Slants and screens: Fejedelem sees no major impact from new kickoff; Offense seeks quick strikes


With teams waiting for the NFL to approve a new kick-off alignment, Bengals special teams maven Clayton Fejedelem is prepared to fit his game into whatever the league decrees to make the game safer. He loves the play. He loves the game. And in the end, he doesn't think there'll be that much of a difference.

"My personal opinion is I don't care," Fejedelem said Monday. "There's that physical aspect to football. There's just a (brutality) to it and that's what people enjoy. You know what you're getting yourself into. I'm all for fewer head injuries, but at the end of day if you're taking on an individual directly, you're not diving into him and you're playing with your eyes up, the head injuries really aren't there.

"That's what fans enjoy. That's what the game of football is. Not everyone is going to run full speed into big body wedge guys that are 6-5, 300 pounds.  That takes a little want-to, a little desire to do that. That's what people in the crowd like, they like to see the big collisions. I think that's just part of it. That's why you love the game, you like taking  the bruises, you like delivering the bruises."

Fejedelem said that Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons has talked about the potential changes (just a one-yard running start for the kick-off cover team, no wedge blocking and eight men on the front line for the return team), but they haven't discussed anything in-depth because the proposal is still evolving. Fejedelem has seen enough that he thinks there'll be a few minor scheme adjustments but not a major impact.

The 6-0, 205-pound Fejedelem, a third-year safety who had 15 tackles last season on the way to an alternate Pro Bowl berth, thinks the biggest difference is going to be on the return side. As a rover on the cover team, he won't have to take on wedges if the owners approve the plan later this month.  

"It's hard to tell," Fejedelem said when asked if that helps him. "You can speculate you might be able to beat other players in space or get a little jump on them. But I couldn't tell you. A  lot of unknowns."

Fejedelem plays left center up front on the return team so there's no change for him there. And he certainly hopes the kickoff isn't going anywhere.

"It's probably the most physical one play in the game. That's what sets you up as a great show," Fejedelem said. "People don't realize how those few yards help offensive and defensive drive starts based on field position. You see the best teams that go to the playoffs every year in the top in drive starts. It's a huge aspect of the game. You take that out, you're just levelling the playing field and taking a lot out of the game."

Four of the top ten teams covering kickoffs last season made the postseason and two 9-7 teams (Detroit and Baltimore) got knocked out of the playoffs in the last two games by the Bengals. When it came to returning kicks, seven of the top ten had winning records. The 7-9 Bengals were next-to-last returning kicks with their average drive start their 23.4-yard-line, 4.4 yards fewer than leader Baltimore. They were 21st covering kicks with foes' average drive start at the 25.3. The Dolphins led the way at the 23 …

New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has been calling for more aggression and he's getting it. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell noted Monday they no longer want those, 10-12 play drives to be the norm.

"It's more attack. Stretching it down the field," LaFell said. "We're trying to attack quick and get in the end zone and get on the sideline."

It's sorely needed. After finishing with the fourth most completions of 20 or plus yards (63) in 2015 and the 10th most in 2016 (53), the Bengals fell all the way to 28th with just 34 last season ...

New offensive line coach Frank Pollack apparently wants to see what everybody can do. For instance left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi says he's been taking some snaps at right tackle with the Bengals in their first on-field phase. It's believed Ogbuehi became the Bengals' first first-round pick not to have his fifth year option exercised since the birth of the rookie wage scale in 2011. "Doesn't matter either way," Ogbuehi said …

Right tackle Jake Fisher says the line's goal heading into this season is to lead the NFL in rushing. That would be quite a turnaround for a team coming off the worst rushing season in franchise history …

The Bengals had no comment Monday on reports that the NFL Players Association has filed two grievances stemming from the National Anthem case. According to, the first one was filed for 49ers safety Eric Reid "against the Bengals and all clubs he may have spoken with." PFT reported a few weeks ago that when Reid visited the Bengals a few weeks ago club president Mike Brown asked him if he plans to continue to demonstrate during the anthem and didn't make him an offer. The Bengals picked Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III in the second round …

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