With training camp just about here, it’s time to brush up on our Bengals knowledge. That includes the A to Zs of all-things Bengals. We’ve created an A-to-Z guide of what to know for Bengals training camp, starting with the most important two players on offense and ending with what needs to be left in the past. Brush up on your Bengals A to Zs here.
A: Andy to A.J.
The two most important players on offense need to get back to the magic we saw from them in the first five years of their NFL careers. The 2011 first and second round draft picks seemed to take a major step back last year when it came to their chemistry and connection. Don’t get me wrong, Green was still great, but there was clearly something off when he was dropping passes he typically would have caught and failing to connect with Dalton more frequently than we’re used to seeing from the perennial Pro Bowler.
The key to success for the Bengals on offense is the Dalton to Green connection and they need to get back to being one of the best QB-WR duos in the league. A lot of this has to do with Dalton sailing throws out of bounds or failing to throw Green the ball in catchable spots. Training camp will be big for this duo as they work to perfect their connection.
If you’re reading this, you likely know all about the Cincinnati Bengals, now playing in their 51st NFL season and still seeking their first Lombardi Trophy. This will be the Bengals’ 16th season playing under head coach Marvin Lewis.
The Bengals moved training camp from Georgetown College in Kentucky to Paul Brown Stadium back in 2012, making this the seventh year that training camp is taking place in Cincinnati. Fans are invited to attend many days of training camp free of charge and there’s actually more open-to-the-public practices this year than last year. Get all the details on attending Bengals training camp here. Note: Cincy Jungle is holding a pre-training camp get together on August 3 and we’d love to see you there! More info is coming on that this week!
D: Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin
The Bengals hired former Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to lead the defense this year, taking over for Paul Guenther who is now in Oakland. Austin has been around the NFL for quite some time in various roles including as a defensive backs coach and long-time defensive coordinator. In 2014, Austin’s first season as the Lions defensive coordinator, his defense finished ranked No. 2 in the NFL overall and was No. 3 in points allowed. But things went downhill from there. Detroit was the No. 18 overall defense in 2015, and ranked No. 23 in scoring. The Lions were again No. 18 overall in 2016, but were up to No. 13 in scoring.
Last year, Detroit was plagued by numerous injuries and plummeted to No. 27 overall and No. 21 in scoring. The hope is Austin gets back to his 2014 ways now that he’s in Cincinnati. He’s a contender to take over for Lewis as head coach, if Lewis ever steps down.
There’s also this...
Teryl Austin said he wants the #Bengals to get more turnovers. In 2017 Austin's Lions were 3rd with 32 takeaways. The Bengals were T-30th with 14.— Nick Manchester (@NickManchester9) July 24, 2018
E: End zone
The Bengals didn’t find the end zone enough in 2017 and that needs to change for the team to make a resurgence this season. The Bengals scored 31 total touchdowns last season, with only six coming on the ground. We’re going to need to see a big increase in touchdowns this year, hopefully helped by John Ross and Tyler Eifert’s involvement.
F: Frank Pollack
The Bengals parted ways with long-time offensive line coach Paul Alexander and brought in former Cowboys offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Big changes are expected to the line, which was falling apart and allowed 40 sacks to Bengals quarterbacks in 2017. Pollack will be charged with helping Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the final seasons of their rookie contracts. So far, both the first and second round picks have disappointed, but maybe Pollack can finally get something out of them. Pollack also will have big decisions to make when it comes to the right guard and right tackle competitions.
G: Giovani Bernard
Bernard was only months removed from an ACL tear last season, but now that he’s had well over a year to fully heal, he should take another step forward this season as the Bengals’ do-it-all back. Bernard rushed for 458 yards (4.4 yard per carry average) and 2 touchdowns and added 389 yards through the air with 2 receiving touchdowns. He’ll likely play second fiddle to Joe Mixon in his second year in the NFL, but the duo should pair excellently together and keep defenses guessing. It would be twice as nice if the Bengals figured out a way to get Mixon and Bernard on the field at the same time.
H: Halfback Ryan Hewitt
Ever since Hewitt signed a contract extension with the Bengals in August 2016, it’s like the team has forgotten he exists. Hewitt played just 11.02 percent of offensive snaps in 2017, which was down from 20.24 percent in 2016 and 35.55 percent in 2015. Why would the Bengals extend Hewitt only to seemingly phase him out of the offense? If the trend continues, he may see himself off the roster in 2018.
