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Quick Hits: Bengals Hopkins Has Been In Vikes' Vaunted Double A Gap; Zac Taylor Calls On Noises To Go Off

Trey Hopkins has been here before.
Trey Hopkins has been here before.

The lone offensive lineman left from the days the Bengals practiced daily against Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer's vaunted Double A Gap blitz is The Nerve Center, better known as center Trey Hopkins.

Hopkins makes his third straight Opening Day start and offense-leading 53rd Bengals start Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) against the Minnesota scheme last seen in Cincinnati in 2017, when current Vikings senior defensive assistant Paul Guenther was the Bengals defensive coordinator.

"A lot of people have adopted it. I guess (Zimmer) is known as the father of it," Hopkins said after Friday's practice. "It's unique that there are so many variations of blitzes that you can get from it. So you really have to be on your Ps and Qs with your communication and your eyes from an offensive line aspect. Just knowing who's coming, who's dropping."

While it's nice to have some background with the Double A Gap stuff, Hopkins says it doesn't cushion the challenge because of the endless combination of pressures plus the people the Vikings put in those gaps.

"They have good athletes on that side of the ball, which makes it difficult, too," Hopkins said. "There's not really a guy who can (let you) relax or halfway play. You have to really respect everybody and the fact they have literally every gap covered up with the possibility every gap can be shot. It really just puts a high onus on communication."

And that's one of the reasons that, as much as they like their rookie guards, why they are going with the veteran guard tandem of Xavier Su'a-Filo on the right and Quinton Spain on the left. Su'a-Filo, who started last year's opener in front of Burrow, is making his fourth Opening Day start and 59th of his career. Spain is starting his sixth opener and 75th career game.

"It helps a lot," said Hopkins of the experience in the middle. "I feel like we all know exactly where each other's starting thought point is and from there it's just talking and communicating. Seeing things through the same eyes."

TAYLOR'S CROWDED HOUR: The youth of the opposing center is on Bengals head coach Zac Taylor's mind. The Vikings' Garrett Bradbury has started all 32 of his games in the league, but only half of them were in a schedule of full houses during the 2019 season. It's one of the many reasons why Taylor is excited about the prospect of possibly playing in front of the largest PBS crowd in his three seasons coaching the Bengals.

"That's why we need a sold-out stadium in week one," Taylor said after Friday's practice. "I can't overstate the importance between last year compared to now and what noise does. When we (simulate) crowd noise, which we've done, it's a boom box. Every team I've ever been on, that's what it is … You cannot replicate 65,000 people screaming. You can't do it.

"That's the advantage we have not going to Minnesota week one. Which we wouldn't be able to communicate. I've been there. We have to capitalize on that advantage and we have to do it right out of the gate. Because that's when we're going to gain the momentum. When they can't communicate… It's something they're going to have to work through and we have to make it as hard as possible."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Taylor has suffered two tough fourth-quarter losses in his two openers. He admitted he's more confident heading into week three.

"Just because the confidence in the team," Taylor said. "You have a plan in place you believe in. The guys' attention to detail the last several weeks has been just great. Especially this week. We have good players that are going be put in good situations. It's time to play."

The only player on the roster unavailable because of injury remains cornerback Trae Waynes.


Gameday Program - Regular Season Home Game 1 vs. Minnesota Vikings

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