On Wednesday evening, the fellas over at Triple Threat Talk, which airs on AM 1450 The Sports Buzz in Louisville, Kentucky, were kind enough to host me to talk some Bengals. Tyler Eifert, the running game and a myriad of other topics were touched on during the interview. Have a listen at the embedded audio and/or look at the transcribed interview below.
My portion starts at about the 9:30 mark and goes to about the 27:10 mark. Cincy Jungle and myself extend our gratitude to Triple Threat Talk for allowing us the opportunity to join their program. Enjoy!
TTT: We wanted to bring you on and ask you about it all, one of the big things that's a question on everybody's mind is the rushing, mainly on the backs of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. In your opinion, they ranked sixth last year on the ground, overall in the NFL, what can they be doing to continue that crucial success on the ground that they've got to have?
AC: Well, it really started to surge late in the season when they really fed the ball to Jeremy Hill. I think part of that was because of the given high yards per carry average on the season that they saw early in the year, even on limited touches, but Giovani Bernard went down for about three or four weeks last year and that's where Hill got the bulk of the carries and that's where you kind of saw the spike in the rushing offense and why it ended at, as you mentioned, No. 6 last season. I think they're expecting it to be as good, if not better this season, Jeremy Hill is going to kind of be the starter, they're still going to give Giovani Bernard a lot of touches--I think you're going to see a lot of receiver looks out of Bernard too.
I think he'll work the slot a little bit as a receiver and get both he and Hill on the field as much as possible, but Hill's the main guy. He'll get the majority of the carries, but you're still going to see a lot of Bernard and I think that's the way to go. Before I came on, you guys were talking about Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and you're talking about the running game now and you're kind of looking at the "1A, 1B" and two guys that work well together. They've got different strengths in their styles and I think that they're going to try and exploit those strengths throughout the year. And, the best way to go, especially in that division with so many good defenses, I think you've got to go with the bigger bruiser type in Hill, who also has big-play ability, but then when the defense is a little tired, zap them with the quicker, shiftier guy in Bernard.
TTT: So, talk about Jermaine Gresham who departed from the team-he's now in Arizona as a Cardinal, your No. 1 tight end threat now being Tyler Eifert, Gresham was the No. 3 leading receiver on the team last year, behind, of course, A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu. Talk about the role that Eifert is going to have to fill and how have you seen his progression since last season?
AC: Well, unfortunately last season, he got hurt in the first game and missed basically the entire year. He played I think a quarter and a half against the Ravens in the opener, and dislocated his elbow on a freak deal as he came to the ground after a catch. It just didn't heal right throughout the entire year, but he regained all the weight he lost by not being able to workout by all accounts and he's looked exceptional in Training Camps. Old Bengals friend, T.J. Houshmandzadeh did a coaching internship with them and you might have seen some videos on NFL.com, where Houshmandzadeh is just praising Eifert non-stop on some of the things he's seeing from him in practice.
Eifert's got a big year in front of him, in terms of expectations, but also in terms of where his career path is going. If Eifert can prove to be that big-time receiving threat, I think a lot of people in that offense, from Hue Jackson to Andy Dalton on down would be very excited about that and it's just another added weapon with a lof of others they already have. But, he really is kind of unproven. He took a back seat to Gresham as a rookie in 2013 and obviously didn't really play last year. So, this is the first year that he's going to truly take the starting role and hopefully he'll do well with it. And Gresham, as you asked about earlier, there was kind of love/hate relationship with he and Bengals fans. He had a knack for making big plays, but also had a knack for making critical mistakes. It's going to be interesting. They're going to be relying on a guy they have high expectations for, being a first round pick, but he is kind of unproven to this point.
TTT: To kind of follow up with that, do you think, you said that he was injured in the first game in kind of a freak incident, are the Bengals hoping to see the Thyler Eifert that produced so well when he was at Notre Dame?
AC: Well, that's the hope, yeah. You've got to figure though, I know Hue Jackson likes to use tight ends traditionally in his systems, but they have a Pro Bowl wide receiver in A.J. Green already, they're getting Marvin Jones back as their No. 2 wide receiver, they've got Mohamed Sanu that can do a little bit of work on the outside as well as in the slot, and they've got a coupel of backs who can catch out of the backfield. So, Eifert's going to have to share some touches as well. I don't think he's going to be the absolute No. 1 target in the offense, given all of those guys that they have, but he's going to get a lot of looks. You started to see that in the first game last year where Hue Jackson was taking over the offense in his first year (as coordinator), there were a lot of initial passing looks and routes that were designed to go to Eifert. I think he had three or four catches in just a quarter-plus of work, so he got a lot of looks and chances. I think he's going to be a focal point this year. Where I think he's going to benefit the most is with that hopefully-improved and strong running game, they are going to be able to use play-action and that's where I think Eifert and tight ends in general in this offense, will be effective.
TTT: Obviously, offensive line was one of the focal points of this draft, taking two tackles in the first two rounds, how much will we see these two on the field, I don't want to screw up the name of the first round pick, so I'll let you say that, but how much do we see these two on the field. If so, percentage odds that this will be the last season that we'll see both Andrew Whitworht and Andre Smith, at least combined, in a Bengals uniform?
AC: It's a great question. I don't think, and I might be butchering his name too, but I've been hearing that his last name is pronounced "Oh-Bway-Hee"--Cedirc Ogbuehi was the first round pick out of Texas A & M, and jake Fisher was their second round pick out of Oregon. The team really liked both of those guys a lot and contemplated either one of them in the first round and then probably were looking somewhere else in the second round. But, they had Jake Fisher so high up on their board, they couldn't afford to pass up who they thought was the best player available at that point. And, they do have both Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith entering the final years of their respective contracts, so I think they have a little bit of a security blanket there.
To your question of how much will we see of them in 2015--I don't think you'll see a lot of Ogbuehi. He's already been placed on the preseason PUP List. A lot of the things I'm hearing is that he's probably going to extend that into the regular season and miss the first six weeks of the season because he tore a knee ligament in the last game of his college career. So I don't think you'll see much of him. I think you'll see Fisher out there, I don't want to say "quite a bit", but he'll be out there in a lot of jumbo packages, goal line packages where they're really trying to play smash-mouth football. They employed some of that late in the year too, where they have the extra lineman out there, Eric Winston, the longtime veteran came in there and did a pretty good job as their sixth lineman at times last year and filled in for Andre Smith after he got hurt. I think you'll see Fisher in a role like that, there is also the ability to play guard. So, if one of the starting guards goes down with an injury, heaven forbid, that might be a place where you see Fisher come in early on.