BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 31: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 hands the ball off to running back Joe Mixon #28 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
Photo: Todd Olszewski/Getty Images
Photo: Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Sports Today: Bengals wrapping up intriguing offseason work this week

The 12th of June means football talk, right? 

These days it does because the local baseball squad is not very good (but we’ll still get to them in a bit). 

And this will be the last week we have new Bengals stuff to talk about until training camp starts July 26, so we might as well take advantage. 

Jay Morrison offers five things to watch at Bengals minicamp this week, including the return Carlos Dunlap, how A.J. Green is used in the new offense and how much Billy Price is able to do as he continues recovering from pec surgery. 

The progression of young linebackers and safeties is also something that could make this defense look a lot different than it did the last few seasons when bend-but-don’t-break was the most effective style for the personnel. 

Speaking of the new offense, the team website notes the days of two-back sets are not over for the Bengals even though offensive coordinator Bill Lazor seems to be Oregon-izing the attack. 

As I wrote a couple fo weeks ago, that’s good news for Ryan Hewitt

He made his bones first as a fairly traditional fullback for the Bengals, and the various evaluations of the offense often left him behind over the last couple of years. 

He still might not be lining up in the usual fullback spot a lot, but it looks like Lazor plans to heavily utilize versatile big guys who can catch and block. 

“A big part of the thing is we’re committed to being able to play football a lot of different ways,” Lazor said. “Some of that is one-back, some of it is two-back. You need the right guy to do that. He’s smart enough. He’s versatile enough. When I got here (in 2016) I was told he was a tough, smart kid.

“Some teams we play, you can see they see him as a fullback. But a lot of teams we play aren’t sure because we move him around a little bit.”

The team site also had an interesting item this week about something new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt is doing to help Andy Dalton improve heading into his eighth season. 

Van Pelt has brought some new drills emphasizing passes under duress. After getting sacked 19 times in 11 starts as a backup for nine NFL seasons, Van Pelt knows getting a clean look for a passer isn’t always easy.

“For a guy like Andy, he should be able to drop five steps, take a hitch, have a clean pocket and complete a pass. That’s what’s expected of us, right?” Van Pelt said. “You have to train the stuff that’s the hardest. The hard plays are the ones I’m trying to train these guys to make.”

So maybe Aaron Rodgers’ behind-the-back-dipsy-doodle-look-the-other-way-Harlem-Globetrotters flings aren’t all spur of the moment. 

“Awkward throwing mechanics. Off-platform throws. Moving through the pocket,” Van Pelt said of his points of emphasis. “Things you have to disconnect your upper body from your lower body. Unless you work it, it’s tough. You try to get used to making the hard plays.”

Considering how much Dalton has had defenders in his face over the past two years, that seems long overdue, doesn’t it? 

I don’t know, I’m starting to feel optimistic here. 

Maybe we really see a big step forward this season — if they can block anyone, of course… 

Regarding that baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds have at least three legitimate all-star candidates despite being buried in last place

Scooter Gennett leads the league in hitting, Eugenio Suarez is No. 1 in RBIs and slugging and Joey Votto is the on-base percentage leader (big shock, right?). 

If only one makes it, who should it be? 

Gennett has the best overall numbers, and since he only has to jump two players, he probably shot to be voted in. 

Overcoming Javier Baez won’t be easy given that he plays in Chicago, but there seems to be some buzz building for Gennett beyond the Queen City so maybe he can do it if he keeps raking… 

Now it’s only natural note No. 3 today combines football and baseball, right? 

Here you go: 

Tevin Griffey is the second son of Ken Griffey Jr.

Remember him? 

He was a star at Moeller High School before a Hall of Fame MLB career with the Mariners, Reds and White Sox. 

RELATED: Remembering the day the Reds traded for Ken Griffey Jr.

Junior also revealed last year he would have been one of those “special” people who crosses the state lines to play for the Wolverines if he hadn’t gone straight to the pros… 

And we wrap things up with a little more on the LeBron James-Michael Jordan debate

In case you missed it, I laid out my case for MJ as the G.O.A.T. and dismissed some of the oft-repeated-but-poorly-constructed arguments made for James. 

Bleacher Report published an interesting story with perspective from a handful of former NBA players, most notably Kobe Bryant. 

The first person who took a shot at His Airness but came up short seems to have a lot of thoughts on the second. 

Bryant: Michael gave me some really good advice after the '08 Finals: 'You got all the tools. You gotta figure out how to get these guys to that next level to win that championship.' Going into the 2010 series, I said, 'Listen, Boston, they got Ray Allen, they got Paul Pierce, they got [Kevin] Garnett, they got Sheed [Wallace], the talent is there. They're stacked.' That was the first superteam. [Michael] kind of heard me lament about it, and he just goes, 'Yeah, well, it is what it is; you gotta figure it out. There's no other alternative.' And that's the challenge LeBron has. You have pieces that you have to try to figure out how to work with. Excuses don't work right now. …

It has everything to do with how you build the team, from an emotional level. How do you motivate them? … Leadership is not making guys better by just throwing them the ball. That's not what it is. It's about the influence that you have on them to reach their full potential. And some of it's not pretty. Some of it's challenging, some of it's confrontational. Some of it's pat on the back. But it's finding that balance, so now when you show up to play a Golden State or a Boston, your guys feel like you have the confidence to take on more.”

These are great thoughts. 

They are also extremely ironic coming from Kobe Bryant since he largely failed to put this advice into action and relied exclusively on having an All-Star center to win his five rings. 

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