One thing is loud and clear about this year's first Bengals offensive line as they gather Thursday night (7:30-Cincinnati's Local 12) for the second pre-season game against Washington. They went to one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL to open the preseason in Kansas City on Saturday night and didn't flinch.
Which is nice because if they thought that was loud, when they open the season Sept. 8 in Seattle they won't be able to hear themselves think.
"It was a good primer, definitely," said right tackle Bobby Hart. "It was real loud. Definitely louder than I expected. You get stuff ironed out. When you get everybody on the same page, it's not hard to execute."
On the 14-play drive against the Chiefs to open the preseason, the line didn't have any false starts or appeared to have any miscommunication. After a season Hart was flagged for nine false starts, he's clearly in step with new offensive line coach Jim Turner's cadence after a series of sit-downs with him and his linemates, such as right guard John Miller and Cordy Glenn, the tackle on the opposite side. He hasn't been early during training camp practices, either.
"What Jimmy does a good job of doing is he takes feedback from his guys very well. It's not his way or no way," Hart said. "When his guys tell him, 'Hey, this is what works for me,' we sit in a room and we talk about it. Cordy may have something to say. John may have something to say. Then we come to the common goal and it's just not my way and this is what needs to be done. I feel that plays a big part."
Before the Bengals extended Hart on a three-year deal back in March, Turner and new offensive coordinator Brian Callahan vetted the 2018 film for penalties and sacks allowed and came to the conclusion they could help Hart because he certainly has the traits for an NFL right tackle. Turner admits he's a cadence purist and believes it's one of the most underrated elements of offensive line play.
"The biggest thing you have to practice all the time. So, every drill that we do, every drill we do a snap count," Turner said. "That snap count, it's easy (in practice), but on game day. we got a chance Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium to work our silent snap count. The first game against Seattle that is going to be silent. They are going to be loud. You have to practice it and practice it and practice it. We spend a lot of time on that simple action. People would be amazed at the amount of time we spend on it. I think we are drawing all this complicated stuff, it's as simple as that being able to get off the ball at the same time."
Check out the behind-the-scenes photos of the Bengals traveling to our nation's capital for the second preseason game of 2019.
Turner had plenty of chances to get ready for what NFL tackles face. Before he went to the Dolphins in 2012, he was at Texas A&M where the Aggies had a pretty good pass rusher that he coached against every day.
You had to help guys anyway you could because you had to practice, right?
"Those tackles, it's so important for that snap count to be right for those tackles," Turner said. "If the defense knows, if you were trying to block Von Miller, OK, and he knows the snap count, you are in trouble. you have to use that snap count, it has to help the linemen. I spent a lot of time talking about the snap count. I spent a lot of time coaching it. Making sure those guys are getting off on the snap count. If he is late off the ball it's a sack. If he's late, it's a sack. He can't be late. That's just it right there. It's got to be worked and drilled and we drill it constantly every day. "
Dave Lapham, the Bengals radio analyst who played 10 seasons and in a Super Bowl on the Bengals offensive line, has long talked about false starts being an indicator of one awful thing for a lineman. Lack of confidence. But Hart has full faith in what this group has been able to put together. Confident enough to call it "pretty bullet proof."
"We talked about stuff that worked for me in my past," said Hart, who had five false starts in three previous seasons with the Giants. "We watched a lot of tape. There were some things (Turner) did in the past. You just put it all together and you put it in one big pot and come out with something that was pretty solid, pretty bullet proof."
Hart had enough faith in himself that he didn't lash out at others during last season's bumpy ride. He knew what had to be done.
"I'm not the type of guy to throw anybody up under the bus. A coach or a teammate," Hart said. "My shoulders are big enough to take everything that comes with it. You never once heard me say, 'Oh this is what happened.' You see however many false starts I had. I had them. They're mine and that's it.
"But in my career I didn't have that many. I just knew we had more football to play this year and I knew that was got to be one the big things I focused on."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
- On Thursday, Hart's first line may end up getting as many snaps, if not more, than it did in Kansas City. The usual pre-season progression is two good drives on both offense and defense and get them out of there so they don't play more than a quarter. That would set up the usual dress rehearsal next Thursday night (7 p.m.) in the third pre-season game against the Giants at Paul Brown Stadium, which puts the first teams on the field for the first half and maybe the first series of the second half.
- You have to believe the starting offensive line, off practice Monday and Tuesday, has fourth-rounder Michael Jordan at left guard and veteran utilityman Trey Hopkins at center.
- Head coach Zac Taylor says rookie quarterback Ryan Finley gets the second team Thursday and veteran Jeff Driskel goes with the threes. Look for Finley to get the bulk of the snaps. It's doubtful Driskel works with the wide receivers so early in the experiment, but he could surface on punt return after working there in practice Tuesday.
- Taylor said running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are available, but it's hard to see them getting a lot of work. And they wanted to get rookie running back Trayveon Williams more than five carries in the opener. He looked fine after leaving Saturday early with a bruised rib. Williams should get some help next week when rookie Rodney Anderson is expected to make his debut.
- If tight end Tyler Eifert plays, it probably won't be for very long after he didn't play in the opener. He'll probably get his most work next week. But it's a big game for rookie Drew Sample. Sample and Mason Schreck are basically the only tight ends available because of injuries to Cethan Carter, Jordan Franks and Moritz Bohringer. They should be back next week, but the thinking is they'll protect Eifert and C.J. Uzomah Thursday.