I: Ickey Shuffle
The Ickey Shuffle is one of the NFL’s most famous touchdown celebrations. Jeremy Hill once took it on to honor the great Ickey Woods, the creator of the celebration dance. Hopefully the Bengals have reason to be doing the Ickey Shuffle as they celebrate (many) touchdowns this season. Woods will likely be part of the Bengals’ Week 2 celebration of the 1988 Super Bowl team upon its 30 year anniversary.
J: John Ross
The Bengals have had many rookies disappoint in recent years, but the expectations going into 2017 were massive for the Bengals’ No. 9 overall pick. And boy did he disappoint. That can’t be the case again this season as the Bengals’ offense needs a big year from Ross, the speedy wideout who shattered the NFL Combine 40-yard dash record. Ross has nowhere to go but up after failing to record a single catch in his rookie year.
K: Katie Blackburn
The Bengals’ Executive Vice President still has a highly important end to the summer ahead of her. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins are in need of contract extensions and it wouldn’t be the worst idea to get Tyler Kroft extended before the 2018 season begins, too. All three are set to be free agents in 2019. The next few months will be massive for Blackburn as she has developed into a key decision maker for the Bengals and one of the most important women in the NFL.
L: Bill Lazor
Lazor took over as offensive coordinator following Ken Zampese becoming the first Bengals coordinator to ever be fired in the middle of a season. He had to keep the majority Zampese’s playbook and verbiage for the duration of the 2017 season, but it sounds like there are big changes planned for 2018, including a compete overhaul of the playbook. Last year’s offense was far from respectable, so there’s a big need for Lazor to turn things around and better utilize his weapons.
Still, don’t tell that to Lewis who says the only “new thing” the Bengals are going to do this year is score more touchdowns.
“All I hear about is the new offense,” Marvin Lewis said via Bengals.com. “The only thing new we’re going to do is score touchdowns. I don’t think it’s that dramatically different. I think that’s a fallacy.”
That’s the same old Marvin Lewis for ya. Hopefully, we’ll see a much more revived Lazor though and coaches who can infuse some life into the team.
Sounds like Bill Lazor and Marvin Lewis already on COMPLETELY different pages. Marvin Lewis via https://t.co/gUSP9Ybxoe today: "All I hear about is the new offense. The only thing new we’re going to do is score TDs. I don’t think it’s that dramatically different." https://t.co/VukOZADPro— Rebecca Toback (@Rebecca_Toback) July 24, 2018
M: Marvin Lewis
Ah, the big man in charge. He was almost gone at the end of last season, though he says retirement was never an option last year when rumors started swirling that he was out in Cincinnati.
“It was the timing of things the way people felt they needed to further themselves, which I think is unfair,” said Lewis of reports he was stepping away from the Bengals. “I don’t know what the magic number is. There’ll be time for that. I want to coach and to me the best opportunity for me to have an opportunity to take a team to the world championship is right here right now.”
Lewis now enters his 16th year as Bengals head coach with zero playoff wins to his name. He also has extreme job security, despite that lack of postseason success and is currently signed through the 2019 NFL season.
Will 2018 be any different than Lewis’ first 15 years with the club? Can he finally lead the Bengals to their first playoff win under his watch? That’s not the only question he has to answer this offseason, but it is the only one most fans care about.
N: Nick Vigil
The 2016 third round pick stepped into a starting role last season and was somewhat disappointing. He played in and started 11 games last season and notched 79 tackles, 5 passes defensed, 1 sack and 1 interception. Vigil ended the 2017 season with an ankle injury but should be back at full speed in training camp and once again competing for a starting role. He’ll likely be playing a lot while Vontaze Burfict sits out in Weeks 1-4 with a suspension, but he needs to take a major step forward with Austin’s help.
O: Offensive line
The weakest unit from the 2017 squad is now under new leadership (see Frank Pollack) and this group has new members and higher hopes for 2018. The biggest additions are former Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn and rookie center Billy Price. The duo will need to help re-shape the line and make it far more respectable than it was in 2017. Pollack’s guidance will go a long way in determining the line’s success and the line’s success will go a long way in determining the Bengals’ fate this season.
P: Playoffs, baby!
The Bengals have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons after making it to the postseason five years in a row to start out Dalton’s NFL career. It’s time to make it back to the postseason and actually get a win for the first time since Lewis arrived in Cincinnati. This is essentially all anyone in Cincinnati cares about.
