The Bengals will be reporting for training camp on July 26th, and soon thereafter, the preseason will be upon us. This is going to be a very important training camp for this team, as it could decide the direction of the franchise for the next few seasons.
What are some things to watch to get you excited about training camp, though?
1). Frank Pollack’s new offensive line
Plenty of hype has gathered around the Bengals offensive line after the Bengals brought on Pollack as their offensive line coach. Obviously, the past two seasons have been very rough for that unit. Cedric Ogbuehi was a mess, and Russell Bodine spent as much time in the backfield with Andy Dalton as Joe Mixon.
The reviews from the Bengals’ OTAs were pretty stellar when talking about Pollack. Both players and coaches have had pretty great things to say about him, and it seems like we should see some of that during training camp.
2). Cordy Glenn and Billy Price
You could make the case that these guys are going to be some of the most watched players during training camp. For starters, Price is the Bengals first-round pick at center. He was recently medically cleared after suffering a pec injury at the combine.
Just being a first-round pick will get you some eyes, but he is replacing a guy who was a roller coaster between okay and downright terrible at the position. Price could come out there and have a routine rep where he holds his own in pass protection, and the crowd may go wild.
Glenn will be hard to miss. The left tackle joined the Bengals via a trade before the draft with the Bengals’ best buds (the Bills). He is a massive human being. He is 6’6” and close to 350 pounds.
Glenn is taking over the left tackle position that may as well been left vacant by Andrew Whitworth after the 2016 season. It is one of the most important positions in football, and we will have to see just how big of an upgrade Cincinnati actually got.
3). Competition at wide receiver; Letting John Ross reintroduce himself
The Bengals have loaded up with young receivers since the departures of Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. The team already has veterans in A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell, but after that the rest of the teams receivers are relatively young.
This camp will be very important as it seems LaFell’s spot may be up for grabs if someone steps up to take it, and none of the young receivers have been particularity impressive at this point in their careers. Guys like Tyler Boyd, Josh Malone, Cody Core, Auden Tate and even Alex Erickson will have to fight for their spots not only on the depth chart, but possibly the roster.
Of course, the most watched player at the position will easily be Ross. The former ninth overall pick is coming off a horrible season where he failed to record a catch. He has done everything right this offseason though. He put in work with former receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh when he hasn’t been with the team.
Will Ross take advantage of this fresh start? We’ll begin to find out in camp.
4). William Jackson, the NFL’s next shutdown corner
All eyes will be on William Jackson no matter who he is covering. After introducing himself to the NFL last season by shutting down Antonio Brown twice last year, Jackson is looking to make that next step in his third season. Last year at this point we were talking about whether he or Darqueze Dennard would be starting for Adam Jones Week 1, but now, the depth chart seems pretty clear at the top with Jackson as the main guy.
Every time Jackson covers Green, it should be cherished as we are watching two of the best Bengals go at it.
5). Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s changes
We have talked plenty about Bill Lazor’s changes to the offense and Frank Pollack taking over the offensive line, but the Bengals have their first outside hire for defensive coordinator coming to camp since Mike Zimmer joined the team.
Austin hasn’t spoken in great lengths about what changes he will bring. There are a few things we can expect though. The first being an emphasis on turnovers. The Bengals stunk at creating turnovers last season. There is no nice way around it. The only team worse than the Bengals at creating turnovers were the 0-16 Browns, so obviously, something needed to change.
The other thing we should see are three safety sets for the defense. The Bengals already had George Iloka and Shawn Williams established at the safety position when the team took Jessie Bates III in the second round. The team already toyed with the idea when they brought in free agent Eric Reid for a visit before the draft.
Now, they have their trio. We should get a first hand look at exactly how the team plans to use them together.
6). A brand new offense
We can finally put the Jay Gruden era style of offense behind us. After working as the interim offensive coordinator for most of last season, the Bengals officially hired Bill Lazor on as offensive coordinator and legitimized his promotion.
The first order of business for him was building an offense from scratch, something the Bengals haven’t done since Gruden joined the team in 2011. Hue Jackson and Ken Zampese merely added their spin onto the system.
There is plenty of pressure on Lazor’s offense. The team decided not to swap out head coaches this offseason, so this is the change many fans and players are clinging to in order to have some hope for things being different next season.
You often see teams that switch offenses (usually accompanied by a head coaching change) get a boost in production. The Bengals need something like that for 2018.
7). Andy Dalton fighting for his career
We have seen two down seasons for the Dalton the past two years. He deserves some of the blame, but the team surrounding him was also less than ideal. Armed with new potential weapons, offensive line and new plays we need to see a fairly sizable jump from Dalton.
If we see a repeat of the past two seasons, we could be talking about finding his replacement in 2019.
8). Joe Mixon’s progress and a healthy Giovani Bernard
Last year was a meddling rookie season for Mixon. Considering the offensive line he was running behind, I’d call it pretty good. Mixon needs to show he can make that next step as a running back after all the offseason changes to help the offense though. He is the guy in the backfield now that Jeremy Hill took off for New England, and that means he has to start putting up starting running back numbers.
In addition, Bernard coming into training camp fully healthy will be something fun to watch. It was almost a forgone conclusion that Bernard would start the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) after he suffered an ACL injury late in the 2016 season. He avoided that and ended up playing in every single game last season.
You could tell early on though that he wasn’t 100 percent. He didn’t have a lot of touches, and he wasn’t super productive with the ones he got.
By the end of the season, we saw the old Bernard weaving through the defense. It should be fun to watch this duo run behind the new offensive line.
What are you looking forward to watching at training camp?