Seven observations from Bengals' OTA

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
6:30
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- For the second time in as many weeks Jermaine Gresham's absence headlined one of the Cincinnati Bengals' voluntary organized team activities.

As you'll read here, injuries and absences weren't the only events worth mentioning from Tuesday's practice.

Here is a rundown of seven observations from the open session:

[+] EnlargeDarqueze Dennard
Al Behrman/AP PhotoBengals' first-round pick Darqueze Dennard sees plenty of action on the field during Tuesday's OTAs.
1. Dennard gets work. Rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard, the Bengals' first-round pick, got his share of action with the first-team defense playing the slot cornerback position early in the practice. He also got his share of snaps at the right cornerback position, playing on the outside with second-teamers such as fellow cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. If you recall, Kirkpatrick told reporters last month that he hoped the Bengals would draft a cornerback in the first round because he felt that with Leon Hall, Adam Jones and Terence Newman getting up in age, it was time the cornerback group got younger. His hope is that he and Dennard can form a solid tandem for years to come. It's clear the learning still is taking place for Dennard. Coaches were in his ears often, talking to him after many of the first-team plays.

2. Hill and Bernard a tandem? Speaking of duos, the Bengals may already have one at running back with second-year player Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill. When the Bengals picked Hill in the second round, it seemed they were committing to making him not only part of their backfield of the long-term future, but also to using him in their immediate plans, as well. It's clear after the first two open OTAs that they are trying to see whether he'll be ready to be used regularly this fall. So far, Hill has gotten his share of hand-offs with the first-team unit alongside Bernard. The two have been in the backfield at the same time, in addition to trading roles as the lone back in single-back sets that get called. It's left veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis a little bit out of the starting picture. Green-Ellis has gotten his opportunities to work in Cincinnati's running back rotation, one that includes Rex Burkhead and Cedric Peerman, but it's clear Hill and Bernard are trending toward being the top tandem in the Bengals' backfield.

3. D-line rotations. Cincinnati's defensive line will get its share of tweaks and looks all throughout this OTA season as Geno Atkins continues rehabbing from an ACL tear. Those rotations include figuring out exactly where the large group of defensive ends will go, and determining which of them will have duties as defensive-tackle pass-rushers in nickel defenses. It appears Carlos Dunlap, the end who had been playing on the left side, might end up getting real action at right end this year. Second-year lineman Margus Hunt likely would take his spot on the left side. Wallace Gilberry could rotate with Hunt at left end, with rookie Will Clarke potentially doing the same with Dunlap on the right side. In nickel situations, Gilberry has fit on the interior of the line often in practices, just as he did at times last season. In truth, though, multiple ends could rotate into playing on the interior. Hunt and Clarke most specifically have backgrounds playing there.

4. Keep a close eye ... on the Bengals' offense this fall. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has alluded to them in the past, but don't be surprised if the Bengals incorporate a few trick plays next season. They certainly have the capability with all the playmakers they have, but the added luxury of having a player as versatile as Mohamed Sanu helps. The receiver is a former quarterback who still throws accurate, tight passes. He's also athletic enough to be a threat to run or pass if he gets the ball behind the line of scrimmage. It's quite possible Jackson uses him and others for a host of unique reasons as he starts injecting some life and big-play capability into the Bengals' scheme.

5. Slow movers. Jackson was none too pleased once during practice when he shouted to players about breaking the huddle too slowly. This is only worth mentioning because tempo and pacing are two things he and others have harped on all offseason as Cincinnati's offense gets tweaked. Jackson wants the Bengals to break their huddles quickly so they can get to the line, dissect the defense, make any changes, and get the ball snapped early in the play clock. In that sense, it's not a true no-huddle, but it will operate at a pace that requires the play to come in quickly from the sideline and relayed even faster. Jackson hopes to limit the amount of times he has to call out a slow-moving huddle.

6. Burden practices. The newest Bengal, Cincinnati-area product Chandler Burden, practiced Tuesday. He had just cleared a physical and was signed earlier in the morning. The offensive lineman can be used at either tackle or guard. His addition comes at the same time center/guard Mike Pollak has missed time during OTAs with an unspecified injury.

7. Green in midseason form? The NFL's official Twitter account tweeted a picture Tuesday afternoon of receiver A.J. Green leaping high and catching a pass (see below). The photo tagged Green's handle and said he was "already in midseason form." It may have been easy to see that from the picture, but it was pretty evident just by watching the way he was going for passes that Green was practicing at a high level. He looked like an elite receiver at times, running through routes and catching difficult passes he could have otherwise let sail on by in a voluntary workout. He jumped at least three times for passes, including through defenders at least once.
 

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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