Bill Lazor came down from the pressbox to call plays on Sunday.
Bill Lazor called his first game as the Bengals offensive coordinator Sunday and showed, yeah, he probably is a MIxon guy after rookie running back Joe Mixon was the centerpiece of a 27-24 overtime loss that has shot some hope into the unit.
Everyone from rookies to veterans has talked about the lack of an identity on offense and it's far too early to say what they'll be under Lazor. And after the yards per rush dipped to 3.4 yards per carry in the second half even though they were running against six DBs much of the day and the ball barely went down field for one catch of a wide receiver for 20 yards, there is work to be done.
But Lazor did what he had to do his first time out and revived quarterback Andy Dalton. Mixon's large presence with the game on the line in Green Bay, the 13 targets to wide receiver A.J. Green, and just a few shots down field indicate that Lazor is going to take what they give him and that he'll do it with his stars.
"I think it's a real general statement for me to say get the ball to your best players, so I don't mean to be insulting, but that's part of it," Lazor said Monday, marking a week he has been working with the players in his new job. "I think the guys who have proven before they can be successful and help you win games, you've got to rely on them to do it. A guy like Joe, we all expected he would start to rise to that."
No one seemed to mind the insult. There had been a desire for simplicity and with as many runs (30) as passes called (30) and with Green and Mixon combining for more than half the touches, that seemed to go over well.
Lazor said upon taking the job he wanted to get his quarterback and running back acclimated as quickly as possible and after Dalton's 47 passer rating in the first two games, the idea was to make him as comfortable as possible. A 124 rating with his first two touchdown passes would indicate the regime has started off on the right foot but Lazor says he just got started.
"With Andy, he had to now say, 'When Bill calls this, this is what he's looking for.' Sometimes it might be a little different than a different guy wanted," Lazor said. "Just the thought process, how you get him to be decisive. So I think that was a challenge for both of us. Just like with the whole offense, I had to decide with Andy how much do you change? If you have a list of three things or eight things or however much that maybe you want to change, how much does it really make sense in one week. It was a challenge, and it still will be."
True to the secret life of an NFL coordinator, Lazor didn't want to reveal much the day after his first day of work. But there were some differences from the first two games:
_ After Mixon took 38 snaps in the first two games, he was on the field for 34 Sunday as the Bengals try to sort out their three-man backfield. Giovani Bernard slipped from 33 against the Texans to 13 against the Packers, but he also had one of the more productive days on offense with a receiving TD and a 25-yard rush on his five touches. Jeremy Hill stayed pretty steady with seven carries on 14 snaps.
"I actually loved it," Mixon said after Lazor put the ball in his hands 21 times for 101 yards total yards. "I feel like with the weapons we have we can be whatever we want when we want to. We came up short … We just have to keep going and finishing. That's all it is."
_The Bengals rotated backup tackle Andre Smith on both sides and that included his first NFL snaps at left tackle. Starting left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi took 49 snaps with right tackle Jake Fisher taking 47 and Smith filled in with 26 with the most high-profile coming on the left side.
Lazor and head coach Marvin Lewis wouldn't say if that's the plan with Lewis talking about the record heat as one of the reasons for the move.
"We went going into the game knowing about the heat and I said after the game that we (had planned to) rotate those guys," Lewis said. "We will evaluate that as we move forward."
So far, so good.
"I thought even in the practice week he looked pretty natural doing it," Lazor said of Smith at left tackle "I asked him, and I don't think he has too much of a preference. Some guys struggle to go back and forth. He looked pretty natural to me."
Smith said he's happy about it ("I just like being on the field and helping any way") and didn't look out of place. He invoked his years of experience with Andrew Whitworth on his left side after his handful of snaps against Green Bay pass rusher Clay Matthews Jr., were pretty solid but he hasn't been told if that's going to be the norm.
"I did some good stuff. On the road with 80,000 people yelling. It was pretty good," Smith said. "There's room for improvement. (The transition) wasn't that hard. I tried to just stay true to my technique and just make sure I didn't do anything off the wall or crazy. I played right tackle for nine years. I know how to do that. I saw Whitworth do it the right way for seven years. I know what it's supposed to look like."
_Tight end C.J. Uzomah saw 17 snaps, some as a fullback and that included on the key third-and-one in the fourth quarter from the Packers 27 when Mixon slipped before getting the handoff. Ryan Hewitt, who usually gets that call, took four snaps.
"I think he's a versatile player. I thought he proved that he's willing to go up in there and isolation block," Lazor said of Uzomah. "When you have guys who, when they're in your huddle, the defense doesn't know are they going to O-line, attach to the tackle or in the backfield or split out. It gives you a chance to try and get an advantage."
It's early. But Lazor likes what he saw in the game's first 20 minutes and knows the next step is 60.
"I think it went fine. I thought the guys responded well," Lazor said. "Everyone seemed confident. I thought we played fast early on. I think they play fast, being in essence they played dime defense most of the day with six DBs on the field, so that causes them to be a fast defense. I was really hopeful we would come out and match it, and I thought we played fast early."
Cincinnati Bengals take on the Green Bay Packers in week 3 of the regular season.