Bengals ready for minicamp to begin

The Bengals hold their mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday this week at Paul Brown Stadium. It’s the last time they’ll be together as a group until training camp begins late next month.

Can’t you feel the excitement?

It’s been a rather mundane offseason for the Bengals — at least until the announcement Monday that cornerback Adam Jones had again been arrested — that involved them focusing on re-signing many of their own free agents. Former Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison is the one exception to that focus.

For the last four weeks the Bengals have held their organized team activities, installing both their defensive and offensive play books. The only difference between those sessions and what will go on these next three days is that everyone on the roster has to be there unless excused by head coach Marvin Lewis.  

“There’s not really any difference from what we’ve been doing,” Lewis said. “This is a culmination of things, different goals as coaches that we need to have. I’ll impress upon the coordinators and the coaching staff but you won’t see any difference.” 

Regardless, there are a few storylines to keep an eye on…

*Pacman… There was no story here until Monday’s arrest. Jones was rewarded for his hard work with a new contract worth more than $5 million over three years. He has become an integral part of the defensive scheme with his ability to play man coverage on the outside. The Bengals expect him to be in attendance for the minicamp. He lives in town and participated fully in the offseason conditioning program and OTAs.

There is a legitimate question down the road whether Jones’ conduct in this incident, regardless of how the legal process goes, will warrant any action from the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell.

*Andre Smith… The right tackle signed a new deal as a free agent, but that was the only sighting of him in Cincinnati during the offseason. He’s been working out on his own, so no one really knows what kind of shape is he in.
*Dre Kirkpatrick… Last year’s No. 17 overall draft choice played in just five games last season due to injuries. He said earlier this year he was hoping to get on the field for some drills during minicamp but is expected to be ready in time for training camp. 

*Safety… There is an open competition for the second starting spot alongside veteran Reggie Nelson in the deep secondary. Rookie third-round pick Shawn Williams and fourth-year player Taylor Mays are the early favorites to earn the spot, but this is just the beginning of finding out who, if anyone, is going to step into that role. 

*James Harrison… Just how will the Bengals use Harrison? It’s an ever-evolving process for defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, but he feels more than comfortable that whatever role Harrison ends up in will be a productive one. Harrison has been a good fit in the locker room, providing a been-there-done-that presence not many others can give off. 

*Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard… The top draft picks this year are expected to get heavy use in the offense of coordinator Jay Gruden. Eifert, a tight end from Notre Dame, and Bernard, a running back from North Carolina, both bring versatility to their positions and can be placed in different spots on the field to maximize potential mismatches.
*Injuries… A few, like left tackle Andrew Whitworth, are still rehabbing from offseason procedures but there have not been any new health concerns from the OTAs. The hope is it stays that way.