Q: Quinton Flowers
Flowers is a rookie who the Bengals are using as a running back, despite him playing quarterback at South Florida. For some reason the Bengals told him they’d do everything they could to help him make the team. He could really shake up the way the Bengals craft the 53-man roster as he can be a do-it-all player and an emergency option at multiple positions including quarterback, wide receiver, running back and as a return man on special teams. Flowers may just be the Bengals’ best undrafted signing this year.
R: Right guard and right tackle battles
Who will win the Bengals’ right guard battle? Trey Hopkins began the 2017 season as the team’s starting right guard and was part of the Bengals’ horrible line and the problems there. Christian Westerman and Alex Redmond then got a chance to prove themselves at left guard late in the year and the results were more desirable. Pollack and Lazor will need to figure out the best combination possible on the offensive line to produce results. This will be one of the most important battles of training camp but not necessarily an easy one to track if you’re attending. The same goes at right tackle where Ogbuehi, Fisher and the new addition of Bobby Hart will be competing for the starting job. It’s anyone’s guess who wins as the competition is real — though lackluster — heading into training camp.
S: Safety battle
The Bengals focused in on improving the safety position immediately upon the start of the offseason. The team tried to sign Kurt Coleman (and failed) and then worked out Eric Reid, who remains unsigned. The Bengals then drafted Jessie Bates III in the second round of the draft and he figures to compete in training camp to see considerable playing time this season. Starters George Iloka and Shawn Williams will retain their roles, but the coaching staff clearly felt they needed reinforcements and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bengals broke from their traditional mold and actually let Bates play quite a bit this season. There’s also Clayton Fejedelem, who will be a fixture on special teams and some undrafted rookies competing, too.
T: Tyler Boyd
This is a make or break season for the Bengals’ 2016 second round pick. Boyd should be competing for the No. 2 receiver job and theoretically, there’s no reason he shouldn’t win the role based on talent and experience. But, after Boyd saw a major drop in production from his rookie season (54 catches, 603 yards, 1 touchdown) to his second year (22 catches, 225 yards, 2 touchdowns), there are questions to be answered for the Pittsburgh product. Can he step up, establish a connection with Dalton and thrive? That has to be the hope in Cincinnati as the team expects big things from both Boyd and Ross at the wide receiver position this season.
Going into training camp, everyone is undefeated!! 19-0, let’s go!
V: Vontaze Burfict
2018 marks the third straight season the Bengals’ troubled linebacker will be suspended to start the year. The first two suspensions were for safety reasons while this one is a PED violation. He’s going to be missing considerable time, impacting all of his teammates and the team as a whole as the Bengals are far better with Burfict on-the-field than without him. Unfortunately though, the Bengals are quite used to playing without him.
Burfict needs to get back on the field in Week 5 and play clean and excellent football. He also needs to make up for lost time and ensure 2018 is a year in which he’s helping the team win. He won’t be able to do that for four weeks though, which is a major bummer for everyone in Cincinnati. Well, maybe everyone except the guy who gets onto the 53 man roster while Burfict is suspended. That could be a young player like Chris Worley, Brandon Bell or Hardy Nickerson, the latter two of whom benefited at Burfict’s expense last year.
W: Who Dey!
If you’re reading this, you likely are well versed in chants of “who dey!” It’s the team’s slogan of sorts and something used to say hello to fans, cheer for the team or just a way to acknowledge Bengals fans.
There’s also the Bengals fight song...
X: Xs and Os
The Bengals are getting a new playbook on offense and will look different on defense, too with Austin at the helm. The Xs and Os that comprise Bengals’ playbook will need to be executed at a far higher level in 2018 than they were in 2017.
Y: Y-tight end Tyler Eifert
Eifert was re-signed by the Bengals in free agency and once again the team will attempt to see how long he can stay healthy. Hopefully it’s longer than last season when he ended up on Injured Reserve in the second week of October. The Bengals desperately need a healthy Eifert as when he’s on-the-field, he’s a matchup nightmare and a top weapon for Dalton.
The question regarding Eifert always remains how long will he stay healthy and on-the-field. He’s set to become a free agent in 2019 (again) and really needs a full season on the field to prove to teams that he’s worth signing and not a liability. If he’s able to stay healthy this year, his long-term future may be in Cincinnati.
Z: Ken Zampese (is gone)
Woo, hoo! Let’s end this off with someone who needs to be left in the past. The Bengals’ 2017 season got off to a terrible start in large part due to fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. He’s now gone and it’s time for the Bengals to move on with a highly improved plan on offense. See ya, Zamp! Please, Lazor, reward the team’s confidence in you!