It sounds like the Bengals are going to have a majority of players Tuesday when they gather for their first voluntary practice in two years on the Paul Brown Stadium grass fields.
Here are five things we'll be watching:
LET'S BE FRANK
It's the first time new/old offensive line coach Frank Pollack is on the field with his veterans and the old 49ers guard likes to be hands-on in the middle of it all. Remember, only two of the linemen (Trey Hopkins, Billy Price) were here when he was last here in 2018. Hopkins (knee) is rehabbing, so he'll be setting that aggressive, up-tempo style right away. They'll also be faced with more field equipment than a small farm because Pollack uses it to emphasize the fundamentals.
ED BLOCK'S STARTING LINEUP
Each NFL team annually gives the Ed Block Courage Award to a player who has typically come back from injury. When you look at potential candidates for the next one for the Bengals, you're looking at a starting unit and Tuesday is the first glimpse of all that talent together on the field after last year's devastating spate of injuries.
Now, some guys, like Joe Burrow (knee), are in various forms of rehab and while their spring agenda is unknown, they're on the path to return Opening Day. But just to see them out there is a reminder how last year's injured reserve list has almost turned into supplemental free agency with the return of running back Joe Mixon, nose tackle D.J. Reader, cornerback Trae Waynes, left tackle Jonah Williams, tight end C.J. Uzomah, Hopkins, middle linebacker Logan Wilson and nose tackle Renell Wren.
TABLE FOR WHAT 5?
All Bengaldom is wondering what starting line Pollack is going to roll out there. Four spots would seem to be certain with Billy Price at center having a new look right side as second-rounder Jackson Carman begins his transition from tackle to guard and free-agent pickup Riley Reiff lines up at right. Who lines up next to left tackle Jonah Williams? The line at left guard starts here.
Is it veteran Xavier Su'a-Fuilo, who started there in the final four games last season? Or another veteran, Quinton Spain, who started the last five games at right guard? Or last year's starter there on Opening Day, third-year Michael Jordan, before Su'a-Filo got the nod? Or last year's promising sixth-round pick, Hakeem Adeniji, who showed an ability to play four spots?
But maybe the bigger question is, will Pollack pull any surprises? He's got a bunch of guys (Adeniji, Reiff, Carman, maybe Jonah Williams) that can play guard and tackle.
A WHO'S WHO UP FRONT IS ON FIRE
The defensive line is going to need those "Hello My Name Is," stickers that only come off in the dryer. It's going to be interesting to watch the tempo of this group.
Everybody said they needed help here and they didn't miss the point. They signed up two free-agents to start, making right end Trey Hendrickson the richest free agent in Bengals history in the hopes he'll bring his 13.5 sacks from New Orleans. They got sick of blocking Larry Ogunjobi in Cleveland, so it's going to be nice to see him in a Bengals uniform Tuesday.
And they drafted four down linemen, and, certainly 6-2, 350-pound rookie tackle Tyler Shelvin is going to be hard to miss. It's also going to be quite interesting to watch how hard the drafted edge guys practice. Third-rounder Joseph Ossai, fourth-rounder Cam Sample and seventh-rounder Wyatt Hubert all came advertised as guys that play "with their hair on fire," going all out all the time. Ogunjobi and Hendrickson have that same kind of rep, so that's a position group undergoing all ports of culture change with a new position coach in Marion Hobby.
Plus, it's the first time since 2009 the D-line breaks a spring huddle without Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins.
BUILDING ON THE CORNER
The arrival of Waynes has been 14 months in the making. After signing a three-year, $42 million deal in March of 2020, he missed all last season with a shoulder injury. He's got be relieved and thrilled once he gets out there. Certainly Bengaldom is. Since he signed, two more starting free agents have joined him on the corner, slot Mike Hilton from the Steelers and Chidobe Awuzie from the Cowboys.
That makes it a clean sweep for new starting cornerbacks. It's also going to be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo uses Hilton, one of the NFL's most prolific slot blitzers since he's been in the league.