Friday, January 10, 2014
Bengals' physical offense to hum under Hue
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- On the Monday following the Cincinnati Bengals' abysmal offensive showing in a 17-6 loss at Cleveland in September, then-offensive coordinator Jay Gruden let reporters in on a little secret.
After four weeks and a 2-2 record, the Bengals still had no offensive identity.
New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has a more abrasive coaching style than predecessor Jay Gruden.
"That's probably our biggest fault right now is that we're still trying to get one," Gruden said in late September.
It doesn't appear it will take the 2014 Bengals four regular-season games to find one. Heck, it may not even take them until training camp or OTAs to discover one. According to newly promoted offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, the next set of Bengals already have an identity; one it took the 2013 group several games in order to find.
Under him, Jackson said, the Bengals' offensive philosophy will be simple: run the ball, play physical with the offense and be violent.
"What I need to do is unleash these guys," Jackson told reporters inside the Bengals' locker room Friday, following a news conference announcing his promotion. "We're going to try and create an environment for these guys to be great. That's what [head coach] Marvin [Lewis] is all about. We know we need to run the football. We want to run the football. That's where it starts. That's what he preaches."
It's also what Jackson believes.
For Cincinnati's offense, that's a good sign.
"In order to win and be a very good offensive football team, you have to be able to run the ball," Jackson said. "That's going to be a starting point for us."
Jackson was promoted Thursday from running backs coach to offensive coordinator after Gruden left to become Washington's new head coach.
Gruden's lack of calling for running plays was at the foundation of the Bengals' offensive inadequacies in the playoffs the past three seasons. In their three first-round playoff defeats combined, the Bengals handed the ball to their running backs on just 25 percent of all plays. While they were markedly better at doing that this past regular season -- handing off 36.3 percent of the time -- they still weren't close to the type of offensive balance they said they wanted to achieve. His philosophy? Use the pass to set up the run.
Jackson wants to run to open opportunities for the pass, and he wants to do so in a way that keeps his quarterback comfortable, confident and at ease.
"You have to be able to run it, but you also have to be able to throw it," Jackson said. "And sometimes you have to be able to dictate when you want to run it. That's the kind of football team we want to be. We don't want anybody to stop us from doing anything. There will be times when people do slow us down, but at the end of the day, we want to be a physical unit."
For the new offensive coach on a team that threw the ball 31 times in a fourth quarter it entered trailing by only seven, Jackson was saying all the right things Friday.
One of the right things Lewis said had to do with Jackson's often fiery on-field demeanor. HBO's cameras gave a sneak peek into just how much of a motivator and comedian he can be with players. On last summer's "Hard Knocks," he was constantly riffing on players during training-camp practices.
"Hue is going to bring that energy," Lewis said. "It's his charge. It's exciting for him. ...That's what you're excited for, because you know the guys, you know what we're good at, you know what we need to get better at and you're excited about that."
Bengals fans ought to be excited about the fact that under Jackson, a more physical offense, with a real identity, should hum right along.