Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was back in the locker room at Paul Brown Stadium for the start of the team’s offseason conditioning program looking more relaxed.
After a rookie year in which he became the first rookie quarterback not selected in the first round to start all 16 games and lead his team to the playoffs, Dalton is eager to see what the offense can do with a true offseason.
Said Dalton about the offense: “With the little things, we’re going to start over, get back to square one, make sure we have all the ins and outs. We’re not learning a new offense, we’re going into the second year. I feel real comfortable and excited to get out there and get into the classroom with these other guys. it will be good for us.”
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Head coach Marvin Lewis said that before OTAs begin next month, the Bengals will have more classroom time before getting out on the field. With Dalton, wide receiver A.J. Green and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden all entering their second season, everyone expects more progress this year. The other thing is that everyone should be consistently on the same page. Last season during a lockout and with a new offense being installed, the playbook was limited.
While Dalton was limited in throwing since the season ended, mainly to keep his arm in shape, he did view plenty of tape from the past season. Among the things that he saw that needs improvement are cleaning up footwork and being more consistent on the deep ball. Dalton was first in the league in completion percentage of deep passes (16 yards or more in air) over the middle at 71.43 percent but was in the 15th in completions deep left and 23rd in completions deep right.
“Throwing the football all comes down to footwork,” Dalton said. “I have to put more air under it and things like that. That’s definitely something that I’m going to get better at.”
When it comes to the offense’s offseason moves, most have been centered around offensive guard and running back. One of the bigger needs going into the draft is a receiver to pair with A.J. Green.
Dalton though tried to echo Lewis’ comments from the past month that the feeling about the position in house, with guys like Armon Binns and Brandon Tate, is good.
“I feel like we’ve got guys here that last year were pushing for playing time,” Dalton said. “Obviously if we can get another weapon, that would be great. I’m all for it. I think there are a couple of guys out there that are pretty good, but we’ll see.”
Of the nine rookie quarterbacks to lead their teams to a playoff appearance prior to last year, six made it back in their second season. In full seasons, the Bengals have never made back-to-back playoff trips, but Dalton does know that the pressure is there.
Said Dalton: “I think everybody in this locker room and everybody in this organization has high expectations for us. I don’t think there’s any added pressure. It’s what we expect to do. So we’re ready to get back to work and get this thing going.”
Shipley making progress in rehab
–Wide receiver Jordan Shipley is ahead of his rehabilitation schedule in coming back from a torn ACL in his left knee, but said he is hoping to be on the field sometime during OTAs.
“I’m planning on doing some stuff but it depends on what they want me to do,” Shipley said. “If it was up to me I would be out there.”
Shipley suffered the injury during last season’s Week 2 loss at Denver. When asked if he would be ready for training camp, Shipley indicated he would.
“I’m planning on doing all the workouts with the guys. Some days I feel really good and other days I feel close,” he said. “At this point in the process it is based on how you feel that day. Some days I am 100 percent.”
–For the second time in franchise history, the Bengals will open the season on Monday night when they travel to Baltimore. The two teams kicked off the season on Monday night in 2007 in Cincinnati as the Bengals held on for a 27-20 win.
The Bengals will have three prime-time appearances after having none last year. It is their most since 2007. They open and close the season with back-to-back division games.
–Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn’t seem too fazed about being in a new locker room. Even though he has spent the past four years in New England, Green-Ellis noted that the turnover throughout the league is the same no matter which locker room you are in.
“Every year on every team there is a lot of turnover so you got to learn new guys every year no matter where you are at so that’s just a part of it,” he said. “I gotta get a chance to know all of those guys. A team is not built on just one day. It’s got to start right here.”
–Besides playing for Mike Zimmer during his rookie season in Atlanta, one thing that intrigued Jamaal Anderson about coming to the Bengals was the rotation that the defensive line had in place.
Of the defensive ends on the roster last season, each one was in for 40 percent or more of the Bengals’ defensive plays.
“I think it’s very friendly to the defensive line, seeing they’ve had a great rotation. Jay Hayes has done a great job rotating these guys, getting them in,” Anderson said. “You don’t want to have your play go down once you rotate. I didn’t see that level drop off from these guys. We’re just going to keep rotating guys in there, and I’m going to go at it full speed and continue to make plays.”
