CINCINNATI -- The voluntary organized team activity (OTA) portion of the Cincinnati Bengals offseason has arrived.
For the next three weeks, players and coaches are allowed to go through a series of practices featuring non-contact 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. This is when they will begin installing plays, shoring up fundamentals and teaching rookies how to navigate NFL practice pace. This also marks the beginning of offseason position battles.
Here are four things to watch as the Bengals open OTAs on Tuesday:
Better QB arm strength? Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron and Terrelle Pryor all spent time this offseason working with respected throwing coach Tom House. Dalton and McCarron in particular were looking for mechanical enhancements that would elevate the zip and distance on their throws. Dalton said this offseason that much of his time with House was spent shoring up techniques he worked with him on last offseason. The quarterback's goal is to keep the conversations with House going throughout the year. He felt a part of his fading production late last season stemmed from forgetting some of House's techniques that made him so impressive in September.
McCarron noted how his tweaks from House have him throwing with no pain for the first time in ages, and how he's throwing deeper than ever before. At this point, all of this is talk from both quarterbacks and it sounds hyperbolic. When they throw during OTAs, they have a chance to prove it isn't.
Passing game gets life: The Bengals' passing game was so depleted in January that during what proved to be their last practice of last season, running back Rex Burkhead was lining up in the slot catching passes with the receivers.
This spring, the receiving corps is significantly healthier; so much so that Burkhead can stay at running back, even if he does ultimately catch his share of passes during OTAs. In an unrelated matter, Cincinnati wants to get him more involved offensively. Over the next three weeks, it will be worth monitoring how the receivers' reps shake out now that Marvin Jones is back in the rotation. Will he get more action in the slot? Will he be the No. 2, as was anticipated before injuries sidelined him all last season? Tight end Tyler Eifert also will be back, although he likely will be quite limited during these OTAs and minicamp next month as he completes his rehab from shoulder and elbow injuries.
Rookie watch: OTAs are important for keeping veterans in shape and in a competitive mindset. But they also are important for rookies. Each of Cincinnati's first-year players is expected to practice except first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi, who continues to recover from ACL surgery. For reporters who are allowed access for one practice a week over the next three weeks, these will be the first looks at how the rookies fit into the team's system and position-specific rotations. Second-round offensive tackle Jake Fisher, third-round outside linebacker P.J. Dawson and seventh-round receiver Mario Alford are among the more intriguing OTA fits to monitor.
More on rotations: Speaking of rotations, they can be the backbone to OTAs. This is the time when coaches can experiment, for example, with trying out defensive ends at tackle for nickel pass-rush purposes, or having offensive tackles take reps at guard. Players on the return teams also get shuffled around as coaches start seeing how particular players can contribute there. One defensive rotation to watch will be at cornerback, where Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick and Josh Shaw are competing for three primary roles.