6 things to watch as Bengals begin full-team offseason practice sessions


The Cincinnati Bengals move into Phase III of offseason team activities next week, which means three full team practices per week for the next three weeks.

The practices, which will be held on the fields adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium while the new turf is being installed inside, are closed to the public, but the Tuesday sessions are open to the media.

Here are six things we’ll be watching for and reporting on as the offseason program continues:

New schemes

There has been a lot of talk about what Teryl Austin’s scheme will look like in his first years as Bengals defensive coordinator, but this will be the first chance to see it.

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Austin’s scheme in Detroit produced 32 turnovers last year, which was the third most in the league, while the Bengals had just 14, second fewest.

And offensively, the players have been everything about Bill Lazor’s scheme is different after he was limited in the amount of changes he could make last year when he replaced the fired Ken Zampese after Week 2.

Ross’ return

After a lost rookie season, John Ross gets a fresh start with his first time competing in OTAs.

Last year’s first-round pick was both injured and ineligible (due to Pac-12 rules) for OTAs, and he missed the first two weeks of training camp and never really had the reins loosened after he returned. Then his regular season was limited to 17 snaps and one touch.

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So this will be the first time we get to see what the fastest 40-yard dash in NFL Combine history looks like when unleashed.

A.J. vs. WJ

While the next three weeks will mark a ramping up of team activity, it’s still football in shorts with no pads and no contact.

That makes it hard to get a grasp on what’s going on in the trenches and in the run game, but the battles in pass coverage have more of a real feel. And one that should be entertaining to watch is how Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green fares against William Jackson after the cornerback’s breakout season in 2017.

Looking for Lawson

The Bengals continue to float the idea of using Carl Lawson at linebacker, even the experiment was short-lived and unsuccessful last season.

It will be interesting to track how his time is split between defensive end and linebacker, as well as how the the rest of the defensive line rotation takes shape.

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Backup battle

There is no reason to believe any of three other quarterbacks on the roster can push Andy Dalton for the starting job, but there still will be plenty of intrigue at the position.

Matt Barkley, Jeff Driskel and rookie seventh-round pick Logan Woodside likely are competing for a single roster spot. The Bengals kept three quarterbacks in 2016 and appeared to be set to do so again last year before Driskel went on Injured Reserve with a broken hand in the preseason.

There is a long way to go until cutdown day in September, but the battle begins this week.

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Rookie performances

It’s one thing to stand out during rookie camp going against a bunch of guys who probably will never wear an NFL helmet again. But the real test comes when the rookies get on the field with the veterans.

First-round pick Billy Price will have to wait to be fully immersed due to the pectoral injury he suffered at the Combine, but there should be plenty of reps for other early picks such as safety Jessie Bates, defensive end Sam Hubbard and linebacker Malik Jefferson.

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