Through three games of the preseason. it seems pretty apparent that the team has plenty to be excited about, especially through the air. The passing attack has been consistently successful.
Whether it is Andy Dalton completing 67.9 percent of his passes and ending his preseason with a perfect touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah, rookie Ryan Finley dominating second units with 414 yards completing over 70 percent of his passes, or undrafted rookie Jake Dolegala coming in against the Giants with barely any snaps and throwing two touchdowns, the quarterbacks have looked outstanding. It is something that Dalton thinks is a direct reflection of the coaching staff.
“Starting with Zac [Taylor] and Alex [Van Pelt] and Brian [Callahan] and the whole group has done a great job communicating exactly what we want to do on each play,” Dalton Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “So guys understand exactly where the ball should go and we’ve been executing.”
All three of those coaches plenty of experience coaching quarterbacks over their career, so it comes at no surprise that they know how to make it easy on quarterbacks to make plays. It is the kind of offense we see the NFL running more and more that includes route concepts that gives quarterbacks easy completions against defenses.
“It’s a quarterback-friendly offense,” Dolegala said. “We like to start by running the ball and if we get that going, it makes it very easy for us quarterbacks to play-action. All of our drop-back stuff is really simple reads. I don’t to say it’s a simple offense because it’s not. Zac gives us the best opportunity to perform at a high level.”
Dolegala is probably the best representation over how friendly this offense is to quarterbacks. Taylor, Dalton and Dolegala himself talk about how the undrafted rookie barely gets any reps at practice, but he went out there and only threw two incompletions on 12 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Obviously, Dolegala deserves credit for his throws (especially two beautiful fade throws), but there aren’t many teams that could throw a quarterback out there like that and expect results in the passing game.
The compliments about Taylor’s system aren’t just coming from quarterbacks. Undrafted rookie wide receiver Damion Willis, who has probably worked his way onto the 53-man roster when cuts eventually come down, couldn’t speak highly enough about the offense.
“I have been getting a lot of reps, so I am getting real comfortable with the system,” Willis told reporters after the game. “When I get to the game, I am not going to say it’s easy, but it’s kind of easy.”
The word easy has been thrown out a lot by offensive players recently. It goes back to practice when players were talking about how clearly Taylor and his staff were communicating the offensive concepts of the plays they were running, but you can bet this display during the preseason won’t be lost on players potentially looking to join the Bengals down the road. Willis even talked about why he chose the Bengals after going undrafted.
“I knew what this offense was,” Willis said. “When I came out (of college), I made my choice Cincinnati because I knew Los Angeles liked to throw the ball around.”
You can bet that the Bengals will become a desirable destination for quarterbacks and skill position players looking to put their best play on film. Whether that is undrafted rookies or low risk players looking for a one-year contract to prove themselves, Cincinnati will be on the list of places they should be trying to go in the future.
There is still room for improvement though.
“With this new offense — we’ve been saying this since the first time we were thrown into it — there are a lot of opportunities and plays for us on the outside as wide receivers,” Josh Malone said. “As the running game gets more involved, we’re going to be a (difficult) offense to stop.”
The one thing we haven’t really seen this preseason is the run game get going. You can chalk that up to a lot of things. Joe Mixon has only had two carries (one good run was called back), the offensive line has been constantly changing and Taylor has been pretty vanilla with the running plays.
“We have a lot more variety in the run game than what we’ve shown in the preseason so far,” Taylor said. “It’s not a recipe for great success in the rushing game, and we want to keep feeding those backs and letting them work. But there’s a lot of things we’re not quite ready to put on tape yet that give those guys the best chance.”
For an offense that uses play action on most of their passing plays, the running game having success could only make an easy offense for quarterbacks to find success even easier.
It will be interesting to see once the preseason reigns have been taken off this offense if it is able to have the same success against defenses during the regular season. That is something we will have to wait and see on, but Bengals’ fans should feel comfortable with the Bengals future with the trio of coaches setup around their quarterbacks.