Offensive overhaul gives Andy Dalton, A.J. Green that rookie feeling

CINCINNATI -- There's a perception outside of the Cincinnati Bengals' locker room that not much has changed in the few months since the organization re-signed longtime coach Marvin Lewis to a new contract.

Some of the players have heard it and they might even understand it. But they don't agree with it.

Monday was the first day of the Bengals' offseason training program, and during the open locker room period, players were throwing around terminology that indicated they feel quite the opposite. "Change" and "fresh start" were some of the words repeated by various players, including quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.

Indeed, it's the offense that appears to be affected the most. The defensive side has a new coordinator in Teryl Austin and a secondary coach in Daronte Jones. But the offense is essentially being overhauled. Bill Lazor, who replaced the fired Ken Zampese after two games last season, is putting his own stamp on the offense, while wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell, offensive line coach Frank Pollack and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt are all new.

Dalton alone is on his fourth offensive coordinator since he was drafted in 2011, but he admitted this is the first year the team was actually moving away from the framework of Jay Gruden's offense that was in place when Dalton was a rookie.

"This is a complete change," Dalton said. "What we were doing before was basically Jay [Gruden’s] offense with the adaptation of Hue [Jackson], he put his stuff on it, then [Ken Zampese] took over and he did his thing. Now we’re starting from square one. This is all new."

Dalton said he felt like they are starting from scratch in a way. He had gotten to know the offense so well that it was second nature to him. Now he's having to relearn everything, and he admitted the challenge was exciting.

"There will be some stuff, plays that were run that will be similar, so I’ll understand them -- it will just be called completely different," he said. "And it may be the same play that’s read differently now. It’s the way Bill’s wanting to do it. It’s learning a completely new offense."

Outside of the offensive line, Dalton is the person who will be most affected by the changes. That's why Green worded things in a slightly different way, saying he didn't think things would be "drastically" different, but he admitted it definitely was a departure from the norm.

"It's going to be different," he said, pointing out that the Bengals would now be using a numbers-based system for their terminology.

The Bengals' offense was one of the league's worst in 2017. The unit was last in yards per game and tied for 26th in scoring. The offensive line struggled, and even the normally reliable Green admitted his statistics were "crummy."

"There's going to be years like that," he said. "[Can't] get as frustrated like I did last year -- just got to stay who I am and continue to play."

Green also has to adapt to a new wide receivers coach for the first time since he entered the league. Green said he felt "blessed" to work under James Urban to begin his career, but like Dalton, he said the thought of a new start excited him.

"Anytime you get a fresh start, new coaches, new playbook, everybody is anxious to prove themselves to their new coach," Green said. "This is going to be a challenge. I'm ready for it."