Since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was negotiated last offseason, it was believed that teams would greatly benefit with a full offseason in 2012. While there's truth to that notion, there was also the caveat that most of the offseason workouts with the new CBA don't allow any physical contact until Training Camp. Predictably, this has ruffled some feathers of "old school" coaches and it makes true coaching difficult.
One of those coaches who isn't a fan of this new CBA rule is the Bengals' hard-nosed defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer. He prides himself on coaching up a physical defense and with these less intense offseason sessions now in place, he's finding it difficult to teach his players the techniques his way. John Clayton of ESPN talks about Zimmer's feelings on the subject in his recent blog.
defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said he's found the toughest part of getting his defense ready is not having the time to teach and perfect press-coverage techniques. Those coaching tactics are now reserved for minicamps and training camp, meaning cornerbacks will have roughly 18 practice days -- minicamps and the first two weeks of training camp -- to work on those skills before the first preseason game.
While 18 practices seems like ample time to teach a lot of these skills, it really isn't when you think about it. First, there's a lot of new faces to the cornerback group, making each session critical. While these players were each handpicked by Zimmer because of his comfortability with their skill set, some haven't been in Zimmer's system in years, while others haven't had full exposure to Zimmer's coaching tactics.
Secondly, the longest-tenured corner in the system, Leon Hall, is rehabbing from an Achilles injury and might not be available when the season starts. So, coaching up a lot of the newer players on these techniques becomes that much more critical. Zimmer values the cornerback position more than many others on the unit, as he entrusts them with single coverage in many packages and without ample coaching sessions or his most trusted player in the group to rely on, there could be major growing pains.
We've seen Zimmer work magic in Cincinnati before, so we shouldn't expect anything less again in 2012. But still, his point resonates and each practice will be critical. If there's a light at the end of the tunnel outside of Zimmer's ability to get the most out of his players, it's that there are players on the Bengals roster whose strengths are press-man coverage in Dre Kirkpatrick, Terence Newman and Nate Clements.