Team minicamps are a time of the offseason where coaches can begin to gauge which players are in terms of preparing for the coming season. That rings true for incoming players who are looking to make an impact, as well as back-ups looking to leave their mark.
It’s also a time for the starters of last year to get back in the groove as they re-sync themselves with their teammates.
In a press conference, Andy Dalton spoke of how important this next year is, following two consecutive playoff exits against Houston in the Wild Card round.
“Year three is big for me. It’s big for this team. We’ve played well enough to have two playoff appearances and haven’t played well once we got there. It’s big for us to show that we’re going to get back to the playoffs and then win and make a run at it. It’s what this team expects. We’ve brought everybody back, basically, from last year’s team, and that’s the attitude we’re taking into this year.”
Virtually all of Dalton’s numbers improved from his first year to his second in the NFL. He led the team to a better record, threw seven more touchdowns, and had a significantly higher completion percentage last season. Head coach Marvin Lewis seems to only be optimistic of Dalton’s growth as a player on and off the field, finishing a statement by saying,
“We’ve all collectively got to do better, and he’s excited to lead us in that direction.”
With Smith still out, Anthony Collins has stepped in during minicamp, playing right tackle. He had the following to say about stepping in:
“My mother instilled in me that you don’t get mad about not having something you never had,” Collins said. “You have to prepare in every practice like you’re the starter. You have to practice those habits, so when the game comes it’s second nature.”
What many forget is that when Smith was injured at the beginning of his career, Collins split time with Dennis Roland at right tackle. The team went 11-7 when Collins’ started.
I’d say that speaks to two things. The first is the great character that Collins brings to the team as a veteran presence. The second, perhaps more important one, is the depth that the Bengals have, especially on the offensive line.
Marvin Lewis has also made it a point to address the great progress that James Harrsion has been making. With all the skepticism about how he would fit into the Bengals defense, Lewis has had the air of quiet reassurance this whole time.
“Obviously I’ve seen this guy play more football than anybody here,” he said. “I know the things he was asked to do there (Pittsburgh), the wording and the terminology and how things were created. So I thought it was an easy plug-in here.”
Lewis was an assistant coach for Pittsburgh in the 1990’s.
The coaching staff is clearly impressed with Harrison’s adjustments, and coach Lewis spoke of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer quickly realizing the versatility of the veteran linebacker. He even stated that Zimmer is starting to experiment with plays involving Harrison to see what works best.
“We see that on the practice tape time and time again.”
So far, so good in Bengaldom.