COMMENTARY | There is a variety of Cincinnati Bengals news coming from OTAs that is worth taking a closer look at. With names like James Harrison on the roster and high-profile rookies such as Tyler Eifert making an impact, it would be foolish to simply gloss over the news coming out of Cincinnati.
It's true the team is only practicing in a non-contact capacity, but some of the news coming out of the activities could have an impact on the upcoming season.
Some of these headlines are routine affairs such as rookie Tanner Hawkinson seeing some important first-team snaps. Things like where James Harrison is playing are a bit more compelling and deserve an in-depth explanation.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the most important Bengals news and buzz from OTAs.
Orson Charles the Fullback?
Second-year tight end Orson Charles was set to have an increased role in offense this upcoming season, that is, until the Bengals drafted Tyler Eifert in the first round.
Despite the addition of Eifert, it seems like Charles' will still have an increased role.
Said increased role may not be what you're expecting. According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Charles has been seeing some snaps at the fullback position rather than his natural one at tight end. Confusing, right?
What It Means: Cleary the Cincinnati coaching staff believes Charles has a lot of potential to be a weapon in the confines of the offense. This willingness to try him at the fullback position speaks to his talents and the faith the staff has in him.
Charles will not see a lot of snaps at tight end as long as both Eifert and Jermaine Gresham are healthy and on the roster. Placing Charles in the fullback slot not only gives quarterback Andy Dalton another large, reliable target, but it gives opposing defenses more to worry about each time he takes the field.
It's a good thing the Bengals are experimenting with this transition now. Having Charles in a hybrid role could maximize his abilities and make the offense even more dangerous.
Tanner Hawkinson in the Spotlight
Most were unhappy when Tanner Hawkinson was the selection for the Bengals. After all, he was not a big name many had heard of entering the draft out of Kansas.
Hawkinson's name continues to get thrown around in OTAs.
According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Hawkinson has been seeing some first-team reps at both offensive tackle positions thanks to the absences of both Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith.
What It Means: At first glance this isn't all that big of a deal. A rookie seeing important reps in OTAs is not out of the ordinary with veterans missing for one reason or another.
The thing that's impressive here is twofold. For one, Hawkinson continues to show amazing versatility by playing both tackle spots. Not only that, he's doing it against one of the NFL's best defensive lines.
Secondly, these are ridiculously important reps for Hawkinson as he attempts to make the adjustment to the pro game. Hawkinson was by no means in the driver's seat for a roster spot before OTAs, but the experience he is gaining now could allow him to shine in the preseason and beyond.
Andre Smith Missing From OTAs
Speaking of Andre Smith, his strange absence is part of the reason Hawkinson and others are seeing important reps so far in OTAs.
According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Smith has told the team he is missing OTAs so far for personal reasons. At this point in time no other details have been revealed, and it is unknown if the team knows the specific reasons either.
What It Means: This is not a huge ordeal in the grand scheme of things. Smith has had conditioning issues in the past, but it sounds like the personal issues are real. Smith is missing out on workout-bonus cash and it's unlikely he would just let that money go down the drain for no reason.
What this does mean is others are seeing more playing time against better competition and have a chance to improve. Smith does not necessarily need the OTA reps as he can quickly get back up to speed when training camp rolls around.
For now this continues to be a small story.
James Harrison as MLB?
James Harrison was brought to Cincinnati in order to replace the departed Manny Lawson at the strong-side linebacker position.
Many wondered how Harrison would make the transition from a 3-4 to Cincinnati's 4-3, but few predicted he could be taking snaps from the heart of the defense.
According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Harrison has been doing just that as a pass-rushing piece up the middle. It was no secret Harrison would be used as a pass-rusher, but from which positions remained a question until now.
What It Means: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is known for getting creative with the pieces at his disposal so this shouldn't be all that shocking.
Harrison is a versatile piece who can hurt offenses from multiple areas. In a 4-3, having him rush from the middle in passing situations is a solid idea because he can replace linebackers that struggle in coverage such as Rey Maualuga.
The Bengals are already going to cause a wealth of problems for offenses with interior pressure thanks to defensive tackle Geno Atkins, so having Harrison hit the same gap will give offensive lines fits.
It's a small detail that could develop into a focal point of strategy for the Bengals next season.
Chris Roling is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. His work has appeared on Bleacher Report, Fansided, The Cincinnati Enquirer and more. He is the co-host of a Cincinnati Bengals podcast, @BengalsCentral
You can follow Chris on Twitter @Chris_Roling
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