How a practice tweak helped revive the Bengals’ offense – Cincinnati Bengals Blog
CINCINNATI — The offense knew it had to shake things up after a pair of poor performances in the Cincinnati Bengals’ first two losses.
So the Bengals made a subtle but significant change to practice ahead of last week’s game against the New York Jets. Instead of various post groups taking the field for exercises separately, they entered as a unit. It was part of a week-long effort to create a sense of urgency and avoid an 0-3 start.
Wide receiver Tyler Boyd said it underscores the need to start early and prepare for the team to play with confidence.
“Even if we didn’t lose, we should have done it as a team,” Boyd said in the visitors’ locker room at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. “We feel like the best team. We have to prepare ourselves that way.
Beginning with the team’s first game week practice last Wednesday, the offense changed the way it entered the field for team drills. Instead of the unit standing behind their teammates at one end of the pitch, they ran to the touchline before running onto the pitch for the start of the training period, simulating what they would do in the game .
It wasn’t a new concept for the Bengals. Tight end Mitchell Wilcox said the offense did the same on points during training camp and at the end of the 2021 season.
Boyd and Higgins said the offense took the field with a goal during practices. But the tweak underscored the need to focus on the game in training and sought to create the urgency that was missing in the team’s first two defeats.
And it worked. Cincinnati scored a pair of touchdowns early and never looked back in a 27-12 win over the Jets. Ahead of a primetime showdown against the Miami Dolphins (3-0) on Thursday (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video), Bengals coach Zac Taylor cited the “little things in practice” when talking about the emergency created after the 0 -2 start.
“You want guys to have some confidence and talk about it a little bit more,” Taylor said. “I have so much faith in our group.”
Changing practice wasn’t the only thing the Bengals did to facilitate a quick start against the Jets.
Wilcox said urgency and energy were topics that were hammered home in meetings throughout the week. When the Bengals (1-2) won the toss, Cincinnati opted to start the game with the ball, instead of postponing, for the first possession of the second half. Normally, Taylor likes to be able to finish the first half strong and then pounce on an opponent right after halftime.
Against the Jets (1-2), Cincinnati opened the game with an 11-play, 90-yard drive capped by a touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Burrow to running back Samaje Perine. It was the start the Bengals wanted to manifest earlier in the week.
“I feel like we could go out and score the first practice, it also strengthened our defense and gave them a lot more momentum than they would have started [with]”, Higgins said. “It just helped, and we played complementary football.”
Even the first few games in practice are important for establishing a good rhythm, Wilcox said. In Cincinnati’s Week 2 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, early penalties provided setbacks for a Bengals offense that lacked explosive plays.
Cincinnati opened their game against the Jets with a 13-yard completion to Boyd that was shortly followed by a 19-yard grab by Higgins.
“If we can stick to the schedule and attack the field with some energy, we can start,” Wilcox said. “We just have to start it.”
The Bengals look to replicate that success when they host the Dolphins. Taylor said the process that worked well against the Jets shouldn’t be hard to replicate the rest of the way.
“We didn’t do anything crazy,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t just like a trendy thing that we did, that we get up for a week and are able to do it once. I think it’s just a weakness that we realized we had the first two weeks.
It turns out that something as small as how a team enters the field can make a huge difference, especially when a team like the Bengals needed it the most.