QUOTE OF NOTE: “I thought our board was wide open in 2005 when we drafted David Pollack. We never thought he would get to us (at 17). Maybe there were other times. I think you try every year to go into the draft and not be locked into one position. Last year was a different circumstance.” – Coach Marvin Lewis on the draft.
Strategy And Personnel
Through one month of free agency the Bengals have re-signed seven of their 19 unrestricted free agents and signed seven from other teams. Five who were on the roster last season have signed with other teams but none in nearly four weeks.
Of the seven remaining unsigned players, the three most likely to return are linebacker Brandon Johnson, offensive guard Bobbie Williams and wide receiver Jerome Simpson. After the Keith Rivers trade to the Giants, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer assessed his linebacking unit as “thin” at the moment, which would move Johnson up on the priority list.
Kicker Mike Nugent, who received the franchise tag, was not in attendance for the first day and might not be there for a while.
Wide receiver: Finding someone to line up opposite A.J. Green has been a work in progress. Jerome Simpson is a free agent but he showed last season that he wasn’t a consistent or dependable No. 2. Green can stretch the field but they need a receiver who can take the pressure off him with clutch catches on short to intermediate routes. If Michael Floyd dropped to them in the first round, that would be perfect but the more realistic options would be Rutgers Mohamed Sanu or Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins.
Guard: The Bengals have never taken one in the first round. They signed Travelle Wharton and Jacob Bell in free agency but right guard, where Bobbie Williams is a free agent, remains a concern. Stanford’s David DeCastro is well-versed in West Coast schemes and would make an appropriate selection.
Cornerback: They are still looking for someone to replace Johnathan Joseph, who left for Houston via free agency when the lockout ended. Considering that Jason Allen is on a two-year deal and Adam Jones and Terence Newman are on one-year contracts, there aren’t many young options to line up opposite Leon Hall, who is coming back from an Achilles injury. Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick and South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore would be two at the top of the list.
Running back: The Bengals signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis and are moving on from Cedric Benson, who had three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wants a backfield by committee but there are some doubts about how much of an increased role Bernard Scott could take on. There is plenty of value in rounds 2-4, which means that Miami’s Lamar Miller or Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead could be in the mix. Pead would also bring the added dimension as a punt returner, considering the inconsistency that Brandon Tate had last season.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: PK Mike Nugent (tendered at $2.654 million).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
–RB Cedric Benson has three straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Bengals but offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wants to go more with a running back by committee approach which Benson has balked at. Expect both sides to have a mutual parting of the ways.
–CB Kelly Jennings was mainly the corner in nickel situations once Leon Hall went down due to injury. Considering the lack of depth in the secondary, they would like to re-sign him.
–LB Brandon Johnson has been a key backup at weak-side linebacker and has been one of the top players on special teams. He is looking for a multi-year deal after three straight seasons on one-year contracts.
–TE Bo Scaife spent all of last season on injured reserve after injuring his neck. He is not expected to be back.
–WR Jerome Simpson has plenty of athletic potential and set career highs in catches (50), yards (725) and touchdowns (four), but he is also facing a four-game suspension stemming from pleading guilty to marijuana possession. Could be re-signed in May depending on the team’s activity in free agency.
–OG Bobbie Williams went into last season with the team’s longest streak of consecutive games but ended up serving four games for a violation of the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances then fractured his ankle late in the season and missed the last three games. Going into his 13th year despite being entrenched at right guard, he is not a priority to re-sign.
–S Gibril Wilson saw a mix of defensive and special teams snaps after missing 2010 due to a knee injury. Could be back on a one-year deal.
–OT Anthony Collins: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown. –LS Clark Harris: RFA tendered at $1.26M with seventh-round pick as compensation); terms unknown. –DT Nick Hayden: Potential ERFA; $615,000/1 yr. –CB Adam Jones: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown. –LB Manny Lawson: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown. –TE Donald Lee: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown. –S Jeromy Miles: ERFA; $540,000/1 yr. –S Reggie Nelson: UFA; $18M/4 yrs. –RB Cedric Peerman: Potential ERFA; $615,000/1 yr, terms unknown. –FB Chris Pressley: Potential RFA; $2.1M/2 yrs. –LB Vincent Rey: Potential ERFA; $450,000/1 yr. –OT Dennis Roland: UFA; terms unknown. –DT Pat Sims: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown. –LB Dan Skuta: RFA tendered at $1.26M with no compensation); $1.26M/1 yr.