This has obviously been a very strange year for the entire NFL (and country). Teams haven’t been able to have their usual mini camps where coaches are able to talk new and returning players through their schemes for the upcoming season, and then have the players go out on the field and walk through it.
That second part may be the most important thing lacking from this offseason program. Players and coaches have been in plenty of contact via virtual chat rooms. However, they haven’t been able to see the players out on the field yet, which has Bengals’ offensive coordinator Brian Callahan cautiously optimistic.
“The biggest challenge is monitoring what is actually being retained. You don’t get to go on the field and find out. It’s always a lot easier when you’re sitting in a classroom and you’re sitting in your living room on Zoom and you’re going, ‘yeah I got this down.’ It all changes when you’re not sitting in the comfort of your living room,” Callahan told Tyler Dragon of The Cincinnati Enquirer. “You have to go in the huddle, hear the play call, break the huddle, line up, execute (and) see the coverage. It’s hard to judge exactly what guys have retained, particularly young players because you don’t get that experience of being on the field.”
That is a legitimate concern as Cincinnati is tentatively scheduled to meet for training camps in late July. There has been plenty of installing and talking about certain situations, but these guys haven’t gotten into a huddle with the coaches around, yet.
The lack of physical practices for OTAs and mini camps particularly hurt a team like the Bengals. We are going to see a drastically different defense fielded after the team made it their focus in free agency and draft. Cincinnati also will have a rookie quarterback in Joe Burrow, who has to not only learn the offense, but build chemistry with his teammates. Callahan still feels like things couldn’t have gone much better under these circumstances, though.
“Under the circumstances, it’s gone great. Guys are engaged, and they are locked in. It’s unique. We kind of learn as days go by, try to adapt and make things digestible for the players as far as how information gets presented to them,” Callahan said. “I’ve been pleased with the progress we’ve made given our circumstances. It certainly doesn’t replace getting real reps. That’s one thing that you worry about the most. You never get to go out and do what you’ve talked about.”
Dragon also notes that the Bengals haven’t been taking attendance, but they are aware of absences. It will be interesting how that plays out initially whenever training camp does take place.
Things obviously haven’t been ideal for a young team going through what may be their biggest roster turnover in years, but it sounds like coaches and players have made the most of this time. Now we just have to wait and see how it translates to the field.