Bengals pick up pace of offseason workouts with start of OTAs

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the last phase of the team’s offseason workout program is important for getting new players up to speed putting the playbook into action against an opponent.

Through two days of Organized Team Activities, Taylor saw some good things while being able to pit the offense against the defense for the first time in 7-on-7 situations. The Bengals put on helmets for the first time this offseason Monday and Tuesday and were able to push the pace of practices more than in the four previous weeks.

Cincinnati will have a total of six OTAs over the course of this week and next before breaking until training camp in late July.

“I thought today’s tempo was good,” Taylor said. “Yesterday there was a lot of excitement. Some of the things we do we put a lot of emphasis on our walkthroughs vs. offense vs. defense, 11-on-11, as you guys saw at the beginning of practice. Just stressing that it’s a lot of above the neck work, it’s communication, it’s urgency, and I think our guys are getting better at that every single day.

“You really see it from the vets, the guys that have spent a lot of time in this league operating at a high level right out of the gate, which is really encouraging to see. It’s good for those young players to see too what it is supposed to look like so they’ll be up to speed sooner rather than later.”

That’s the main thing Taylor wants to get out of the offseason workout program is a sense of confidence from the players in what they are doing and good communication across the board.

Urgency is another buzz word Taylor is emphasizing this spring, and that seems to be a big difference between the Bengals now compared to a year ago when they were just focused on getting better.

“You do feel a team that’s very confident in what we’re asking them to do, and that’s key,” Taylor said. “Also trying to keep it fresh it with them to where they’re learning new stuff and challenging.”

On Tuesday, the Bengals were back to almost full participation again with the continued exception of Jessie Bates and Trey Hendrickson, who both decided not to attend voluntary workouts. Alex Cappa was doing side work with other rehabbing players, and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin and running back Samaje Perine were not dressed for practice but watching.

Shelvin has been dealing with some discomfort in his wrist, Taylor said, and underwent a minor procedure that will keep him out the next two weeks but not impact training camp.

Joe Burrow, who has been healthy this offseason after dealing with several bumps and bruises last year, looked crisp in a 7-on-7 drill to finish practice, connecting with different receivers like a familiar target in Tyler Boyd and a new one in tight end Hayden Hurst.

Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase said it was “good to have some competition again,” and Taylor liked the mentality players brought to the session.

“They want to be perfect,” Taylor said when asked what stood out in 7-on-7s. “These guys have a very high standard for themselves and it’s upsetting when something doesn’t quite go their way, and that’s what you want to see as a coach, that frustration and the fuel to get it right on the next rep. That’s where we want to be right now. That’s the step we need to be taking, is strive for perfection on every play. And if it’s not that way, then it’s below the standard.”

Taylor said now is the time for new players to get comfortable as well so when the pads come on in training camp, they can play to their potential and compete for jobs without the mental side of the game slowing them down.

Now also is a time the coaches can tinker with the scheme and try some new things so they can hone in on what works best in training camp.

“There are some things you want to expose to briefly now, so if you have to pull from that in training camp or in Week 7 or 8, you can refer back to things we introduced them to now, when there’s less stress on the installs and the timing and things like that,” Taylor said. “There’s plenty of things -- I think Brian (Callahan) today was on install 13 as he got up in front of the skill guys. So we’re pretty far down the road there with some stuff that we don’t major in but will come up over the course of the season.

“And we want those guys exposed to it before they show up for training camp. Once you get to training camp, you do scale it down. Let’s figure out what we’re going to be really good at with this group of people for this 2022 season and try to emphasize that more than anything else.”

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