By John McMullen, NFL Editor
REPORT DATE: July 21 (rookies), July 23 (veterans)
SITE: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: It's all about taking the next step in Cincinnati.
The Bengals have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history but the architect of that run, quarterback Andy Dalton, has not performed well in January and Cincinnati has yet to advance, leaving more than a few to question whether Dalton can get the franchise to the next level.
It doesn't get any easier in 2014 because the Bengals lost both of their highly-regarded coordinators to head coaching positions -- (defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to Minnesota and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to Washington).
KEY OFFENSIVE ACQUISITION: New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wants to develop a bit more balance between run and pass this year and second-round pick Jeremy Hill is expected to complement the team's second-round pick from a year ago, Giovani Bernard, in the team's backfield.
Hill, a big, bruising back with a bit of wiggle and solid speed, is expected to be the thunder to Bernard's lightning and brings much more big-play capability to the table than veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
KEY DEFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Leon Hall is coming off a torn Achilles and Terence Newman is 35 so it was imperative for the Bengals to address the cornerback position and they did exactly that by drafting former Michigan State star Darqueze Dennard in the first round.
Dennard is a prototypical man-coverage corner who likes to get physical at the line of scrimmage. He's so physical in fact that he may take his lumps with pass interference calls early on but once Dennard figures things out and starts earning a reputation, he should provide quite an upgrade for first- year defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
PRESEASON SCHEDULE (All Times Eastern):
Aug 7 - at Kansas City, 8:00 PM Aug 16 - vs. NY Jets, 7:00 PM Aug 24 - at Arizona, 8:00 PM Aug 28 - vs. Indianapolis, 7:00 PM
07/17 15:07:23 ET