Marvin Jones is one of those offensive players intrigued by new coordinator Hue Jackson's up-tempo-in-your-face approach.
The Age of Jackson has descended on the Bengals offense. Like Andrew Jackson brought a frenetic pace to the rise of democracy, new coordinator Hue Jackson is spreading intensity and urgency to all corners of the depth chart.
"Kind of indescribable," said wide receiver Mohamed Sanu of his boss' passion during Wednesday morning's media session. "Ever seen a hungry dog? It's like that. Just like a hungry dog that's got a steak right in front of him. Like a pit bull."
Jackson has already started chewing on the subject of tempo the last couple of Tuesdays and Thursdays during the offense's work on the field in the Phase II period of the voluntary offseason workouts. When Phase III opens Tuesday against the defense in the first of nine pad-less practices (closed to the public) his players say tempo is going to be front and center.
"Very up-tempo," said wide receiver Marvin Jones. "A lot of aggression. No matter what period it is, you're going to see all aggression."
All of which doesn't surprise running back Giovani Bernard after Jackson coached his position last year.
"I think the mentality of the offense has changed," Bernard said. "I don't think it's so much more, 'We're going to go do the play.' I think it is a lot more tempo, tempo, tempo, and we want to play and we're going to smash your face in. Basically. That's what I got. We had a little bit of that in the running back room last year. We understood what his philosophy was. We kind of understand, now everybody will on the offensive side what we've been trying to accomplish in the running back room."
The smash-mouth stuff is going to have to wait until the pads come out during the last week in July in the first week of training camp. But the drafting of power back Jeremy Hill and the moves at center have already heralded that physical approach that is the breeding ground for a top-ranked run game.
The 233-pound Hill is the biggest back drafted by the Bengals before the sixth round since Pete Johnson in 1977 and he hopes to end a 10-year drought. It's been a decade since the Bengals had a 200-pound back break off a 50-yarder and that was when running back Rudi Johnson went for 52 against the Browns.
No one on offense is around from that day in 2004, but left tackle Andrew Whitworth was here in 2006 and 2007 when quarterback Carson Palmer often pulled out the no huddle to emphasize the advantageous matchups the Bengals had with wide receivers Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Chris Henry.
With Bernard and tight end Tyler Eifert in the huddle along with Sanu, Jones, and three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, the options keep multiplying.
"I'm kind of used to that style. I kind of favor that style and like that style myself. I think that guys are just getting used to it, guys that haven't been in it, and a lot of guys seem energized by it," Whitworth said. "We may not be running the no huddle, but we're moving so quickly in and out that it's like not having a huddle."
Whitworth is one of those guys that's energized by what is unfolding. When he moved to left guard last year for the final month, the reason he thrived in there, he says, is he was involved in the running game again like was at tackle in 2009 and 2010 when the Bengals were heavy run and play-action. He senses that Jackson is headed to a similar style.
"It's going to be a little bit different style than what we've done in the past," Whitworth said. "I think guys are excited about it and embrace it. It's a fun way to play. "
The wide receivers are also into it. Under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Sanu lined up in the slot, on the outside, as a running back, and as a quarterback. Jackson has told him to be ready.
"You're going to see me all over. It's going to be fun. You'll see everybody all over," Sanu said. "He's just got things for everybody. You're going to see me line up one way, you'll see Marv coming across one way, A.J. is going to line up one way, Gio lined up one way. It's going to be fun."
Sanu couldn't help but start laughing when he came to Bernard. How many options can you have? And with Bernard, you're already talking about a guy that set the Bengals record last season as a rookie with most catches by a back with 56. There is a lot of talk that Jackson is going to find a way to team Bernard in the same backfield with Hill or, at the very least, turn him into a Darren Sproles-type working out of the slot more than the 15 or so times he did it last season.
"At the end of the day every coach, every offensive coordinator has their plays where they want a certain player to be in this certain area," Bernard said. "It's not so much how they get to that area, it's more so to get to that point so if I'm coming out of the backfield to get to that spot or coming out from the slot to get to that spot, it's really the same thing.
"I think coming into this year under Hue on the offensive side it's going to be a much more explosive offense. I think the tempo is going to be picked up a lot," Bernard said. "Practice is going to be a lot more running around, little bit crazier, but obviously organized. I'm really excited having Hue as my running backs coach last season and now my OC. I couldn't ask for more."
Jackson is intent on running more plays than last year. Already a good offense (the Bengals finished 10th last season), they ran the sixth most plays in the NFL with 1,097. But that was due in large part because of a third-ranked defense and not because they were a fast-paced unit. Denver (1,156) and New England (1,138) ran the most and it's because they were getting in and out of the huddle when they weren't in no huddle. It wasn't because of their defense. Denver was 19th and New England 26th.
"We're trying to get a lot more plays in. The more plays you run, the more opportunities you have for big plays," Bernard said. "You want to get to the line so you don't have to rush to make audibles. Jay was more, 'OK, let's get to the line, make our audibles, take our time.' With Hue, it's just hurry it up; pick it up that much faster."
On Tuesday, Jackson throws the red meat out there and he'll see which of his guys are ready.
"He's trying to get the best out of all of us," Jones said. "He's making sure there is no moment in time we're relaxed. That's the whole identity. If you don't do it right the first time, he'll make you do it again until you get it right."