Voluntary minicamp allows Bengals to put new playbooks into action

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2019, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
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FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2019, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

While other NFL teams remain limited in what they can do during their offseason workouts, the Cincinnati Bengals benefit from a chance to put the playbook into action for three days this week.

Teams with new coaches are able to work in an extra voluntary minicamp, and the Bengals are taking advantage to help see what they’ve got going into the NFL Draft. Minicamp began Tuesday and ends Thursday, just hours before the draft begins in Nashville with the first round set to start at 8 p.m.

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“We have watched plenty of tape on our players, but it’s good to get them on the field firsthand,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “So, we have had Phase 1 where we have met with the guys and they have lifted. Then most teams go to Phase 2, where you can go on the field and do ‘11 on zero,’ where you can’t put anyone across from the guys. For us, it’s an opportunity to go against the defense, and the defense to go against the offense and get that tape out there.”

Linebacker Preston Brown said it’s a big step to go from conditioning and meetings to actually putting the playbook into action, especially for guys like him who are coming off injuries that cut their 2018 season short. Brown said he is fully healed from the ankle problems he dealt with throughout most of his first season with the Bengals and he looks forward to a fresh start under the new staff.

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With the draft approaching, Brown knows the Bengals are looking for more linebackers so minicamp is another way to make sure he is a step ahead of the rookies when they come in and try to earn a spot.

“It helps us older guys more on the mental side having that extra step the rookies will have to catch up on because we actually get the live bullets instead of just, ‘Oh we see it on film’ and have a walkthrough,” Brown said. “Actually going against somebody and having to maintain leverage, it’s going to be fun for us to get that extra step.”

Quarterback Andy Dalton has been itching to get back to work since a thumb injury sidelined him for the final six weeks of the 2018 season, but he said it’s especially helpful while learning a new offense to actually get to see how things unfold on the field.

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“It’s one thing for us on offense to see it all on paper and it’s another thing to hear it, having to call it, be in the huddle, break and know what you’re doing,” Dalton said. “Doing it the exact right way how Zac is wanting it, so I think that’s the biggest thing now is taking it from seeing it as a picture and now actually going out and doing it.”

Taylor said the team will have seven or eight installs during the offseason, and the Bengals have gotten through three of them.

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Not everything they installed will be implemented during minicamp because Taylor doesn’t want to overload the players their first few days on the field, but putting the offense and defense against each other will give the Bengals some corrections to make in Phase 2 when they are limited again in what they can do.

“The guys will have a better understanding of what we’re taking about, because they’ve done it in a competitive environment,” Taylor said. “That’s as opposed to sometimes when you’re on the field in ‘11 on zero,’ and you’re talking through it and get them to understand blocking schemes, but they wouldn’t have seen it because no one is lined up across from them. It’s a benefit that we only get for this first year. But we’re going to use it to our best advantage.”

Taylor said the workload will be just enough to give players a better understanding of what the schemes look like and to help build confidence in what they are doing.

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It also will be enough that the coaching staff has something to evaluate them on early in the offseason program and a starting point to measure growth.

“We’ve been installing the last few weeks, and we will get a chance to install right before we go on the field and see how the players retain it,” Taylor said. “It’s hard for everyone, players and coaches. When you’re in a meeting room, it’s easy — you see the video, write it down on paper and can ask a question. Now break the huddle and see how you respond. It’s really good that we are going to get these three days to just get a good run before OTAs and the last minicamp comes around. It will benefit us, and this Phase 2 period we can hone in on cadence and all the motions and stuff you can do against air.”

Bengals release former Buckeye: The Bengals on Tuesday waived defensive tackle Adolphus Washington. Washington, a Cincinnati native who played collegiately at Ohio State, played in four games for the Bengals last season. He went on injured reserve Nov. 23 with a knee injury.