Bengals return with 0-2 mark, new offensive coordinator
CINCINNATI (AP) Andy Dalton thought there might be some changes after two horrid games on offense.
He was surprised that they started at the top.
A few hours after its 13-9 loss to Houston on Thursday night, Cincinnati fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and promoted receivers coach Bill Lazor. Players were off over the weekend, so their first chance to work out with the rearranged coaching staff was Monday afternoon.
Dalton said there were some subtle changes. Any notable changes in the game plan won’t be known for a few more days.
”When somebody new is in, they have their own twist on things, a different spin on things,” Dalton said. ”So there were some things that were exactly the same as we’d done and some things that were a little different.”
A lot needs to change for Cincinnati to salvage its season.
The Bengals are the first team since the 1939 Eagles to open with a pair of home games and fail to get a touchdown. A loss Sunday at Green Bay (1-1) would leave them 0-3 for the first time since 2008 , when they went 4-11-1.
The Bengals have opened a season with three straight losses 13 times in their history, including twice under coach Marvin Lewis. They’ve never finished with a winning record after an 0-3 start. A loss in Green Bay would leave them with long odds in Lewis’ final season on his contract.
”No magic, no special things here,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. ”We’ve got to start clicking.”
After failing to get a touchdown in 25 possessions to open the season, Dalton figured there might be some changes. He didn’t expect a change in coordinators, however.
”At that point, we weren’t thinking anything was going to happen,” he said.
Dalton has struggled behind a porous offensive line. He threw four interceptions and lost a fumble during a 20-0 loss to the Ravens, finishing with a passer rating of 28.4 – his second-lowest. Dalton was under steady pressure again Thursday night.
Lewis has been one of Dalton’s most outspoken defenders, giving no indication he has even considered using backup AJ McCarron in either of the games. McCarron took over when Dalton broke the thumb on his passing hand in 2015 and led them the rest of the way into the playoffs. He had them in position to win a first-round game against Pittsburgh before Vontaze Burfict’s hit on Antonio Brown helped the Steelers pull it out in the closing seconds.
McCarron has heard fans calling for a change.
”Listen, I think I’m a great quarterback and I think he’s an unbelievable quarterback,” McCarron said Monday. ”I love him to death. But he’s our quarterback. Stop making it into something else. It’s not into something else. Ride with him. Trust the team. Trust the process. And trust what we are trying to do.”
Dalton hasn’t paid attention to suggestions to the calls for a different quarterback.
”People can come up with a headline all they want, but all that matters is what’s being said in this organization, on this team, and what happens in this locker room,” Dalton said.
Although Lazor hasn’t said how the offense might change, he’s likely to put more emphasis on getting the ball to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. The two were limited in the first two games, and Green complained about it after the loss on Thursday night.
Also, Zampese used running backs Giovani Bernard, rookie Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill interchangeably without success. Lazor has never done a three-back rotation.
Most players had never experienced an in-season coaching change comparable to this one.
”Anytime you’ve been building a relationship as an offense doing it one way and it changes, it’s always going to be a little tough,” McCarron said. ”It’s part of the business we are in. We all have to adapt to sudden changes.”
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