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Brandon LaFell easing into Bengals’ offense

During the first day of the Cincinnati Bengals' mandatory mini-camp on Tuesday afternoon inside Paul Brown Stadium, there was a lot of the usual in the passing game – meaning Andy Dalton finding A.J. Green slicing through the secondary.

Brandon LaFell caught one touchdown, a wide-open play down the sideline, but for the most part the “14 to 18” connection stole the show when the first team offense was rolled out there.

And don’t think LaFell didn’t notice.

“I’m hoping to get all the (single) coverage,” the newly acquired free agent receiver quipped. “Some way, somehow in practice, it seems like the coverage always rolls to me and he’s wide open in the middle of the field. I can’t wait for the season to start.”

“I can’t wait for Tyler (Eifert) to get back, I can’t wait for them to double team A.J. and I can be on the other side with a one-on-one. I’ll love it.”

The 6-foot, 2-inch, seventh-year veteran was brought in this offseason on a one-year deal to essentially replace Marvin Jones, who departed for Detroit via free agency. LaFell began his last season in New England on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and ended the year with 37 catches for 515 yards and no touchdowns – his lowest numbers since his second year in the league in Carolina back in 2011.

But in 2014, he posted career highs in catches (74), yards (953) and touchdowns (seven).

“I’m definitely back to where I was,” LaFell said. “I’ve been working with (Dalton) for a little over two months now so we’ve got the timing down and it’s been showing in practice every day.”

In his six-year career, LaFell has started 56 of the 87 games he’s appeared in, catching 278 passes. He’s also played in six playoff games (with five starts), catching 20 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

In 2014, he caught four passes for 29 yards and a score in the Patriots’ 28-24 Super Bowl victory over Seattle.

“He’s a proven pro who has had an opportunity to play successfully in the league,” head coach Marvin Lewis said. “When we signed Brandon, we were getting a player that had proven that he can be productive on an NFL field. His work ethic and other parts of him add to that. You bring in a guy who you’ve researched how hard working he is. All of those are positives.”

As for his transition into a new offense with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator, LaFell said Dalton’s command of Ken Zampese’s playbook has helped him acclimate quickly, allowing him to play fast just months into their relationship.

“He’s come in and picked up on things quick,” Dalton said. “I told him it feels like he’s been here for a while. It’s not repeating or teaching things with him. He’s a guy that’s been around for a while and understands the game. He’s definitely going to help us out.”

And, LaFell noted that despite the early completions to a wide-open Green, the route tree isn’t designed to feature one player, keeping all the receivers “locked in” to their speed and routes.

Having played in three top-five scoring offenses during his career, LaFell already has a feel that his current team can build on the production that resulted in the No. 7 offense in the NFL a year ago.

“I think it can be really, really good,” LaFell said. “I think it can be better than last year with Tyler coming back healthy, with him continuing to pick up where he left off last year; A.J. pick up where he left off last year, Andy also. All those guys come back and start the season the way they finished, and also the young guys like (Tyler Boyd), myself, the new guys around here, come in to fill in the roles that guys left and going out there and making plays for us and not being a burden to this offense, just being another piece to help this offense achieve."

 



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