they weren't able to get the amount of coaching that potentially can go on during the OTA period. Some teams have already had informal OTAs, with rookies going through minicamps that started the week after the draft. The Bengals were one of two teams that opted against having a minicamp and will be practicing instead for the first time Tuesday with both their first-year players and veterans. They'll host the voluntary OTA workouts in three three-day increments between now and June 18. They also will have a mandatory minicamp for the full team June 10-12. Media will get a chance to view all of the mandatory minicamp, but is only invited to watch one OTA session per week. Tuesday is that one day this week.
2. What can be learned at OTAs? Not much, really. The rules stipulated by the CBA make it pretty clear that the amount of time players are on the field during the workouts has to be closely monitored and no contact is permitted during the practice sessions. Normally teams would be working on fundamentals this time of year anyway, but in the past, it wasn't uncommon for some low-intensity contact to occur. Now, you won't see it at all really, even in one-on-one, offense vs. defense drills. That's done with player safety in mind. Besides, the OTAs are still a time when players are just trying to get back to regular-season playing shape and trying to keep up with any playbook changes. It's particularly important for rookies who are learning a new system. From a depth chart standpoint, you probably won't hear too much the next few weeks. The real action will occur when the position battles get going in earnest during training camp that starts July 24. Still, this is a crucial time for players to get educated, healthy and conditioned. That said, OTAs are important, but they also aren't necessarily making or breaking a player's standing on the team, either.
3. Position battles to watch. Again, we'll see more later this summer, but there are a number of position groups to keep an eye on starting this week. Although there are some obscure reports to the contrary, nothing has changed or will change anytime soon at the quarterback position. Andy Dalton is the starter and will stay the starter unless he does something in the next three months to completely lose that opportunity. There's absolutely no reason at this point to believe he'll be in any real danger of losing his starting job. By extension, AJ McCarron is the No. 3 quarterback behind Jason Campbell. It still will be interesting to see how their snaps will get broken down. Center is another position to watch, with rookie Russell Bodine expected to challenge for the No. 1 job with versatile interior lineman Mike Pollak. A.J. Green and Marvin Jones appear to enter OTAs as the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, but behind them, there's a jumble; much like there is a jumble beyond Giovani Bernard, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Jeremy Hill at running back. The defensive end rotation could get some clarity these next few weeks as Will Clarke joins Wallace Gilberry, Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers and Margus Hunt. Cincinnati's other tweaks at defensive end, as well as at "Sam" and "Will" linebacker might get a little clarity, too, as they start putting in the skeleton of their blitz-heavy, multiple defensive system.
4. NFL Nation TV returns. The seventh episode of ESPN.com's NFL Nation TV will air Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. I'll be coming off the practice fields when we begin, so I should have some updates from the Bengals' first OTA practice. Also, Colts reporter Mike Wells and Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss will join co-host Paul Gutierrez (Raiders reporter) and myself. Indianapolis has had a busy offseason off the field, and Arizona has a cornerback who has to be applauding all the cornerback contracts that have come recently. Take a long lunch break and join us.