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Offseason work continues with start of Bengals minicamp

The Cincinnati Bengals return to the practice field today for the start of their three-day minicamp, which essentially is an extension of the three-week Organized Team Activity workouts they finished last week.

“There’s not really any difference from what we’ve been doing,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “Again we’re in practices without pads where no one can tackle. I like where our players are and my goal is to get through these things and move ahead mentally, health-wise and so forth. You’re setting guys up for competition as you’re trying to let everyone have a fair opportunity mentally so they can go out and compete for a position.”

The minicamp, which is not open to the public, will feature a pair of two-hour afternoon practices today and Wednesday and a 90-minute on Thursday morning.

“We’re just making sure everybody’s on the same page,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “The communication is key, especially with us having some different guys playing up front. I don’t think there’s anything new that we’re going to be trying to do in minicamp that we didn’t already do in OTAs.”

Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth offered a different perspective as an eight-year veteran.

“I think it’s been a great opportunity for some of the young players to show some of the promise they have, and coaches loves this opportunity to get back to being on the field,” he said. “The real truth is this means nothing.

“There are a ton of guys out there on the street that can mentally handle this game, as far as knowing what to do on an assignment,” he added. “It’s whether or not they can get it done. Until you put pads on and find guys that can do it in live contact, it doesn’t really matter.”

The minicamp will be the last organized team event until the start of training camp, which is tentatively scheduled for July 25.

Here are a few things we will be watching for at minicamp:

Andre’s arrival?

Offensive tackle Andre Smith missed all three weeks of the voluntary OTA session for what head coach Marvin Lewis called “personal reasons.” Lewis said he expects Smith to be at the mandatory minicamp.

Safety situation

The Bengals return nearly every starter from last year’s team, and newcomer James Harrison is expected to fill the linebacker spot vacated by Manny Lawson’s departure to Buffalo. That leaves just strong safety as the only real question mark heading into training camp next month.

It will be interesting to see who gets the most reps with the first unit. Rookie third-round pick Shawn Williams will be battling veterans Taylor Mays, Jermoy Miles and Robert Sands along with second-year players George Iloka and Tony Dye.

Skill sets

While most of the starting jobs seem certain, the battles for the final roster spot at the skill positions are wide open. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard are expected to be the top two running backs, leaving Cedric Peerman, Bernard Scott, Dan Herron and rookie Rex Burkhead to fight for what is expected to be just two remaining spots on the 53-man roster.

At receiver A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Andrew Hawkins are set, leaving what is likely to be only two spots for Brandon Tate, Ryan Whalen, Dane Sanzenbacher and rookie Cobi Hamilton. Tate has not done much as a receiver, but his ability to return kicks and punts make him a good bet to make the roster.

Trotwood-Madison and University of Michigan graduate Roy Roundtree is in the mix as well, but as an undrafted free agent his best chance to make the team is likely on the practice squad.

And while the backup quarterback derby between John Skelton and Josh Johnson won’t be decided by Thursday, we should have a good idea who the front-runner is heading into training camp.

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