Through four games, the Bengals offense has clearly taken a step back from what it was under offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and even Jay Gruden.
Those are two of the better offensive minds in the NFL, and it’s no surprise both are now head coaches elsewhere. Going from them to a first-time offensive coordinator in Ken Zampese was a move many Bengals fans, and even the national media, met with resentment initially.
But through the first quarter of the regular season, the offense has shown enough promise that head coach Marvin Lewis is happy with the direction in which it is heading. That’s partly because of Zampese’s attention to detail which has had the Bengals very comfortable with the gameplan each week.
A big reason why the offense has been succeeding is the continued high level of play by Andy Dalton. His numbers don’t tell the whole tale through the first four games, which have included several dropped touchdowns, one of which coming last week as Tyler Boyd dropped a perfect strike from Dalton in the end zone.
The good news is, after looking at every play, not just touchdowns, interceptions and passer rating, Pro Football Focus has Dalton as the seventh-ranked quarterback through the first four weeks.
Keeping Dalton at the near-elite level he reached last year is something Lewis is very pleased with Zampese for contributing to thus far.
“He’s (Dalton) become really comfortable really quickly,” Lewis said, via Bengals.com. “To handling the drive, the penalty, the setbacks, all those things that occur all the time. Our timing of things has been good. We had one timeout I had to take in one of the games after a big chunk play, where we had to get back to the huddle.
“We got into the huddle in 17 seconds, and that’s not good for us, because a lot of the things we do are at the line of scrimmage. We need to afford the quarterback the opportunity at the line of scrimmage as much as we can. That comes from Ken as he processes the next call, the personnel, and all that.”
It just so happens the Bengals rank 10th in total offense after four weeks, and it would be even better if they weren’t breaking in several news starters while playing without Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert.
Lewis is also happy with Zampese’s attention to detail that’s had the Bengals very comfortable with the game plan each week, despite many new players on offense.
“With (Brandon) LaFell and (Tyler) Boyd the new guys, and (Tyler) Kroft, (C.J.) Uzomah, and (Cedric) Ogbuehi, the guys who have played one year here, there’s a variety of newness,” Lewis said. “If you look across the offense, there’s six-seven guys at times that are brand new to the fold.
“We have to understand and know that and go in having a plan for it. Most importantly, and what Ken has done a really good job of, and what Jay (Gruden), Hue, and Bob (Bratkowski) all did, was previewing that for the players. Come Friday morning or Saturday night, they are comfortable with what’s going to happen and how it will unfold. I think we’ve been really good at that.”
The fact that the Bengals have moved the ball as well as they have over the first four games offers a lot of encouragement to how good the offense will be once Eifert is back and they’re converting more red-zone trips into touchdowns. That’s been the one glaring weakness of this team thus far, but overall, Zampese deserves credit for maintaining a top-10 offense amid early-season struggles and injuries.