There are lots of fun questions to ask about the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason, mostly centering on the new scheme coordinator Bill Lazor is installing.
Will A.J. Green get the ball more?
Will the running game thrive with a more-experience Joe Mixon running behind a new-look line featuring newcomers Cordy Glenn and Billy Price?
Can they get anything from John Ross after the receiver’s rookie year was mostly a waste?
Then, of course, how will Andy Dalton handle it all at quarterback?
And yet there’s another group that could be the key to making it all come together.
Tight end, H-back, fullback — whatever you want to call them, the Bengals have a handful of 250-260ish-pound players who form the group that has a lot of power and responsibility to make everyone else’s jobs easier.
And to do that, their jobs may have had to get harder.
Asked how much the offensive changes affect the tight ends, fourth-year man C.J. Uzomah said, “I mean, in a pretty big way. All the motions and shifts and formations and things, who lines up where in certain situations, yeah it’s a lot.”
Everything new Lazor has dreamed up is still coming into focus, but there seems to be little doubt the team is strongly emphasizing using more tempo.
That figures to put a premium on versatility, something Ryan Hewitt welcomes.
He featured prominently in the Bengals offense as a fullback early in his career — proving to be important enough to earn a new contract prior to the 2016 season — but has seen his role diminished over the past couple of seasons.
The true fullback might be a relic right now in Lazor’s new scheme, but Hewitt hopes he is able to earn a larger role if he proves he can handle all the different things tight ends and H-backs will be asked to do this season.
That would also mean being less of a marked man, someone defenses can key on because of the limited things his group might have in its package.
“Yeah that’s what I’m hoping for,” Hewitt said. “You sub in certain personnel groups that do some of the same things over and over again it’s easy for defenses to get a key. If you’re able to do a lot of the same things out of different personnel groups it’s really going to make it tough for the defense to get a sort of feel for us.
“We’re very multiple in what we’re doing. We were never a one-attack team, but I think we’re adding more to the plate now, more formations and more ways to attack the defense.”
Of course, that also means there is a lot to learn.
“Ryan and I talked about it this weekend about how happy we are about the adjustments being made, but right now our heads are spinning,” Uzomah said. “We’re trying to take it in piece by piece.”
He hopes getting to see it all in action on the field during OTAs this month helps accelerate the process.
“There are a lot of moving parts for us,” Uzomah said. “When we go into those two-tight end sets, it’s not like this is what you’re going to do no matter what on every play, you’ve got to know what this person and this person do because if we call a certain personnel group, we might just throw you out there with a different formation.
“I can see it on a piece of paper, but until we are out there with the tackles or running certain routes a certain way or trying to get the timing… the meeting room helps, but it only helps so much.”