Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said it felt a little like Christmas morning when he finally received the new playbook Tuesday with the start of voluntary offseason workouts at Paul Brown Stadium.
For the first time in his professional career, Dalton will be playing under an offensive-minded head coach, and the change is especially exciting to him because he now has three former quarterbacks guiding him and steering the offense.
New head coach Zac Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and second-year Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt will all provide a unique perspective to his position and how he runs the offense.
“I think (a former quarterback) just understands how the position works — he’s seen it first hand,” Dalton said. “I think there’s stuff he can relate to that you only understand if you’ve played the position. So with Zac and Alex Van Pelt — both guys playing the position — and obviously Brian being around the game for so long, we’ve got a lot of good voices in the room.”
“I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to happen that will be like I’ve never seen that before, I’ve never been through that before,” he added. “So that’s a very positive thing.”
Dalton said you can tell Taylor was a quarterback just in the way he carries himself and the way he thinks about things. His youth makes him a little more relatable to the players, as well, and the 35-year-old Taylor has fresh ideas the Bengals are looking forward to hearing.
For the players on offense, it’s refreshing to have a head coach that comes from that side of the ball because it means more of an emphasis on improving that aspect of the team. The Bengals operated under a defensive-minded coach for 16 years with Marvin Lewis.
Wide receiver A.J. Green said he can already tell that Taylor is going to be more hands-on with the offense than Lewis was.
“Just watching some of the Rams highlights and the playbook, it’s very exciting,” Green said. “It’s my first time being with an offensive-minded coach. Being the head coach, being in the meeting rooms and going through everything on offense, it was very exciting for me.”
The high-flying West Coast offense Taylor and Callahan – the team’s third offensive coordinator in three years – will bring should be exciting in itself.
Tuesday was the first day players could actually talk football with Taylor and his staff, so it felt like the floodgates had opened and now they just “can’t get enough information,” according to Dalton. Players hadn’t gotten to delve into the playbook much by the end of the first day, but from what Dalton could tell, Taylor is keeping things easy to understand even if his concepts and language are different from the past systems.
“We got the formations down,” Dalton said with a laugh when asked about his first impressions of the playbook. “That was the big thing. We got motions, so we’re going to be able to do that so far. We can’t snap the ball yet. We haven’t gotten there, but we can line up and we can motion. That’s my first assessment.”
Dalton said it’s hard to tell how different this West Coast offense will be from others because everyone seems to put their own spin on it.
Taylor and Callahan come from offenses that put a lot of emphasis on the tight ends, so that potential is especially exciting for players like Tyler Eifert. Eifert hadn’t met Taylor before he re-signed so he was looking forward to hearing his ideas and seeing them put into action or on paper.
“We had Day 1 install today, so my head’s still spinning and I’m trying to figure out formations and the simplest aspects of the game,” Eifert said. “But we’ll get to all of that down the road. It’s definitely exciting. We’re in it now, so we’ll just follow the process one step at a time.”
Eifert said he didn’t have any expectations for the first day or specific things he wanted to hear from Taylor. He’s trying to keep a totally open mind about the changes to the offense and what his role might look like this year.
“There’s a lot of curiosity, just how things are going to go,” Eifert said. “It’s the unknown. But I think it’s exciting, everything that he had to say. It’s his show and we’re going to fall in line and do everything we can to get us where we need to be.”
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