As part of the opening statement of his press conference on Monday, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor talked about a subject he hasn’t had the opportunity to address before this season: handling winning.
Taylor and the Bengals are fresh off of their first win of the 2019 season and their next opponent is the Browns. In preparation for their first meeting with the team four hours up I-71, Taylor preached the importance of keeping a consistent process to build off of winning, something his team hasn’t had the opportunity of doing thus far:
“Although that was our first win and it’s a good step in the right direction, now the key is we need to be consistent with it. You can’t change your approach. You can’t just wash away some of the things we did poorly yesterday. ‘Oh well, we won. It’s OK.’ No. We need to maintain that standard and find that consistency that’s going to lead to more wins. That will be the challenge, for our guys to handle that this week, and I expect them to respond the right way. I’m excited to see it on the practice field, in the meetings and carry it over to next Sunday. I’m excited for this opportunity.”
The art of coach speak is not lost on Taylor following his first taste of success, but he’s not wrong. This is still a 1-11 team with plenty of flaws that plague them. They got the better of a bad Jets team that played even worse than how they were expected to play. By the time the final whistle was blown, the Bengals had completed their most well-rounded performance of the year and sure enough, they were ahead by on the scoreboard.
But winning is not sustainable when complacency takes over, and Taylor seems to understand this.
This is why despite career days from Carlos Dunlap and Bobby Hart and admirable performances from Geno Atkins and Cordy Glenn, I chose to breakdown the one player the Bengals had a tough time stopping: Quinnen Williams.
As the third-overall pick from this year’s NFL Draft, Williams has had a relatively quiet rookie season in the Big Apple. His notoriety hasn’t been aided from the fact that the Jets were 4-7 entering this game, but his impact has been underwhelming considering how talented of a prospect he was. Williams was viewed as arguably the best player from this past draft class and his opportunities to produce have only increased as this season has progressed. Truth be told, he’s been an afterthought from a league-wide perspective, and that hurts to hear when talking about a top-five pick.
Fortunately for New York, a top-five pick is precisely what Williams played like on Sunday. Did it make much difference in the end? Of course not, his offense only put up a pathetic six points in 60 minutes. Still, Williams represent the sole challenge the Bengals faced on either side of the ball, and his game provided some valuable teaching tape for a certain Bengals player that desperately needs it.
If the commendable game Williams played didn’t matter too much towards the final score, then Michael Jordan’s inconsistencies also played little part in the end result. He’s just the left guard after all.
Jordan hadn’t seen the field for an extended period since he last started in Week 5, but with Billy Price unable to play with a back injury, his return to the starting lineup gave the Bengals their sixth different combination of that group. Long-term, you’d think that this coaching staff will want to give Jordan the most chances at securing the left guard spot, not only because they drafted him, but because they realize the rare traits he possesses.
Throughout this game, we were reminded why Jordan won the starting spot in the first place. His athleticism pops off of the screen whenever he gets a chance to use it. He’s very active in pass protection when looking for work, and in opportune moments, he can generate movement. Everything else is just out of control, and the only one who can stabilize him is himself.
Williams is only a month older than Jordan, but he understands hand usage and leverage so much more than him. Guys who play for Nick Saban at Alabama typically don’t leave without knowing a thing or two about those attributes.
This is also the part that Taylor and his staff can tip their caps to: Jordan still played a clean game. He had his bad plays that show he’s not there yet, but progress is rarely linear and you have to evaluate every player individually.
A win is a win, and for once, the Bengals have a game to look back on happily this season. But their work towards becoming a team that contends for the playoffs instead of the first-overall pick is just beginning. Stability along the offensive line appears to be what the Bengals will prioritize over these next four games, and Jordan's catch a small but clear development will help that stability become valid.