CINCINNATI -- It's been said before, and should be said again: A football team needs an offensive identity long before Week 4 of the regular season.
Week 4? That's a rather random week, isn't it?
Not really. That was the week last season when the Cincinnati Bengals sheepishly admitted to still trying to figure out exactly what type of offense they had and exactly how they wanted to run it. Still searching for an identity, they had just been dominated on the road at Cleveland, and were still tinkering with their run-pass balance, as well as the balance of opportunities they were planning on giving playmakers Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, among others.
Before the Bengals did finally find an offensive identity that led them to having a top-10-ranked offense, their formula for success on that side of the ball seemed simple: just take whatever the defense gave.
That's not the philosophy the 2014 Bengals plan on implementing even once.
With deference to the late Al Davis, this year's Bengals don't want to be patient and take what the defense gives them. It seems they want to "take whatever the hell [they] want."
That's the identity Bernard seemed to reference Wednesday when he energetically told reporters about how much he was looking forward to new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's uptempo scheme.
"It's a lot more tempo, tempo, tempo," Bernard began, adding, "We're just going to smash your face in -- basically."
Jackson, who was elevated from running backs coach to offensive coordinator in January, wants to run and run and run some more. Then when he's done feeding Bernard and fellow backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Jeremy Hill carries in between the tackles, he wants to flank one out wide and pass to him for big after-the-catch yards off a playaction fake to another back. Then when he's called one or two of those plays, he wants Green or fellow receiver Marvin Jones to sprint down the sideline for an occasional "Go" route bomb from what he hopes is a more confident Andy Dalton.
This offensive coordinator wants to use the run to set up the pass.
Some three months before the start of the season, this offense has an identity.
"The mentality of the offense has changed," Bernard said.
Primarily, the second-year running back is referring to the way he and his teammates will be encouraged this season to rush to the line of scrimmage long before the play clock runs out, and to get plays off without running the risk of incurring a delay of game penalty. It's a small piece of an uptempo philosophy that's more about pacing than actual no-huddle plays themselves.
"You're just trying to get as many snaps as you can in," veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "It's not so much that you're no-huddling, but you're really trying to play at a fast pace."
The Pro Bowl lineman compared Jackson's high-tempo offense to what the Bengals ran under former offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski in 2005-07. It bears mentioning that Jackson, who is currently on his second stint with the Bengals, was Cincinnati's receivers coach for two of those seasons.
Whitworth believes that higher tempo could have several positive impacts on the Bengals' offense.
"You make it to where [the opposing defense] have to work and operate quicker and don't have as much time to line up and dissect and all those types of things," Whitworth said. "[Offensively], when you get hot a lot of time in that kind of situation, you get real hot. Working with a tempo is a great way to be able to play. Now you have to have players who are in condition to do that and that's a total different thing. I can remember back in '06, '07 when we did no-huddle some ... playing at that kind of tempo, it was always an adjustment to get used to being in that kind of shape."