The Bengals kicked off training camp on Friday and what will follow are two weeks of public practices followed by three weeks of closed practices while preparing for the preseason games, and ultimately the 2016 season. The Bengals coaches will have the tough job of judging the 87 guys currently on the roster before they need to make cutdowns to 75 and then 53 men. Meanwhile, up to three players can be added to the roster (while maintaining the current group of players) before August 30th, which is the cut down date to 75 players.
On Friday, Marvin Lewis met with the media to discuss the upcoming season and training camp. One thing he mentioned was that training camp is less worrisome for him than it used to be.
“A lot of the things that maybe I used to worry about, they no longer exist. I think that’s a good thing,” Lewis said. “I think we go about our business pretty effortlessly in a lot of ways, without trauma or drama. And that’s a relief for everyone. We’re able to focus on football and what this should be and what it should be all about.”
This year, the team has more coaching turnover than it’s had, potentially during the entire Marvin Lewis era. And while it will take time to adjust to the new coaches and new schemes that will be added into the mix, Lewis sees the positive in the rare turnover, too.
“I think it’s an aid in the offense, defense and the things you’re doing to bring some support, some ideas to the coordinators,” Lewis said about the new coaches, which include quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor, defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, linebackers coach Jim Haslett, defensive line coach Jacob Burney
“I really think the guys have done a good job, particularly the position coaches of the group, that are the lead coaches, of grabbing hold of their groups right away. It’s going to be different and raising the level that way is important.”
The Bengals, as they always do, have also established a motto for this season, it’s “Pound the Rock.”
“Once the last season ended and I began thinking about 2016, it was just that we had to stay the course, keep pounding. We had to continue to be physical, we had to continue to be relentless,” Lewis said. “I showed them clips of different movies where they use that analogy. It really hit home for me -- offensively, defensively, special teams, in everything we do. Coaching, the implementation of the plan, formulating of the plan in every way.”
One movie Lewis showed the team was the 1985 Clint Eastwood Western film, Pale Rider.
“That’s the thing I felt it fit,” Lewis said of the Pound the Rock phrase. “I confer a lot with Chip Morton and Jeff Friday (the team’s strength and conditioning coaches) on those kind of things, because when you are down there in the weight room, you are kind of the pulse of the football team, because guys spend their down time there even when they are not in their working time. Those guys come up with a lot of things. I was pressing that one on them that way.”
One other thing Lewis pointed out, and this isn’t new, is that players are judged by their performance in the preseason. Training camp isn’t meaningless, but, it’s during the four preseason games when the coaching staff really digs deep into dissecting the play on-the-field and using that as a basis for roster cuts.
“I have tried to impress on the young guys right away, they are going to make the football team on how they play in these four preseason games. We are going to teach them when to do it, how to do it, why to do it out here on the practice field with our own guys,” Lewis said.
“But our focus out here with our own guys is to get better and stay healthy. One-two. We go play the preseason games, now you need to win against the opponent, against the guys with the different color helmets on. That’s when you show the coaches how you can apply what we taught you and how you can play live football against those opponents. That’s what’s important when we play these four preseason games.”
Those preseason games will certainly be important, but to even get an opportunity in those games, you need to impress in training camp. For example, Jake Kumerow had six total receptions during the preseason last year for 65 total yards. He had very minimal preseason playing time and didn't have a real chance to impress with that minimal time, mostly receiving passes from second and third string quarterbacks. Hopefully, Kumerow will receive a better opportunity to impress in camp this year and prove why he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster.
And, since many people are wondering how much of the success the Bengals offensive experienced last year was on Hue Jackson and how much was on the players, Lewis offered this wise and witty statement.
“It’s the quarterback and the players all the time. Good players make smart coaches. Players win and coaches lose,” Lewis said laughing, “don’t ever forget that.”