The Bengals offense will hopefully look a lot different in 2018 than it did in 2017 after the struggles the unit endured all season long. Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator in Week 3 last season and used the same playbook as former offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. In fact, Zampese had been using the same playbook from when Jay Gruden was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator from 2011-2013, for the most part. So, there will be big changes coming as Lazor implements a playbook of his own this offseason.
However, some of the plays that the team ran on offense, especially in the latter half of the season will likely carry over into next season. With that in mind, we took a look at some plays from the end of last season to get an idea of some of Lazor’s favorite plays and how the Bengals ran them in 2017.
Hopefully, with better execution and coaching the offense will be able to flow a lot better this year in Cincinnati. It will also be beneficial for Lazor to have an entire offseason to implement his offense and break away from some of the concepts that Zampese, Hue Jackson and Gruden used.
1. X receiver curl
This play is very simple and typically ends up with a positive gain. It is commonly used in longer situations such as first-and-10 and not shorter yardages where the curl would happen after the first down marker. If the cornerback is giving the receiver too much cushion then the receiver will run about five yards and turn to the quarterback. This play typically has a minimum gain of five yards with the potential for more if the receiver can make a player or two miss. If the receiver running the curl is well covered then other receivers run different routes to give the quarterback other options, in this example crossing drag routes. (Be sure to watch the above video for an example of the play!)
2. Weak-side HB zone
This play typically comes out of a formation with three wide receivers, one tight end and one running back. Although, the tight end comes into the backfield and acts more like a fullback for the play. The quarterback hands the ball off to the running back on the opposite side of the tight end and the tight end sprints out in front of the running back to help clear a path. The receivers will typically engage with the cornerbacks down the field and if everyone is able to hold their blocks long enough and the running back is able to make people miss, then this play has the potential for a large gain.
3. Inside zone
Anyone who has played Madden will instantly recognize the name of this play and that is largely because it is the standard for runs from the shotgun formation. With Lazor at the helm and a recently drafted running back who ran almost exclusively from the spread in college (Joe Mixon) it wouldn’t be surprising to see more runs from the shotgun in 2018 than in past years. This type of play is rather simple and different variations are run with different personnel and from different alignments. A standard one I saw on tape that the Bengals would run several times in games was one with two wide receivers and a tight end to one side, with the running back motioning over to the weaker side of the formation.
4. Double outs
This is a play that you will see the Bengals often run on third and short situations or near the end zone. The goal on this play is to get several wide receivers in one-on-one situations where they have the advantage, or to exploit holes in the opponents’ zone coverage. The outside receivers on this type of play typically run deeper routes such as deep corners or go routes and that leaves the two players working out of the slot in an advantageous situation one-on-one. At that point, it is as simple as one of them beating the player covering them and Andy Dalton seeing and connecting with them for an easy first down.
5. HB slip screen
This play is a concept that can be done out of a variety of formations, but the goal is always the same: get the running back with the ball in his hands and a group of blockers ahead of him in the open field.
This play could work very differently this coming season depending on who wins the starting interior offensive line jobs. With an athletic player who is good in space like Christian Westerman competing for the starting right guard spot, and an upgrade in athleticism at center, this type of play may be much more effective in 2018 than it was in 2017. The Bengals have two running backs who are both great receivers and always a threat to run the ball, so unlike with some past runners, no matter which talented player is on the field it will not give away what kind of play the Bengals are running.
The Bengals are going into a tough spot in 2018 for their offense as it has largely underperformed in the last two seasons after having the best season in the Dalton era in 2015. The Bengals have the potential to be just as good in 2018 as they were in 2015, the offense simply has to execute. The Bengals have three key offensive contributors coming off seasons where they barely played at all and on top of everything else said so far, that will be a huge factor in how the unit performs. If this offense can stay healthy and play as well as they have shown in the past, then it can be one of the league’s best and carry the team back to the playoffs.