After the Bengals’ first practice of spring Monday, wide receiver A.J. Green (toe) admitted we probably won’t see him until the first day of training camp. But he can’t wait after watching what new head coach Zac Taylor has done to the scheme. He reiterated what he said after he got his first whiff of the playbook last month and woke up the echoes of his first NFL offensive coordinator and current Washington head coach Jay Gruden.
“The sky’s the limit for this offense,” Green said. “I feel like this offense mirrors a lot when we had Jay. A lot of deep shots and a lot of stuff like that. It could be big. It could be a big year.”
Every Cincinnati school kid knows Green’s two most prolific seasons came under Gruden with 1,426 yards in 2013 and 1,350 in 2012 and in each season he had a career-high 11 touchdowns. Before he got hurt last season, Green was on pace for 1,374 yards and 12 touchdowns. He looked terrific running routes on the rehab field Monday, has taken some post-workout balls from quarterback Andy Dalton and is confident the surgery on his right toe is a thing of the past.
Take a look inside the first day of the Bengals' Organized Team Activities at Paul Brown Stadium.
“When I got hurt, I was playing at a high level so I really don’t stress about that. Injuries you can’t control,” Green said. “It would have been something different if I was out there and my play dipped.”
Green agreed with the observation Taylor had just conducted the fastest tempo of a practice that he can remember in Bengaldom. Like other players that felt the same way, he liked it.
“Everything is so fast-paced. We’ve got a lot of plays in and there’s no standing around,” Green said. “Boom. Boom. Boom. Ones (first team) out, twos, ones right back in. I like it. The (tempo) is the biggest difference.”
UN-TAYLOR MADE: They were fast on offense, but also sloppy. And that came from the head man himself.
“We just put the ball on the ground unnecessarily,” Taylor said. “It won't matter what our effort is or what our scheme is if we're not doing a great job taking a snap, getting the exchanges then we're going to have a hard time winning games if we do it that way. So tomorrow we expect to be a lot crisper, the communication will be a lot better and we have to keep the ball off the ground and defense we have to create a couple more turnovers. That's the starting point for tomorrow.”
Taylor’s initial reaction before seeing any tape is that the defense is ahead of the offense and that the offense needs the execution to catch up with the tempo.
“I think guys knew where to go. It was just getting up to speed on how quickly we want it done, that's the next step in the process,” Taylor said. “I thought the energy was good. Guys came out and they were ready to roll, it's just now a matter of now we've got guys across from us which we haven't had for the last three weeks. Getting used to that tempo and what it's like to compete against somebody. I don't want to make excuses for what today looked like, but we do expect tomorrow to be better.”
Dalton admitted it wasn’t pristine, but safety Shawn Williams praised him for getting his guys quickly lined up in the new scheme.
“I think it's just kind of the way things are going right now,” Dalton said of the breezy tempo. “You want to play fast, and I thought we got in and out of the huddle quickly and did some good things.
“You could tell it was the first day. Obviously we want to be cleaner. We definitely don't want the ball on the ground. There's different things that happened. It's just getting used to the timing of everything.”
EASING BACK: The remains of one of the most injured seasons ever in Bengaldom were on display Monday and a lot of them, like Green, probably won’t be seen until training camp. Like Green asked, why push it?
Those on the rehab field: tight ends Tyler Eifert (ankle) and Mason Schreck (ACL), defensive linemen Carl Lawson (ACL) and Ryan Glasgow (ACL), guards Clint Boling (unknown), Christian Westerman (unknown), Alex Redmond (shoulder), Rod Taylor (ACL), safety Trayvon Henderson (ACL), cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard (knee scope) and Darius Phillips (unknown), running backs Joe Mixon (unknown) and Rodney Anderson (ACL).
OL SHUFFLE: As expected, with Boling out Taylor moved left tackle Cordy Glenn to left guard and first-round pick Jonah Williams lined up at left tackle. Taylor wouldn’t say that’s written in stone, but he likes the way Glenn has responded after playing all 91 of his NFL games at tackle. The best anyone can figure, Glenn last lined up inside during a game when Boling was his left tackle at Georgia nine years ago.
“I’ve embraced it,” Glenn said and Taylor saluted him after practice
“I love his mindset, it's been outstanding. He just wants to help us win and that's what you appreciate about Cordy,” Taylor said.
Since it’s his first combo up front, one could assume that’s the one they think has the best shot of starting Sept. 6 in Seattle. Taylor wouldn’t go that far.
“We'll find what works best,” Taylor said. “You do want five guys to develop some chemistry with one another and so the more reps they get together the better, but we're going to find that right combination as soon as we can.
“I think every day it will be a conversation. What you saw out there today is where we wanted to start and give that group the first look. It could change daily, it could for the next four weeks remain the same.”