CINCINNATI — Sixth play of the game. The Bengals break the huddle on second-and-1. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth lingers in the backfield and then takes the position of a fullback.
After he’s gotten the Kansas City defense’s attention, Whitworth slides over to his usual spot on the line and blocks for Jeremy Hill, who gets the first down with a 3-yard run. Not the first time the Bengals (4-0) have left everyone wondering what’s going on.
They’re becoming known for it.
“We’ve got so many different things that we do,” quarterback Andy Dalton said on Wednesday. “We come up with some good stuff. And you never know what it’s going to be each week.”
Last season, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson turned Dalton into a receiver against the Titans. Dalton flipped the ball to receiver Mohamed Sanu and drifted out for a pass. Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson went for the interception and missed, allowing Dalton to catch the ball and go 18 yards for the first touchdown reception by a Bengals quarterback.
That was just a jumping-off point. Jackson has opened his playbook of tricks this season.
An offensive lineman who was brought in as an extra blocker caught a 31-yard pass. Whitworth has lined up in the backfield and as a slot receiver. Both tackles wound up on the same side of the field.
And so it goes.
Jackson’s always thinking about different ways to do things.
“Oh yeah, I’ve got issues that way,” he said after practice. “I do. I can be in a number of different places and things kind of pop into your head. Or you can be somewhere eating and something just comes to you.”
They get interesting reactions when they show it to the players for the first time.
“I think some of them think I’m crazy,” Jackson said. “That’s OK. I’ve been called that before. I’ll take that identity every now and then. I think they like it. I think they know every week something can come out of nowhere.”
Dalton is one of the first to see the game plan each week and right away has some questions.
“I always ask: Who came up with this one? How’d this one come about?” Dalton said. “That’s just kind of part of what we do, though.”
Part of Jackson’s creativity comes from his players’ versatility. Sanu is an excellent passer. The linemen are comfortable playing different spots. And the receivers and running backs are accustomed to moving around.
The Bengals’ offense ranks second in the NFL in total yards heading into a home game Sunday against Seattle (2-2), which has the NFL’s second-ranked defense and has allowed only one field goal in its opponents’ past 18 possessions.
Naturally, Jackson spent some time thinking up new wrinkles for the Seahawks.
“We haven’t even scratched the surface,” he said. “What is this, game five coming up? Come on now. We haven’t even got close. We’ve done nothing.”
What about Whitworth lining up in the backfield and running the ball?
“You never know,” Jackson said. “He wants one bad.”
Notes: DE Wallace Gilberry (calf) and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones (groin) were held out of practice on Wednesday. Jones was injured during a 36-21 win over Kansas City on Sunday. Backup Darqueze Dennard filled in and was on the field for 49 percent of the plays on defense, a season high. … RB Jeremy Hill (knee), S George Iloka (ankle) and S Reggie Nelson (hamstring) were limited in practice.
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