NFL Nation's Coley Harvey examines the three biggest issues facing the Cincinnati Bengals heading into training camp.
Stay healthy: As Cincinnati saw last year, injuries that arise in training camp and the preseason can have a big impact on the rest of the season. Among the biggest preseason setbacks last year were receiver Andrew Hawkins' ankle injury and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur's shoulder injury. Hawkins was hurt attempting to dive for a ball in practice, and Lamur got banged up during the preseason finale against the Colts. Hawkins was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return (by Week 9), but Lamur was lost for the year. Without Lamur, the Bengals had to use linebackers and additional defensive backs to accomplish everything they previously had planned to do defensively with him on the field. Just as it will be for every team, the focus this training camp will be on working hard but minimizing injury.
Continuing to push the tempo: During the mandatory minicamp and voluntary organized team activities, the Bengals harped on tempo and pacing, and how they want to push both offensively this season. If the Bengals are able to carry over what they did in May and June, they'll be calling plays faster than in recent years. The goal for new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is getting his unit into a rhythm for four quarters, running a lot of plays, and the affect that tempo will have on opposing defenses by the end of the game. Watch during camp for how in sync the Bengals are while playing up-tempo offensively.
Establishing defensive rotations: The Bengals are going through their share of defensive changes, too. Former linebackers coach Paul Guenther takes over as the new defensive coordinator, getting his first chance to serve as a lead assistant on an NFL team. In years past, he already had a fairly large impact on Cincinnati's defense, setting linebacker rotations and helping draw up blitz packages for the entire unit. He's been praised by current and former players for his attention to detail. The organization's hope is that he'll be coaching the full defense the way he did his position group. You'll notice often this season that the Bengals will rotate players in and out of various position groups based on the sub-package personnel they want to trot onto the field. You'll even see them do some switching at the line of scrimmage, as ends might rotate sides or switch into interior positions during pre-snap maneuvers. The goal has always been to mask coverages and rushes, and to confuse offenses, but Guenther's scheme seems as if it will predicate itself on keeping an offense more off rhythm than even Mike Zimmer's defense did. It will be interesting to note some of the many defensive rotations that arise during training camp and preseason as the roster starts getting smaller.