Gil Brandt with NFL.com offers an offensive and defensive list of players for every AFC team with something to prove with opportunities to play "crucial roles for their respective teams." Along with writing that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is absolutely crucial to Cincinnati's offense (aren't most quarterbacks anyway), Brandt offers a slight curve ball naming safety Taylor Mays as Cincinnati's defensive player with something to prove.
Mays, a former second-round draft pick, has good size (6-3, 230) and speed, but lacks instincts at the safety position. Coordinator Mike Zimmer does a great job with players like Mays, who had just 10 tackles in 2011 but already has six this preseason.
During an interview with Carlos Holmes, Mays argues that he has gotten better since arriving in Cincinnati with great coaching and even better motivation from former defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
"I’ve gotten better in many ways and playing smarter at the position," Mays said. "I have high expectations of myself to play well and get better. I still see areas where I can get better. I’ve made a lot of progress but there is progress to be made. I think that’s what makes (defensive coordinator Mike) Zimmer a great coach because he keeps challenging you regardless if you play well. He expects more out of you always."
There hasn't been a noticeable passing play during the preseason that's burnt Mays, save for the occasional tight end dinks. But due to the nature of broadcasts, it's hard to determine if blown coverages are the result of Mays or a linebacker underneath. Either way the biggest criticism Mays has received this preseason hasn't been so much been his play against the opponent -- rather taking out his own teammates.