CINCINNATI — The past couple of offseasons have been lighter workloads for the Cincinnati Bengals, but coach Zac Taylor said he could still envision a more intense offseason workout program in the future if needed.
Last year, Cincinnati did not use the full nine weeks permitted for an offseason workout program because of the length of the 2021 season, which ended in a run to the Super Bowl. This year, the Bengals are utilizing the full nine weeks but only using six of 10 allowed days for Organized Team Activities, which are the only times teams can do 7-on-7, 9-on-9 and 11-on-11 drills.
OTAs begin Monday, and the Bengals will hold a mandatory minicamp June 13-15.
“I think every year will be a new year with where our roster’s at and what we feel like what kinda work we need to get done,” Taylor said. “Certainly, we could be capable of doing more in the future, if we got a different style of team. I think right now we’ve got a ton of experience here of guys that can help incorporate some of these newer players we have and we can do things the way we’re doing them and be ready in training camp to get ourselves ready for the first game.”
Despite not using this past week as an opportunity to begin OTAs like other teams, Taylor has been pleased with the pace and tone of the offseason workouts.
The Bengals have almost perfect attendance for the voluntary program with only offensive tackle Jonah Williams yet to arrive, and Taylor said they’ve made the most of their time together so far. After minicamp, the team will break for the summer until training camp begins at the end of July.
“The concern when you have the style of offseason that we have is that guys go through the motions because it’s not physically as taxing as if you’re doing full-speed work, 11-on-11 stuff, so I’m really proud of the way our guys have handled it,” Taylor said. “They understand this style of practice demands great responsibility and attention to detail. To be able to do things on air, do things defense versus defense, again, the things I pay the most attention to, I spend a lot of time watching the huddle. I watch the defensive guys bring it up and their interactions with each other and calling the plays in the huddle and urgency to get lined up. Same thing on offense.
“It’s just good to see the camaraderie and those guys start to come together. And that’s what I think is so important in the offseason. Developing that chemistry and integrating new players, rookies and free agents.”
Cincinnati also uses the offseason to tweak some things in all three phases of the game, and Taylor noted players have shown “great attention to detail” on some of the new stuff they are doing on air at this point.
Next week will be a chance to do it more in a walkthrough setting against the other side of the ball.
“These guys will be ready to hit the ground running when training camp rolls around and feel like they’ve really mastered it as much as they can, just the technique aspect of things before they have to really put on the pads and compete,” Taylor said.
Asked if this time of year is more about working smart than hard, Taylor didn’t want to make it sound like the Bengals aren’t working hard, but they are going about things in a way that allows the players to go into summer feeling healthy and prepared to come back strong in training camp.
“I think that’s one objective that I personally have for our team when they walk out the door on June 15th that they feel they’re in peak physical condition and that they can utilize those next four to five weeks to make sure that, when they show up for training camp, that they’re out running and not feeling they’ve developed a new injury or anything like that,” Taylor said. “I learned that after my first offseason here from talking to several of our veteran players that we have a lot of respect for that maybe felt banged up coming out of spring. … Some of the 11-on-11 stuff they did feel not as good as they wanted to going into training camp. You take that to heart and you reconfigure training camp a little bit to make sure we’re getting all that physical work in and I feel like we’ve arrived at a really good point now to where our guys understand why we do things the way we do them and what’s going to be asked of them when they show up in late July and getting our team ready for our first game of the year against Cleveland.”
The Bengals try to be smart about their training camp practices, as well, making them intense but not necessarily long. They try to be efficient with their time on the fields, and the schedule is built in a way that utilizes off days after harder sessions.
This year, the Bengals will hold one joint practice with Green Bay two days before they play host to the Packers in the preseason opener. They had two joint practices last year with the L.A. Rams, but the second session ended early because of a brawl that included Aaron Donald swinging his helmet at a group of Bengals players.
Taylor said “last year was last year” but laughed when he emphasized this year is just one day, instead of two.
“I feel good about how we’ll practice together and the communication with the other teams coaching staff,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of guys on that staff, Joe Berry, guys that I’ve worked with before, so feel good doing that for a day.”