Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis set the template for 2014 in the wee hours after 2013 imploded in turnovers.
"We didn’t take care of the ball well enough as an offensive football team this season," Lewis said the day after 34 turnovers ravaged his team's season. "We have to have it be a point of emphasis moving forward.”
What better way to cut down on the offensive mistakes than relying more on the battle-tested Bengals defense and special teams? Only one starter is unsigned off the NFL's No. 3 defense (right end
"It just goes to show you," special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said on Monday as he continues to grade the cutups with assistant Brayden Coombs, "how one play can destroy everything. You have to be good all the time."
Last year the Bengals finished first in those top 10 categories and looked like they were going to follow it up with a remarkable top five finish despite losing what amounted to their co-captains as well as two projected every fourth-down players who never took a snap. Punter
"We kind of went through this year what we went through in 2010 when we took our lumps," Simmons said. "It helped us the next couple of years. We strive for consistency and for the most part we were consistent. We had some young guys that stepped up and found their way halfway through the season. We were fortunate it didn't kill us in the beginning of the season. They kind of gave you some experienced, veteran productive-type guys in the middle (of the season) and that's what you have to build on."
The 10 categories consist of punt return average (for and against), kick return average (for and against), gross and punt net average (for and against), and field-goal percentage for and against.
New England's rankings added up to a league-low of 106, followed by the other top five clubs of Baltimore (110), Jacksonville (113), San Francisco (117) and St. Louis with 124. Cincinnati's ranking of 154 was tied for 12th with Carolina, within six points of the clubs tied for ninth (Pittsburgh and Chicago) at 148, as well as Miami (149) and Minnesota (152).
Simmons believes that's a testament to the leadership of running back
"That's a very hard thing—to replace that leadership in the locker room and I tip my hat to Ced and Vinny; they did it," Simmons said. "These young guys like the Shawn Williamses and the Jayson DiManches have to keep coming on."
Peerman is heading into the second year of a two-year deal. Rey is a restricted free agent. Tate is the only specialist who is an unrestricted free agent and the Bengals think they'll be able to re-sign him, putting everyone back on special teams but free-agent-to-be safety
"I can play anywhere, Coach," Lamur has been telling Simmons. "I returned kicks and punts in high school. I can be a gunner. Anywhere, Coach."
Simmons enjoys the sentiments, but Lamur won't see any of those spots. Don't forget that Simmons's best gunner, wide receiver
"The core should be back; the key is to keep them together," Simmons said. "We were really good in 2011 and better in 2012 because of continuity from 2010. We built on that. If you're able to keep that core group together, you get a chance to be really good."
But Simmons wants the kids to push the kids. He's got an eye on two practice-squadders from last season, speed-speed-and-more-speed cornerback
"We've got to get Margus Hunt better," Simmons said. "He's going to get criticized (for not blocking any this year), but when you look at the film you see how close he came to getting a couple. A lot of times it was set up for Carlos (Dunlap), who is very good, too. He's got three blocks in two years."
The idea, Simmons says, is to keep them coming. Last year, No. 12. This year?
"Continuity," he said.