It was just one season ago when the Bengals surprised a lot of people by making it to the playoffs before being eliminated by the Houston Texans. With a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and a rookie wide receiver in A.J. Green leading the way on offense, the Bengals won nine games and earned one of the wild card spots despite playing in the brutally tough AFC North. As they head into training camp this season, they will be trying to do something that Cincinnati has struggled to do, make the playoffs two seasons in a row. The Bengals have not had back-to-back playoff appearances in 20 years and it will be up to them to show these aren’t the same old Bengals, and that they’re a team that can stay grounded despite last year’s success.
Marvin Lewis joined WLW in Cincinnati with Lance McAlister to talk about how excited he is to get this training camp started after the success of last year, how tough it is to remind players that this is a new season and last year is in the past, what he thinks about the team extending the contract of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, the injury to rookie defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick, what the team has to do from an offensive standpoint to take the next step, and whether this year’s team can be better than last year’s.
How excited he is to start training camp after the success of last season:
“I’m excited to get going but whatever momentum was there last year was there last year and this is a new start. You have to rekindle your own momentum and that is going to be key for us.”
How tough it is to remind his players that this is a new season and last year is in the past:
“I think it’s easier with young players. I think it’s the guys who really haven’t accomplished a lot that do then make some strides who kind of feel like they have arrived. I think young players are constantly hungry to do more and better because they haven’t done much and they really don’t know. They know that you really didn’t get that far and they had some success, they know ‘I can do it at this level but in order to get there to the final game I have to do it that much better.’ I think that’s the key more than anything. I think that’s the difference. I think when guys haven’t won then they have a different sense when they finally do. These guys that have been here they’re either in their first year or their second or third year and they’ve experienced it so they’ve experienced tasting it and they know that’s not the final taste and that’s not what it’s all about so I feel good about that.”
On the importance of extending the contract of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer:
“That’s extremely important and to be able to continue and particularly for the organization to not worry about that and they will have opportunities hopefully if we’re successful the way we want to be but if it doesn’t work out then at least those jobs are solidified.”
On the injury to Dre Kirkpatrick:
“It’s really a minor injury and unfortunately too much has been made of this again. We’re going to fix this whole Twitter thing. I can’t wait for that. I’m sick and tired of it and our guys don’t understand how to use it and we’re going to fix it but more is made of it than anything. It’s a setback for him because he is going to have to take some time but the good thing is he’s here with our people, he’s done everything asked of him, it’s been a couple of weeks so he’s pretty far along now with it and things will scar down and he will be fine. Really too much gets made of this stuff and I know there’s nothing else important and I know that’s the deal. (Host: Do you believe the start of the season would be in jeopardy for him?) No I don’t.”
How his offense can get to the next level:
“We have to continue to do a great job of taking care of the football. That’s the number one thing we did at the beginning of the season that allowed us to be successful. We have to continue to do that, we have to know how to do that in our division games, we have to learn how to do that to finish and close games when we’re trying to play in close games and win close games and that’s what we have to do. We have to finish and get that done and I think along that way, which will make it easier, is make explosive plays. That’s really what we set out to really do is do a better job of making explosives through the running game, the passing game and special teams.”
Whether he thinks this year’s team is better than last year’s:
“I think this team has an opportunity to be a better team than we ended the season with but we have to go through the work. I know how that team would fight and react and this team has to establish their own identity whatever way we do. Whether we’re a big, explosive team, whether we’re going to grind it out, whether we’re going to play fist down defense down after down after down, we have to go decide that. Whether we’re going to just be as choking last year as we were on special teams where we choked people out and do those same things.”
On the lack of a number two receiver:
“I view it as a great thing. We have three, four or five guys that are going to have an opportunity to play a lot of football for us and that’s a great thing. We know we have a great number one wide receiver and last year nobody knew who any of the wide receivers we’re going to be so we’re in a pretty good position right now.”