Bengals making progress in offseason workouts

Cincinnati Bengals' Zac Taylor, right, talks with Joe Burrow during an NFL football practice in Cincinnati, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

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Cincinnati Bengals' Zac Taylor, right, talks with Joe Burrow during an NFL football practice in Cincinnati, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Six days of OTAs coming up for defending AFC champions

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor is pleased with the progress the team has made in the first two phases of the offseason workout program. Next week the Bengals kick it up a notch with Organized Team Activities, allowing them a chance to see offense against defense.

The Bengals are in the middle of their fourth week of a purposefully shortened voluntary offseason program, and they will have six days of OTAs next week.

“I think it’s good,” Taylor told reporters Tuesday. “For the guys that have been here in these systems, they’re hitting the ground at a pretty fast pace right now. I think for all of our newcomers, we want to look at that. They’ve done a really good job of getting up to speed and matching the guys that are more comfortable with the systems. I think that’s what you want out of Phase 2 — everybody get comfortable with what they’re doing. How do they line up so that when you get into OTAs next week their play speed is fast to start.”

Cincinnati worked on some no-huddle offense Tuesday, and Taylor noted how crisp returning players looked in that portion of practice, particularly seventh-year wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

The team’s main receivers are all back, and the only big change in terms of players quarterback Joe Burrow would be targeting is new tight end Hayden Hurst replacing C.J. Uzomah. Getting him caught up is an important part of the offseason, Taylor said.

“It’s just a new system for him that he’s picked up very quickly,” Taylor said. “I think he and (assistant) James Casey have done a great job, (also) Drew Sample, getting him up to speed so he can play fast. He’s a smart guy to begin with, who’s been in now three different systems so it makes sense to him. He’s done these concepts before. He understands why we’re doing some of these things. I think he’s done a really nice job so far through the first three weeks of (offseason phase 2 practicea). Again, we have high expectations for him.”

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The Bengals also can use the offseason workouts to get an early look at the fourth wide receiver spot, which remains an open competition to solve in training camp. They are set with the starting three, but no wide receivers beyond Boyd, Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase had more than five receptions. With Higgins out for now because of shoulder surgery after the Super Bowl, the Bengals have a good chance to see who steps up.

Taylor said he isn’t necessarily needing to define those roles right now, so long as players are showing confidence in what they are doing.

“There’s roles for all of those receivers that end up making the 53 and then the 48,” Taylor said. “It’s more right now making sure that they’re all confident, they all play to their potential and then once training camp hits and you put on the pads and get a chance to see them block and run routes and play on special teams, all that stuff comes into the equation. Right now we’re looking for those guys to operate with a lot of confidence.”

Asked about whether the staff wants to utilize Joe Mixon more in the passing game, Taylor said he’s comfortable with where the target share was last year and it’s just a matter of Mixon continuing to get more consistent. Mixon was a big reason the team was so successful in the passing game, Taylor noted, because of what he did running the ball and adding 42 catches for 314 yards.

The Bengals had five third-and-one or fourth-and-one situations in Super Bowl LVI, and they didn’t use Mixon on any of them. They converted just one of those, a fourth-and-1 scramble for Burrow.

“To say more (targets for Mixon), it’s taking away from somewhere,” Taylor said. “We’re getting a lot of production from a lot of different guys. We’ve got a ton of production from our starting three receivers. We’ve got a ton of production from the tight end position. Got a ton of production from the running backs as a whole. To make a statement that we can get more out of Joe in the passing game, that’s got to pull from somewhere, and then we’ll be talking about why there wasn’t as much production from Ja’Marr or Tee. You know what I mean? So it all works together. We’re just looking to be an efficient offense and maximize the usage of all the guys the best we can to stress the defense. And then whoever gets the ball, gets the ball, and we expect them to make plays.”

Taylor looks forward to seeing how the team looks overall next week in OTAs, just another gear for getting ready for the season.

“It’s that next step where we can actually compete against the defense vs. the offense so we’re excited about that,” Taylor said. “You get a chance to see some of the stuff we’ve done on air and translate it over. We won’t do a lot of full speed 11-on-11 stuff, it will mostly be 7-on-7. We’ll do some walkthrough stuff to where we get looks to different sides of the ball. Once we get through this week, I’ll be excited to get those six OTAs.”

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