The Bengals' 2016 offense will be much different than the 2015 unit that was one of the best in football, but Andy Dalton is excited to see how the changes will work out in his team's favor.
Over the offseason, the Bengals offense lost offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu and right tackle Andre Smith. Jackson was replaced by Ken Zampese, Dalton's former quarterbacks coach. The void left by Zampese's promotion was filled by Bill Lazor, who most recently was the Dolphins' offensive coordinator to start the 2015 season. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu were replaced by former Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell and rookie wideout Tyler Boyd. 2015 first-rounder Cedric Ogbuehi figures to fill the void left by Smith on the offensive line.
Dalton is excited to work closely with Zampese, and he's eager to lead the offense Zampese will implement. He spoke on the team's offseason changes and expressed excitement for 2016 in his Tuesday press conference.
"Zamp's personality is a little different than Hue [Jackson]," Dalton said when asked on how the changes in coaching will impact his team. "The offense as a whole, and schematically, is going to take on what he likes. We have a lot of guys that have been here a while and understand this offense. He understands the players he has. There are some things similar, and some things we'll do different. For the most part, the new guys are starting to pick up on how we've done things for a while. It's been a good smooth transition. I'm happy for Zamp that he's in this position. As time goes on, we'll continue to get better and understand more, but we're in a good place now."
Dalton emphasized how fortunate he is to not have to learn an entirely new scheme or style, as he's been with Zampese throughout the duration of his career. He also noted that while injuries have put a damper on his and wide receiver A.J. Green's past two seasons, the two have "taken the next step" and are excited to continue to strive to be better.
One of the difficulties facing the Bengals offense will be compensating for the loss of Tyler Eifert. The tight end had offseason ankle surgery, which will force him to miss the majority, if not all, of the offseason and potentially some regular season time.
"Tyler is such a great player. He has a great feel for the game and an understanding of what we're trying to do," Dalton said. "For a guy to be as big as he is, to run the routes the way he does, go up and make plays, he's a special talent. It's been good for those other tight ends to get in there for camp and get the experience of being out there, taking a lot of reps, and seeing how different coverages play out. The experience of them coming in and having all those reps is really going to help us out through the year.
"The more you play, the better you're going to feel. But all we have is practice now," Dalton noted. "For Tyler and for me, it's understanding how he runs things, how I expect him to be in certain spots. All of that will carry over to game-time situations, and that's when you have to perform."
Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor was one of the Bengals' more underrated offseason moves. Under Lazor, former Eagles quarterback Nick Foles had the best season of his career, throwing 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in 2013. If it weren't for Peyton Manning's record-breaking year, Foles could've potentially been in the conversation as an MVP candidate.
"It is important," Dalton said of his relationship with his new quarterbacks coach. "We've had a great relationship since he got here, and it has continued to grow. We're really learning how he works and how he thinks of certain things. I'm always asking him for feedback on footwork, throws, certain things to make sure we're on the same page. As time goes on, we'll have a better relationship, but it's been a great start for us."
The Bengals' addition of Brandon LaFell came with mixed reviews from the team's fan base, but Dalton seems eager to work with the wideout. The duo already seem to have a bit of chemistry, which will be critical for the team during a potential Eifert absence.
"He's been solid," Dalton said of LaFell. "He's come in and picked up on things quick. I told him it feels like he's been here for a while. It's not repeating or teaching things with him. He's a guy that's been around for a while and understands the game. He's definitely going to help us out."
2016 will be an exciting season, as Dalton will aim to help the Bengals make a sixth straight playoff appearance and earn their first playoff victory in nearly three decades. Though to the Bengals, anything short of a Super Bowl victory will surely come as a disappointment. Hopefully 2016 will be the season things change for Cincinnati.