CINCINNATI -- This time of year on the NFL calendar is all about building chemistry and providing repetitions for young players looking for opportunities to prove themselves.
That isn't meant to diminish the importance organized team activities (OTAs) may have for some veterans, but these three weeks are most critical for rookies and players with limited service time who are trying to establish themselves.
It's during OTAs that coaches are trying not to get their stars hurt, while seeing which of their youngest players can best replicate the fundamentals they are being taught. To that end, here are three Bengals offensive players who should benefit the most from these workouts:
QB AJ McCarron: Bengals coaches have been excited about McCarron ever since they drafted him a little more than 12 months ago. Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese has been the most encouraged with the signal-caller's potential. Earlier this month, Zampese called it "delayed gratification" finally seeing McCarron out on the field and participating with the other quarterbacks. McCarron spent all of last preseason shelved because of an old, lingering shoulder injury. He didn't participate in practices until the end of the season. So the reps he's getting right now are the most he's had since college. He would be well served to take full advantage to prove he can push Andy Dalton the way he wants to.
OT Jake Fisher: Like fellow rookies linebacker P.J. Dawson and tight end Tyler Kroft, Fisher stands to get his share of playing time this year. It probably won't be much, considering the Bengals bring back a complete offensive line this season and already appear to have a swing tackle in Eric Winston. Still, this is an important time for the second-round draft pick to prove he can be part of a rotation at offensive tackle, and even unseat Winston. Fisher could do all of that during OTAs and minicamp particularly because he will be getting more reps than the Bengals' other young tackle. First-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi is still recovering from a January ACL surgery, and might not join the team fully until after the regular season begins.
TE C.J. Uzomah: Considered a bit of a project at tight end, Uzomah had little guidance with respect to the position when he played in Auburn's spread scheme. His blocking guidance came from the team's running backs coach, and his pass-catching tutelage came from the receivers coach. With a tight ends coach for the first time in his career, Uzomah has a chance to truly learn how to play the position and show he can be a future well-rounded threat. Since this is the time of year for teaching fundamentals, he'd be best served to pay close attention to assistants Jay Hayes and Hue Jackson. After Tuesday's practice, Jackson praised Uzomah for one catch he had over the middle and the yards he picked up after it.