The Cincinnati Bengals have been without a signature Safety on the Defense since David Fulcher left for the Los Angelas Raiders in 1993. More recent guys have been at the end of their respective careers in guys like Dexter Jackson and Roy Williams. Chris Crocker roamed the backfield for awhile from 2008 up to last year. He showed flashes of brilliance and if you ask Adam Jones he showed flashes of idiocy as well. I think the end of the playoff game against the Houston Texans last year, when it appeared Crocker whiffed when it most counted, was enough for the Bengals to cut ties with the on again off again Safety.
The AFC North has two of the most consistent, effective, and aggressive defenses in the league. The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have been a top the list of defenses in the NFL for the last decade. Both also have had the luxury of having two future Hall of Fame Safeties prevent offenses from reaching the end zone. Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed have been great at being their teams last line of defense. The goal of the Safety position is to be sure nobody gets behind you and runs or catches the ball in to the end zone for a touchdown. These guys have been nothing less than spectacular in preventing that, rather it be by tackling, knocking down the ball, or intercepting it. Make no mistake they've been the "cornerstone" of their defenses.
The Bengals have longed for that type of guy for sometime now. However, it seems they've avoided drafting one and chosen Free Agency as a better way to fill the void. This brings me to Taylor Mays. Taylor was targeted by the Bengals in the 2010 draft but didn't fall in to our laps as we had wanted. He was drafted out of USC (like Polamalu) by the San Fransisco 49ers in the 2nd round. In 2011 he was traded by the new regime in San Fransisco to us for about as much as the Indians sold Manhattan to the Pilgrims. A 7th round pick in the NFL is about as much as a bag of peanuts to us.
This is what has brought me to the question on the headline. Is Taylor Mays the real deal? There seems to be a pretty telling story if you read between the lines. In the 2010 draft, he was passed on by the Seattle Seahawks, who happen to be coached by Pete Carrol. The same guy that coaches him during his four years at the University of Southern California. Pete elected to go with Earl Thomas out of Texas instead of Taylor. That tells me a guy that had extensive time with Taylor didn't believe he was going to be all that great at the next level or at the very least that Earl Thomas was going to be better. Then he's drafted by the 49ers in the 2nd round. They kick his tires on special teams and he splits a little time with backups because of injury in his rookie year. In Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons he had a team high 11 tackles and ran a touchdown back off of a deflected punt in what turned out being his only notable contribution of the year. Then a new regime under Jim Harbaugh comes in to San Fransisco and before Taylor gets an opportunity to crack the starting lineup, he's shipped to us like a bag of peanuts from the Indians.
The telling story for me is that, up until this point, it seems that anyone analyzing him from a professional stand point has not been very impressed. Anyone that has spent extensive time with Taylor Mays watching him practice, watching him do drills, watching him scrimmage has come away from it with the conclusion that he doesn't have quite what they're looking for in a Safety in the NFL. We've all heard the quotes from various people. Coming out of the draft, Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline, said of Mays.
"looked stiff and mechanical with his defensive back fundamentals and really showed limited skills in pass coverage drills"
We've heard rumblings of the same stuff coming out of training camp. He is such a smash mouth guy that he was even considered by some to be a prospect at Outside Linebacker. The thing is, that there have been succesfull safeties in the league that have had the same weaknesses. Roy Williams was an All-Pro/Pro Bowl guy in Dallas for a good run under Mike Zimmer. Troy Polamula surely isn't Ed Reed in open space. I guess all of what I'm trying to say here or ask here is. Do we have the 2nd round guy that Mike Zimmer was druling to get? Or do we have the guy that Pete Carrol passed over and the 49ers were willing to let go for nothing. IF the former instead of the latter is true. For the first time since David Fulcher we have a young enough man at Safety to be our "cornerstone" for years to come. If we have the latter, you can almost bet that one of the three draft picks we have in the 1rst round next year will be on a safety. We have a good defense, but if we want a great defense we need a safety that can be consistent, effective, and aggressive like the other guys in our neighborhood have had the luxury of having for the last decade.