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Veteran departures have Bengals seeking leadership

5/31/2017 10:54:00 AM
CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals are in their second week of Organized Team Activities (OTA) and most of the work centered around communication, technique and timing. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this year's OTAs held outside Paul Brown Stadium is the absence of several familiar faces.

It has been several years since tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive lineman Domata Peko and linebacker Rey Maualuga haven't been among the men in stripes. The void in leadership left by their departures has been an oft-discussed topic. But, quarterback Andy Dalton believes there are plenty of veterans on this year's team who are willing and capable of taking on those roles.

"Some guys have to step up," Dalton said. "Some guys might have wanted to, but maybe thought it wasn't their place when those other guys were here. Now there's an opportunity for guys to step up and fill those leadership roles. With Whit, he was here for so long, everybody knew what he meant to this team and everything. Now those guys are not here, it's a chance for somebody else."

It's also the first time in six seasons that the Bengals aren't coming off a playoff appearance after going 6-9-1 during an injury-riddled campaign. The best news coming out of OTAs is the health of wide receiver A.J. Green who's been at full speed during most workouts. Tight end Tyler Eifert, running back Giovani Bernard, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who arrived last week with his fractured hand in a cast, have worked on the rehab field.

Even with minimal physical contact, Dalton said it's important for the rookies to see how the veterans get their work in during OTAs, how they conduct themselves off the field and in the locker room. With such a strong vocal presence like Whitworth gone, Dalton says leadership needs to be by example.

"First off, it's you doing all the right things and helping others get more out of themselves that they don't think they can get," Dalton said. "Making sure you have a standard set and making sure you're not letting anything get below that. You do that with your work ethic. You've got to prove yourself out there that you're going to do everything you can to help the team win."

Dalton is a good example of that after passing for more than 4,200 yards and 18 touchdowns with only eight interceptions despite being sacked 41 times. Dalton also has been working with the renowned 3DQB out of Los Angeles, the QB school run by Dr. Tom House who uses computer tools and analytics to help quarterbacks hone their skills.

Dalton is working on the speed of his release and accuracy. He'll have plenty of offensive weapons this year with a healthy Green, veteran Brandon LaFell, second-year stalwart Tyler Boyd, and highly-touted rookies John Ross and Josh Malone.

With training camp still several weeks away, it's up to the veterans to keep the young guys moving.

"You've got to find different ways to keep the competition level high with your teammates," said LaFell. "Keep it higher and higher every day."

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