Well, the one day this week media were permitted to see the Cincinnati Bengals' voluntary organized team activity (OTA) has come and gone. We have six more days before we can see them at work again.
That doesn't mean they're done for a week, by the way. Unfortunately, the media doesn't have the kind of dictatorial power that affect schedules and practice times. In fact, dictatorial or not, the media has no power over schedules, practice times and even roster and game strategy. Bummer.
All of that is to say that the Bengals will practice two more days this week, even without our presence. They go back to work Wednesday and Thursday before breaking for the weekend and resuming OTA practices next Tuesday.
Let's take a deeper look at a few items we gleaned from Tuesday's OTA-opening workout:
1. Eight observations. If I had the space and time I probably could have made 88 observations from Tuesday's open OTA, but as you hopefully saw I only made eight from the first full-team practice of the spring. Again, let me stress just as I did in the link here that it's really hard to glean much from the first workout of a voluntary spring session, but those are a few items that I figured were worth mentioning. We'll see if they have any impact on what the team ends up doing in training camp and during the preseason when we actually can make some determination about Cincinnati's scheme and depth-chart moves. One thing to keep in mind with all observations this time of year is the fact that in some cases, teams like the Bengals might simply be experimenting with situations that reporters aren't privy to. So when Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth lines up at left guard, it may only to give him a little work there on the off chance they end up having to play him at the position again this year. It doesn't necessarily mean he's switched positions and is officially playing left guard from here on out. This is the time of year for experimentation.
2. Experimenting with tempo. One of the most noticeable changes during Tuesday's practice was the high tempo with which plays were called and the Bengals' offense jumped out of its huddle and to the line of scrimmage. Newly promoted offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and players have spoken recently about how they hope to increase the offense's tempo in an effort to get more plays off on a given drive. It also gives the offense time to get to the line, break down the defense and make any necessary line changes. There were several times when players went in motion in offense-defense drills, causing the defense to work on its side-of-line coverage switches and pass-rush priorities. You could see the defense having to adjust to what the offense was doing. The Bengals hope to make that the case offensively all season. Technically the Bengals aren't experimenting with tempo. They're pretty well sold on moving forward with the high-intensity pacing that it's worth noting isn't quite done at true hurry-up speed. Quarterback Andy Dalton seems to like the offensive tweak. "It's going to be to our advantage," he said. "You get to the line quicker, it gives you a chance to do more stuff at the line and gives you a better chance to read what the defense is doing."
3. Expect a lot of nickel -- everywhere. We've talked about it before, but with the arrival of so many offensive players who come from spread college systems, the NFL is undergoing a particular offensive identity crisis. As some teams, like the Bengals, begin making a conscientious move to a multiple-back setup, they are also quite open to employing multiple-receiver sets for the majority of their games. In some cases, they'll use two-tight end sets with one of the tight ends getting flanked off the line and used in the slot as a bigger bodied extra receiver. It's caused defenses to adjust, forcing defensive coordinators to work on developing their sub-nickel packages. While the 4-3 would be considered Cincinnati's base defense, the nickel may be what the Bengals are in the most. A lot of the Bengals' 11-on-11 defensive work Tuesday revolved around nickel formations. Defensive ends like Will Clarke and Wallace Gilberry shifted into the line's interior on occasion to boost the pass-rush presence. Extra defensive backs kept shuffling in and out. Outside linebacker Emmanuel Lamur spent a good chunk of time occupying a nickel linebacker position while Rey Maualuga played the middle linebacker spot and Vontaze Burfict resumed his duties as the "Will" outside linebacker.
4. Huber's steady return. Each of the Bengals' seriously injured stars from last season were in attendance Tuesday and participated in stretching and other warm-up activities. Leon Hall, Geno Atkins and Clint Boling were going through the low-impact portion of the practice and weren't dressed. Kevin Huber, on the other hand, was in uniform and he was doing what he knows best: punting. You'll recall, he received a broken jaw and a cracked vertebrae on the same violent blindside hit in the Dec. 15 game at Pittsburgh. He's still taking things slowly, but Huber expects to be fully rehabbed by the start of training camp.