(AP) The Cincinnati Bengals — 6-10 last season — open training camp July 26 in Cincinnati, with the first practice set for July 27 in Dayton.
LAST YEAR: Coach Marvin Lewis was fired after a 16th season without a playoff win, and 36-year-old Zac Taylor was hired in a notable shift for the franchise. The offense was one of the league’s worst again, with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green suffering significant injuries. The defense was by some measures the worst in team history. The Bengals slipped behind intrastate rival Cleveland and finished last in the AFC North for the first time since 2010. In the offseason, the Bengals essentially kept intact a roster that’s coming off three straight losing seasons, though troublesome linebacker Vontaze Burfict was released.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, OT Jonah Williams, G John Miller, CB B.W. Webb, TE Drew Sample, LB Germaine Pratt, QB Ryan Finley, G Michael Jordan.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Lewis and both coordinators, G Clint Boling, LB Vincent Rey, DE Michael Johnson, TE Tyler Kroft, OT Andre Smith, OT Cedric Ogbuehi, OT Jake Fisher, Burfict.
CAMP NEEDS: The offense will be learning its third system in three years, and the defense is on its fourth coordinator in three years, so there’s a lot of adjusting going on. The offensive line is the biggest issue at the outset, as it was the two previous years as well. The Bengals took Jonah Williams with the 11th overall pick and expected him to start at left tackle, but a shoulder injury during offseason workouts required surgery and could sideline him the entire season. Boling, the left guard, retired because of a blood clot one week before the start of camp, leaving the line in a familiar state of flux.
EXPECTATIONS: Taylor has never been a head coach. He’s growing into an unfamiliar role while also planning to call plays during games, something he did with the Dolphins for five games in 2015. The coordinators haven’t served a full season in their roles, either. The Bengals had to wait until after the Super Bowl to hire Taylor from the Rams, leaving them to assemble a coaching staff on the fly. Given all the newness and change, the Bengals will be a work in progress all season as they try to escape the basement. They haven’t finished last in consecutive seasons since 2001-02.
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