When Mike Zimmer ended his reign as defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, there were signs of panic. Bengals fans had gotten used to the high-caliber system and players demanded by the current Vikings head coach. The general feeling was one of uneasiness. Could the Bengals continue fielding a dominant defense, without his input? They have done so and much more.
When the Bengals were forced to move on without Zimmer, there was another mad scientist waiting in the wings. Current defensive coordinator Paul Guenther tweaked the playbook and created an AFC North beast. Zimmer will be paying a visit to the Queen City, for a preseason game with the Bengals. It will be the meeting of three defensive minds. Head coach Marvin Lewis, Guenther and Zimmer still talk, during the offseason.
“It will be good,” cornerback Adam Jones beamed, per Cincinnati Bengals.”I’m quite sure he’s going to be coaching both sides of the ball. Zim is one of those guys he’s going to let you know when you’re doing something wrong or right. It will be a great time for us as far as learning and competing against someone else besides ourselves. We’ll know each other pretty good, so it will be pretty funny.”
The personnel familiarity doesn’t end there. Secondary coach Kevin Coyle also served with Zimmer from 2008-13. The competition will be nasty and downright insane. The philosophies of both teams is very similar. The object will be to get sound practice time and be competitive against a visiting squad. But, the competitive juices could make things interesting. That’s when the players and coaches have to reel in the adrenaline. No one should get hurt during the scrimmages.
“I think everyone is eager for the challenge.”
How does Guenther feel about facing his mentor? He understands the game will hinge on who implements the schemes better.
“Very similar scheme-wise to what we’re both doing, but you’re going against a different skill set, they may have some different tweaks that they’re putting in,” Guenther explained.
“It’s always good. When you get to that point in training camp, you’re getting tired of practicing against your own guys. When these guys come in, you’re practicing against somebody else. It makes it a little more competitive.”
The practices will be held on the practice fields adjacent to the stadium. They will be free and open to the public. Practice on August 10 will begin at 3 p.m. ET. The August 11 practice will start at 11 a.m. ET.
Per ESPN, this will be the second consecutive year of joint practices, for the Bengals. Last season, the New York Giants rolled into Cincinnati.
The franchise similarities between the Bengals and Vikings extend beyond the coaching tree and players. Both teams lost their Wild Card games in crushing fashion.
Our past experiences with joint practices have been good,” Lewis said in a statement. “You put yourself on the field with another team and let the competitive juices flow a little bit. And it’s great that we could work this out with Zim.”
Zimmer is ready for the practices with the Bengals. Knowing the players and the system will help with the evaluation of the Vikings. When the teams hook up, during training camp, coaches will be grading players. But, fans may view it as a preview of something much bigger.
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]