The Cincinnati Bengals have made the NFL playoffs the last two seasons, but for them to continue ascending in the AFC, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden understands that in 2013 his offense needs to take "major, major, major steps in the right direction moving forward," as he said in a report from Joe Reedy of Cincinnati.com on Thursday.
Cincinnati will break after Thursday's OTA before starting minicamp next week, Reedy writes, and Gruden has liked the effort that he's seen from his offense.
"We're getting accomplished what we wanted. We've seen a lot from a defensive standpoint. Andy has gotten a lot of reps. He's working through some things and it is only his third year. We're going back to basics but throwing a lot at him. We're happy with the progress the offense has made.
"The thing about our offense is they came back and are willing to work hard, they are all unselfish and have a great understanding of what it is going to take for us to get to the next level."
The Bengals, averaging 332.7 yards per game in 2012, ranked 22nd in the league in total offense. Reedy writes that the team has finished 20th or below in total offense for five consecutive seasons. Their 24.4 points per game last season, however, ranked 12th in the NFL.
Dalton improved statistically in nearly every quarterback category in 2012 compared to his 2011 rookie season (save for interceptions, which went up from 13 to 16), yet the Bengals still finished 17th in the league in passing, averaging 223.6 yards per game.
Rookies could add a few new elements for Dalton and the offense, as tight end Tyler Eifert was largely thought to be the 2013 NFL Draft's best prospect at the position. Running back Giovani Bernard is a versatile, big-play threat out of the backfield. Playmakers and other downfield threats are the sort of players that, other than wide receiver A.J. Green, Cincinnati desperately needed to add to their offense.
Bernard should help a running game that finished 18th in the league last season, averaging 109.1 yards per game. Primary back BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 1,094 yards and six touchdowns, but had an average of 3.9 yards per carry. In Reedy's report, Gruden has also been working in some no-huddle offense into OTAs as a way to potentially add another element to the Bengals offense.