MOBILE, Ala. – Hue Jackson, the new Bengals offensive coordinator, is making his stand down here at the Senior Bowl.
Yes, the Bengals are making the run a foundation of their philosophy. There is a titter that has been going through Bengaldom ever since Jackson was promoted two weeks ago. The fear is he's going to sentence the franchise to bread and water. Three yards and a cloud of dust.
Not so, he says.
"My concern is balance. I've also said we've got to do whatever we need to do to win," Jackson said Monday. "I'm a modern-day football coach. I understand offense in the National Football League. I can't worry about what other people think. I hope everyone understands I know that A.J. Green is on the team. Jermaine Gresham. Marvin Jones, Giovani Bernard. People you throw the ball to. You have to do both. But at the end of the day you have to line up and do the things I think you have to do to win."
Not only that, but he sees the club keeping all its options open to drafting any position on his side of the ball in May's NFL Draft. Frankly, he says, it's too early to talk about what could happen early in the draft. Jackson does, however, continue to speak glowingly of quarterback Andy Dalton.
"We've got a very good starting quarterback who has won a lot of games for us," Jackson said.
It still sounds like Jackson is set on helping Dalton instead of threatening him. And it sounds like Jackson may start by looking at the very playoffs from where Dalton and the Bengals got bounced two weeks ago. At the very least, Jackson says he thinks the current playoffs prove his belief that teams need to run to win.
"It's a mindset; it's not so much a part of the offense," Jackson said. "To me, running the ball is the nuts and bolts of your offense."
In the postseason showdowns pitting Dalton's generation of quarterbacks—Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton—none of them threw it 30 times while their teams ran it more than they threw it. Wilson, a young quarterback with a top defense, has yet to throw 20 times a game in the playoffs, a la Boomer Esiason's Super Bowl Bengals of 25 years ago.
Denver and Seattle are getting ready to play an old AFC West Division Super Bowl back east and the only quarterback to throw more than 50 passes this postseason is Dalton with those 51 attempts against the Chargers. Not even Andrew Luck in coming back from 28 points down hit 50.
"We've done some excellent things with our offense," Jackson said. "We've had some tremendous passing games and we've had games where we really ran it well. We have to get more consistent as an offense."
When Jackson became the running backs coach last season, he made no bones about how he covets speed, so it was no surprise that he was a big backer of Bernard during the process. He's always looking for burst and with the Bengals running the ball with a new commitment, it may be time to think about taking another back fairly early in the draft.
The one to look at down here in the Senior Bowl appears to be West Virginia's Charles Sims of the North, a transfer from Houston who seems to have the ability to catch and has some elusiveness. The Bengals still highly regard the power and reliability of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but if they're going to add to the stable it would now be someone as a complement to the 5-9, 205-pound Bernard, opposite of last year's quest. At 6-0, 213 pounds Sims has the dimensions.
"He's the best guy here," Russ Lende of GM Jr. Scouting, a former Rams and Browns scout, said. "He's got make-you-miss ability. He's got some of the traits where he could be a starter. BenJarvus is not a bad comparison. Sims is a little quicker. I don't know if he's inherently stronger."
On the first day of practice, the North's linemen on both sides of the ball and the quarterbacks got a lot more ink, but Sims will have his moments this week. This is a long process.
"Too early. We've got to evaluate all these guys," Jackson said. "One thing I know about this organization is that we'll take the best fit for our team to win. I think we'll look at anyone that is going to improve the offense. But it's way too early."
But it's not too early for this.
"You have to run it," Jackson said.