We have heard it time and time again as Bengals’ fans: The AFC North is one of the fiercest divisions in all of the NFL.
When it comes down to the end of the season, the team who’s best built to weather out the cold traditionally have had an advantage in representing the division in the playoffs. Big lineman, hard runners and just a general nastiness is the reputation the AFC North has tried to build for itself.
Zac Taylor is new to the division, but he isn’t coming in and worrying about fitting in with everyone else.
“Again, how do they fit our systems? The goal is always to win the division, no question about it. It’s a psychical division that’s evolving,” Taylor told reporters last week. “It doesn’t take away the psychically of it, but the systems are evolving in this division. But what’s most important, like we say, ‘It’s about us,’ right? It’s how we make our team the best and make teams play us. If we can make our systems the best we can make them, then that’s other people’s problems. We are looking for players that fit what we want to do on offense, defense and special teams. When we identify those players we’ll try to draft them and make our team better.”
This does fit into Taylor’s slogan very well. It is obvious if Taylor plans on implementing a lot of the ideals that made Sean McVay so successful early on with the Rams that the results should speak for themselves. It has become easier than ever for teams to simply scheme plays that are easy to get offensive players open or out in space. It is something that the Bengals have inexplicably struggled to do the past few seasons.
It has been painfully obvious over the past few seasons that sticking to the old AFC North formula isn’t a practical thing anymore. While all of these teams still have a major focus on running the ball in some capacity, they have all opened up to the idea of spreading out the defense and airing out the ball. The Browns and Steelers especially have become more passing oriented offenses the past few seasons.
Also, those formidable Steeler and Ravens defenses just simply aren’t what they use to be. Baltimore still has some talent, but there was a time when It would be hard to beat either of those teams if you let them score 20 points.
The Bengals did a good job of recognizing they needed to modernize their team. They brought in a young coach, and he has surrounded himself with a staff of some young minds who understand how the modern NFL works.
The way Marvin Lewis envisioned this team was fine in the 2000’s and even early in the 2010’s, but the way the rules have been changing has started to favor teams that are willing to air the ball out and faster defenses.
Taylor’s plan of coming into the AFC North’s house and kicking his feet up on the coffee table could be just the thing that the Bengals need going forward.