Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator has finally had an offseason to put his stamp on the playbook. How much have we already seen from it?
Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has had a full offseason to implement his playbook and fans are excited to see what it looks like in 2018. After former coordinator Ken Zampese was fired following the first two weeks of the season not scoring a single touchdown on offense, Lazor stepped up to the role with little time to make any changes. Lazor wasn’t able to make many changes mid-season, and the offense was a nightmare.
Ranking last in the league in yards per game, 26th in points per game, 27th in pass yards, and 31st in rushing yards, Cincinnati needs a drastic change on offense. Even with poor production from the offensive line, the playbook was a big reason this offense struggled last year. When going back and looking at the final two weeks of the season, Lazor changed the offense to suit his player’s abilities and strengths. It was two of the best weeks in the entire season for the Bengals offense.
Week 16 vs. Detroit Lions
After two weeks of scoring a combined 14 points against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, the offense came out of nowhere when they took on the Detroit Lions in week 16. Winning the game 26-17, Cincinnati had their second highest yards per game of the 2017 season. One of the significant factors was a run game that was not forgotten about and given an opportunity to shine by utilizing the running backs properly.
Giovani Bernard ran the ball for 116 yards on 23 carries (five per attempt) and a touchdown against the Lions defense. The Bengals backfield also put up another 106 yards through the air. The success mostly stemmed from playing in shotgun packages giving veteran quarterback Andy Dalton more time in the pocket and the running backs to have better opportunities in the run game. Both Bernard and Joe Mixon are suited for shotgun style offenses unlike former running back Jeremy Hill who benefited running behind a fullback in traditional sets.
In the spread out and fast-paced offense, Dalton was able to come away with a completion percentage of 65.9 percent. The offense was able to get every weapon involved instead of just focusing on star wide receiver A.J. Green being a security blanket. That same style offense proved well against the divisional rival Baltimore Ravens as Cincinnati knocked them out of the playoff race in the final weeks as well.
Week 17 vs. Baltimore Ravens
After being shutout in week one against the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati was able to get some revenge by putting up 31 points and knocking their division rival out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season. It was also the first time the Bengals offense scored 30 plus points in a game during the 2017 campaign.
Cincinnati’s offense once again ran most of their offensive formations out of shotgun plays and was able to attack Baltimore both through the air and on the ground. Mixon and Bernard were able to rally 148 yards on the ground on 28 carries which opened up the entire offense. While Dalton wasn’t as accurate as against the Lions, he was still able to put up three touchdowns including the one to wide receiver Tyler Boyd on a fourth down that went 49 yards for a touchdown and finish off the Ravens late in the game.
Lazor has now had a full offseason to work with the playbook, and between interviews from players and coaches this offseason, it sounds like what we saw in the final two weeks of the season is what we will see more of in 2018. Being quick and aggressive down the field and more shotgun sets are what Lazor wants to implement in this offense.
Bringing in Frank Pollack as the new offensive line coach and the additions of left tackle Cordy Glenn and first-round center Billy Price will help this line that struggled last year. If Lazor can utilize his players to their strengths and get the run game going, it should be a good season for the Bengals offense and a road leading to the playoffs. He will also have second-year receiver John Ross fully healthy for the first time and star tight end Tyler Eifert returning, both of which were not available in those final two weeks.