The Cincinnati Bengals finished the 2012 regular season with a very sub-par performance from the offense. In fact, the offense finished only 22nd overall in total yards—which is down from 20th in 2011.
Obviously, something needs to change in the Bengals offensive scheme. It is very clear that most of the offensive personnel will be sticking around for the 2013 campaign. This group also consists of offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
Gruden has been the target of much skepticism from the Bengals' faithful over the second half of the season. He could not seem to find an identity for the offense which failed to utilize players to their strengths on a consistent basis.
Because of this, the Bengals offense struggled mightily down the stretch as the team made the playoffs due almost solely to their stellar sixth-ranked defense.
It is time for Gruden to revamp this stale offensive scheme that has so many young, talented players ready to make an impact on the NFL.
How can this be done? The pistol offense.
The design of the pistol offense is brilliant and has been very successful in the collegiate realm for quite some time now. The NFL has been adapting college schemes more often lately and this is one of the latest trends to find its way to the next level.
In the pistol formation, the goal is to combine the Shotgun and the "I" formation. The quarterback is only about three to four yards behind the center and the halfback is another three yards behind the quarterback. This leaves for a very quick decision by the quarterback on a running play.
Running options out of the pistol is a very simple scheme. The purpose is for the offensive line to pull in one direction, leaving one unblocked defender on the opposite side. If he attacks the running back, the quarterback will pull the ball down and run with it. Conversely, if he stays outside to spy the quarterback, the running back will get the carry behind the pulling offensive line.
Keep in mind that the Bengals current quarterback Andy Dalton has had experience with the zone read-option as he ran this scheme while at TCU. This is something that he has been very successful with and should not take long to implement.
Dalton may not be as scary as a rusher as another pistol quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, but Dalton does have the ability to run—which will make defenders stay honest against this scheme.
Since the pistol offense has developed, quarterbacks can make practically any throw out of this formation. It is very easy to utilize the play-action pass or naked bootleg in this situation.
Being that the Bengals offense circulates around a West Coast scheme utilizing short, high percentage passing plays, the pistol seems like it can be very efficient if combined in the right manner.
The Bengals certainly do not have to run their entire offensive scheme out of the pistol, as over-using this formation could allow for easy reads by opposing defenses. However, this formation is versatile enough to be able to become a staple in this kind of offense.
Finally, everyone seems to want to find a better way to get the ball into A.J. Green's hands.
The pistol formation could help that cause in a big way.
Using the zone read-option between the quarterback and running back will have the ability to freeze linebackers and draw safeties closer to the line of scrimmage. That will leave more opportunities for Green to have single-man coverage.
Green's speed would allow him to easily get behind the secondary of a defense that gets sucked in by a great fake out of the pistol formation and this could improve the Bengals deep aerial attack by a great margin.
The pistol offense may not be the one and only answer for this struggling Bengals offense, but it could certainly start to point them in the right direction.