Andy Dalton ran the fast break in Tuesday's first practice of the year.
The Bengals unveiled sort of a new look offense Tuesday on the Paul Brown Stadium field in the first of nine voluntary spring workouts. Just ask the defense after it dealt with new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's fast-paced style mixed with batches of varying formations and unconventional plays.
(Hint: Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu chucked one within the first half hour.)
"I can tell it's going to be a lot different. It's going to be a shake, I tell you that," said cornerback Adam Jones. "As long as the timing is good, I think it will be alright. There's a lot of different looks, too. A lot of different looks. You have to know what is going on while you're out there. Everybody. It can't be one guy off page because if you do, they'll get you. We saw four wide receivers today on one side. Then they shifted and I said, 'Oh my God."
The DBs were shaking their heads over the number of deep routes they were chasing and the front seven mightily kept pace.
"I wouldn't say we were tired,' said linebacker Vinny Rey. "We were breathing heavy at times, but we were adjusting because it's something we haven't seen."
Like any first day on the field of a new year with veterans and rookies, it wasn't an artistic success. But Jackson and new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther went into the spring looking to set a tone and on Tuesday they had to consider that done.
Just ask a veteran of two playoff defenses. New safety Danieal Manning went in for rehab during practice, but he saw enough early.
"The first play, (the offense) did a nice little run," Manning said. "But then they did shifts and motions and then a reverse. "I'm saying, 'Oh, I know how practice is going to be.'"
But maybe a rookie wouldn't have been too good to ask since Jackson is shooting for a hybrid of the pro and college game. For cornerback Darqueze Dennard, the club's first-round pick, it was business as usual.
"I'm coming from college," he patiently explained. "Everybody tries to be fast-paced."
The day went pretty much as advertised. Carlos Dunlap played both defensive ends. Emmanuel Lamur, even longer and bigger than before, lined up as the first SAM backer. Dennard lined up opposite Dre Kirkpatrick, a 2012 first-round pick, as they backed up the starting cornerbacks, Jones and Terence Newman.
And on offense, second-round pick Jeremy Hill took the No. 2 snaps behind starting running back Giovani Bernard. BenJarvus Green-Ellis politely declined comment after practice as the Law Firm Era arrives at the crossroads.
Some balls got completed, some didn't. But as quarterback Andy Dalton said, it's a little early for all that.
"Obviously we want to complete everything we're doing and have perfect plays," Dalton said. "But I think they're just trying to sell the tempo of everything. Get everything going and the rest of that stuff will fall into place. You're seeing two coverages. It's not like it's a hard day."
But it can't be easy because Dalton is the guy feeling the biggest impact of the changes. Here's just one example:
Jackson has been in his ear to make his drop back from center faster and more urgent. The quicker the play develops, the better chance he has deal with the rush.
"They wanted me to speed up from my snap to my drop. Everybody's coming off the line faster, that's going to get me back faster, so it's going to get everybody faster," Dalton said. "You want to be moving back fast, but you still want to be in control. It's finding the balance of getting back quick. You don't want to be too quick where you get out of control and you can't get your foot in the ground and plant and throw. You want to be able to get back early so you control those last couple of steps. It's just the timing of everything."
As if there had been heavenly approval, thunder rolled across the stadium as Dalton talked about how Jackson kept the same system.
But Jay Gruden is the only offensive coordinator Dalton has known in his three previous NFL seasons and things were different Tuesday. Dalton pronounced himself comfortable.
"Everybody is moving faster. He's getting the play in quick. We're trying to call it quick. We're shifting doing all the different stuff we're doing," Dalton said. "It's going to be to our advantage. You get to the line quicker, you've got more chance to do stuff at the line and get a better chance to read what the defense is doing."