ANALYSIS: 5 takeaways from Bengals offseason

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — The offseason workout program gave the Cincinnati Bengals a chance to see what some of the young players could do playing alongside their starters before the real competition begins in training camp.

With wide receivers Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase not participating and right tackle Trent Brown missing five weeks of the eight weeks before minicamp, first- and second-year players had more opportunities to run with the first-team offense.

The Bengals also got to see rookie defensive tackles Kris Jenkins and McKinnley Jackson getting plenty of snaps while Sheldon Rankins waited until the week before minicamp to arrive.

Overall, coach Zac Taylor was pleased with what the team got out of the nine weeks together. Here are five takeaways from the offseason program:

1. A true competition at right tackle?

When the Bengals signed 10th-year veteran Trent Brown to a one-year deal and drafted the inexperienced Amarius Mims in the first round, it was expected Brown would be the starting right tackle and Mims would be learning behind him and preparing to take over that role in 2025.

It’s tough to judge anyone without pads on but Mims looked the part during the offseason workout program, and there could be more of a competition there than originally anticipated.

Mims put a lot of good stuff on film in just eight starts at Georgia and seemed to be picking things up quickly this offseason. If the Bengals see that in camp, the youngster could supplant the 10th-year veteran Brown.

2. Hill making progress

Dax Hill’s switch to cornerback came with some skepticism outside the building because of the fact the Bengals already seemed to have their plan at that position with the drafting of Cam Taylor-Britt in 2022 and D.J. Turner in 2023, both in the second round.

However, Hill seemed to make progress over the offseason workout program and was playing alongside the starters in the 7-on-7s throughout minicamp, while Turner was with the second-team defense. Perhaps the staff just wanted to give Hill those snaps in a less strenuous environment as he builds confidence in his new role, but that could be a fun battle to watch in camp.

3. Bringing some “eye candy” to the offense

Quarterback Joe Burrow said in his press conference this week the Bengals want to attack defenses in a way that makes opponents have to adjust to what they are doing instead of the other way around as it has been the past couple of years. This offseason was a chance to see what a lot of different players can bring to the table, and there seems to be much flexibility in how they line up and what types of plays they call.

Defenses have tried taking away the explosive plays down the field, but with rookie draft pick Jermaine Burton and Ja’Marr Chase both able to play inside and outside, tight end Mike Gesicki capable of playing in the slot and running back Chase Brown making big leaps in the passing game, teams might not be able to just take away one aspect of Cincinnati’s game.

Those were things the Bengals were able to test out this spring, and they also saw some good things from 2023 draft pick Andrei Iosivas as he seems to be getting more comfortable, allowing his athleticism to shine. That could add another layer to the attack.

4. Testing out the new kickoff rule

Cincinnati was able to work on some different things that could help with the new kickoff, which dramatically alters the look and feel of a play that had become an afterthought as safety rules essentially wiped out the incentives for a return.

Per the NFL, the new rule will put the kickoff team (other than the kicker) on the returning team’s 40-yard line and up to two returners in the “landing zone” between the goal line and 20-yard line. At least nine members of the returning team will be in a “setup zone” beginning five yards opposite the kicking team on their own 35, and no players other than the kicker and returners can move until the ball is fielded by a returner or hits the ground.

Kickoffs that hit the landing zone must be returned.

The Bengals are trying to figure out ways for Evan McPherson to drop the ball into a deep spot and allow his kickoff team to get down the field and prevent a return. It’s trial and error for him with different techniques, but also now there is need for more players capable of returning kicks, which could open the door for players like Chase Brown and Charlie Jones to see more action.

5. Speaking of Chase Brown…

Burrow pointed out that Chase Brown has “looked great catching the ball out of the backfield,” and when asked about that, Taylor said it was clear this offseason that Brown took coaching to heart and worked on what he needed to in order to be in a position to make a big leap in Year 2.

Brown is probably one of the biggest winners of the spring, as he clearly worked on becoming more effective in the passing game. The Bengals never really settled the third-down running back role last year, and it seems everyone is more confident they have a real option there now.

Cincinnati loves Brown’s explosiveness, and if he can give them that option out of the backfield on more screen passes, that will help Burrow take the offense to the next level.

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