At this time last year, Bengals fans had no idea what to expect out of their team’s offense in the 2011 season. The defense already had its identity with the face of it being the very vocal, Mike Zimmer. The offense, however, had a much different story.
First year coach, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was implementing an offense that was very different from that of former offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. Under Brat, and with Carson Palmer at the helm, the Bengals ran a very complex air it out style of offense. Once Palmer started to struggle, there was a well-conceived notion in Bengaldom that there was going to be a change on the offensive side of the ball.
That’s where Jay Gruden comes in. Gruden’s style of offense is more of a hybrid west coast style that focuses more on short to intermediate routes and only on occasion calls for a deep ball. Focus is emphasized on the running game to allow windows to open up for a passing attack, which sometimes seemed like an extension of the running game. Without the benefit of OTA’s and all of the new faces on the team, this type of offense is exactly what the Bengals needed.
Rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green headlined the offense while project receiver Jerome Simpson started at the second receiver position. Veteran running back Cedric Benson manned the backfield, and Jermaine Gresham remained the incumbent tight end. Jordan Shipley was supposed to be the slot receiver for the season until he was injured early on and Andre Caldwell had to try to step in.
Looking back on all of those factors mentioned above, it seems to be a wonder that the Bengals actually finished with a 9-7 record and a playoff birth. Most of that can be credited to the great play of Dalton and Green, and the smarts of Gruden by developing his playbook around his players and not vice versa.