After the Bengals emulated the 1939 Philadelphia Eagles in starting 0-2 at home with zero touchdowns, the writing was pretty much on the wall for someone within the organization. Head coach Marvin Lewis decided that offensive coordinator Ken Zampese would be the fall guy, apparently fearing a mutiny if he didn’t cut bait after 18 games in the post. In his stead, the team moved quarterback coach Bill Lazor into the OC’s offense, as they look to jumpstart a unit that is averaging 4.3 yards per play through two games. So who stands to gain from this move, and who will be upset to see Zampese gone?
WINNER – Bill Lazor
Lazor finds himself back at the helm of an NFL offense, after serving as the Dolphins OC in 2014 and most of 2015. He’s an obvious winner, and will look to repeat the early success he had with the Dolphins where he transformed an offense that had been 27th in yards and 26th in points in 2013 to 14th and 11th in his first year.
LOSER – Ken Zampese
After a long stint as the Bengals QB coach, working with some success with Jon Kitna, Carson Palmer, and Andy Dalton, Zampese appeared overmatched as the OC. The Bengals were 24th in points scored in 2016, after being 7th a year earlier. He doesn’t deserve all the blame, but if the usually mild-mannered A.J. Green starts speaking out against you, it’s time to go.
WINNER – A.J. Green
It’s highly doubtful that the Bengals would have made this move if they thought Lazor would ignore his best offensive weapon. It’s not as if Green has exactly been struggling for work through two games, though. He saw 34 percent of the team’s targets in the Week 1 loss to the Ravens, reeling in five of his ten looks before another eight came his way on Thursday night. As the image below indicates, the Bengals have made it their business to get the ball to Green as often as possible.
Lazor leaned toward the pass during his stint with the Dolphins, passing 61.6 percent of the time in 2014 and 64.7 percent in 2015. With John Ross benched after a fumble on Thursday night, a move that must have had Lewis’ approval, Green has only Brandon LaFell for serious competition at WR. Green and people who have him on multiple fantasy teams will hope he gets all the targets he can handle.1
LOSER – Jeremy Hill
Ostensibly the starter, Jeremy Hill has 12 carries through two games for just 43 yards, at 3.6 yards per attempt. He has caught 100 percent of his targets though, with two catches for zero yards. He has appeared on just 20 percent of the total snaps, however. He may have started, but he certainly hasn’t finished. Lazor didn’t rotate his backs too much with the Dolphins, with Lamar Miller enjoying 54 percent dominance in 2014 and 57 percent the year after. Miller also saw nine and ten percent of the team targets. Hill does not boast a true three-down skill set, something Lazor likes his backs to have.
WINNER – Giovani Bernard (and maybe Joe Mixon)
As hinted at above, Lazor likes his backs to be involved in the passing game. Gio Bernard has actually been the dominant all-purpose back for the Bengals so far this season. He’s appeared on 49.60 percent of the offensive snaps, has 50 yards on 12 carries, and is tied for third on the team with six targets so far. He, far more so than Hill, has shown he can be more than useful as a receiver during his NFL career.
Notable company. Bernard has at least 336 yards through the air in every one of his NFL seasons, even in 2016 when he missed six games. Bernard has never been truly trusted as a workhorse, as the numbers below can attest. These are his key RB stats and where he stands against other backs since entering the NFL.
|Number||Rank Among RBs 2013-2017|
|Rushing YPC||4.2||14th (min 500 carries)|
Lazor could be the man to finally unleash him fully upon the league.
There is, of course, Joe Mixon too, and he certainly seems to fit what Lazor would like from his backs. He caught 28 and 37 passes in his two seasons in college. However, he has looked somewhat overmatched at the NFL level through two games. His 17 rushes have brought him 45 yards at 2.6 yards a clip, and his four catches have only accounted for 20 yards. Despite this lack of efficiency, he’s out-touched Bernard through two games. Considering his athleticism, collegiate production, and draft status, most observers expect Lazor to focus on unlocking his potential. Count me as a contrarian and firmly in the Bernard camp.
WINNER – Tyler Eifert
After a quiet Week 1, Tyler Eifert saw his targets increase fourfold against the Texans. However, when you consider that he only saw one target against the Ravens, his four looks isn’t that impressive. Lazor made use of his TEs with the Dolphins, with the TE1 on his teams, Charles Clay in 2014 and Jordan Cameron a year later, seeing an average of 13 percent of the total team targets. They were also heavily featured in the red zone.
This should be music to Eifert’s ears, but no more than he would expect given his red zone history.
|Season||RZ Targets||RZ Touchdowns||RZ Team Market Share|
It would appear on paper that there are more winners from the move to Lazor than losers. The NFL game, however, is not played on paper. But I am confident that Green, Gio, and Eifert will be happy with the new boss. So too will their fantasy owners…which in case you haven’t realized, includes me.
- Yes, people like me. (back)