Cincinnati Bengals rookie Sam Hubbard joined the show to talk about Moeller, Ohio State and being a rookie in the NFL.
Offensive coordinators enjoy drawing up creative plays. They live in a world of finding unique ways to misdirect and use different personnel pieces to free up big plays.
It’s the fun part of this profession dating back to the days drawing routes in the dirt as a kid.
Bengals OC Bill Lazor did not enjoy having to get creative in the wake of the A.J. Green toe injury. Not even a little bit.
“I didn’t think of the word fun,” Lazor said with a smile and laugh. “I think I’d rather have him.”
Nope, offense without Green isn’t as fun, but it is life for the Bengals right now. It’s, unfortunately, part of the process they’ve had to deal with on multiple occasions this season.
After Sunday, every opening day skill position player except Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah and Andy Dalton will have been inactive for at least one game.
“Every time we’ve lost someone we’ve tried to be creative to pick up the slack and get the next guys to help us move on,” Lazor said. “It’s kind of happened a few times this year already. This is football and it keeps moving, the most important thing is long term we have to keep getting better. Somehow we are going to look back on this practice day with who we had practicing today and it will help propel us to what we are going to be later.”
They hope. That starts with necessary development from a group of young receivers that haven’t built on promising training camp and preseason. John Ross, Josh Malone, Cody Core, Alex Erickson and Auden Tate will be asked to help fill the abyss left by Green.
The five have combined for 19 receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns this year, both by Ross. They’ve been urged to step into the spotlight through the first half of the season playing alongside Green and breakout receiver Tyler Boyd.
“It’s hard, man, when you got two guys who are playing out of their mind,” Ross said. “You have A.J. who is going to be A.J. every single year. You have Tyler Boyd who has blossomed to be one of the best receivers in this league. It’s hard for Andy to actually say I’m going to get the ball to everyone.”
No longer is the need for others to step into the spotlight a subtle nudge. Now they’re being shoved on stage. No one more than the former No. 9 overall pick.
“I think we all kind of see it as an opportunity to step up and show what we can do,” said Ross, who missed three games this year with a groin injury. “That’s all of our mentality. We don’t want to see A.J. go down and say, ‘What do we do?’ We know what to do. It’s our time to step up and we have to – not to put any pressure on ourselves – but it’s real life. It’s our job. It’s something we have to really focus on.”
From Lazor’s perspective, he’s remained focus on letting the plays stand for themselves and not worry as much about who is running them. Obviously, you play to the strength of your personnel, but on game day, there’s a certain trust that has to be part of every call.
If it’s Malone or Ross or Tate running on the outside, he has to believe they will make the play.
“I’m totally confident because that’s how you have to live,” Lazor said. “If you are calling the play you can’t have any doubt in your mind. You call every play like it’s going to work. So, it’s just like the opening game of the year when we had everyone. You do the same thing. Call every play like it’s going to work. You have to believe in it because maybe they feel what you believe. You have to put that in your mind.”
He may feel it in his mind, but we’ll see what it looks like on the field.
The last time Dalton played without Green was the final six games of the 2016 season. His yards per attempt dropped from 8.1 with Green to 7.37 without. Dalton’s passer rating only saw a negligible difference.
In 2014, Green missed three games midseason with a toe injury. The Bengals went 1-1-1, including a dramatic 27-24 victory in Baltimore. His yards per attempt dropped from 7.21 the other 13 games that year to 6.6 without Green. Again, the total rating didn’t see much difference.
There’s no running from the altered dynamics offensively for Dalton, however, without his top target. No matter who you are on the Bengals, not much fun comes from living life without No. 18.
“You’re losing the best player on our team,” Dalton said. “Just from the start, you never want that to happen. The coverages may be different because he’s not out there. We’ll have to see the plan and what teams are going to do now with him not out there, and we’ll have to adjust.”