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Is it still too early for Bengals optimism in 2019?

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Recent reports out of the Bengals’ rookie minicamp and some comments by new head coach Zac Taylor have us wondering if tempered optimism for the team’s 2019 performance should be revved up.

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The headlines for the NFL this offseason have been all about the Cleveland Browns. It’s an understandable stance, given their moves, and one could even call the Bengals’ fan base as envious because of it.

And, when it comes to the immediate outlook of the division itself, the Ravens and Steelers are pegged as being in the hunt because that’s usually the case. As in, “well, because they’re Pittsburgh and Baltimore.”

Lost in the shuffle of it all are the Cincinnati Bengals. Depending on which media power rankings list you prefer, one is hard-pressed to see the club crack into the 20s as things currently stand.

With guys on their first NFL stints at head coach, as well as an offensive and defensive coordinator, it’s hard to blame even the most stone-cold Bengals cynics for their lukewarm outlook on the team in 2019. But, don’t tell Zac Taylor about how his Bengals team is dead-set at cellar-dwelling this year.

“A lot of those teams (Browns, Ravens, Steelers) are getting a lot of well-deserved publicity in the offseason—that’s great,” Taylor recently told SiriusXM NFL Radio. But, they still have to come play us. We feel like if we handle our business here, then we’re going to be a tough team to play.”

So, are we hearing nothing more than “coach-speak,” or is there some substance to Taylor’s statement?

While similar to previous statements he has made, what differentiates these comments is the timing of them. The optimistic approach in February and March when Taylor was was first hired comes with the “honeymoon” territory, but now that both the free agency frenzy and NFL Draft are in the rearview, Taylor seems ever so steadfast in his belief in this team making immediate noise.

Look, it’s not as if we expected Taylor to spew some “roll over and die” diatribe here, but the way he said these words inspired faith in the direction of the team. Taylor obviously liked what he saw from his first crop of rookies at their recent minicamp, as well as looking around at some of the veteran talent scattered over the roster as he’s gotten to know them a little better.

Speaking of timing, Taylor also propped up Andy Dalton once again as the “perfect fit” at quarterback in the interview. There are members of Who Dey Nation that remain jaded about No. 14’s likelihood of netting Cincinnati a championship.

However, it sounds like Taylor’s offense will be the perfect blend of complex and innovative, yet also basic and taught in a way that players can easily grasp.

The entire team’s philosophy might be best summed up by three words: play to strengths.

When we chatted about this interview and the Bengals’ outlook on this week’s Orange and Black Insider, co-host John Sheeran made an interesting point. Sheeran is a bit more hesitant to immediately buy into the notion of immediate Bengals success, and rightfully so, but he wisely honed in on another part of Taylor’s recent comments.

The “handle our business” bit here really applies to Taylor’s potential ability to spin gold out of yarn. Sheeran pointed to the “It’s about us” 2019 team slogan, and the team needs to get its own house in order before truly worrying about the six AFC North games on the yearly schedule.

Whether it was in our special guest Willie Anderson pointing out how the Bengals “couldn’t get over the hump” when they seemed poised for greatness, or in ESPN’s Louis Riddick noting that roster talent hasn’t been the biggest issue for the Bengals during this year’s draft telecast, an inward reflection on the team’s operational practices and on-field approach couldn’t hurt.

For now, Taylor is doing some P.R. work to win over the fans. While he’s chipping away at the hardened base, the true exodus back to Paul Brown Stadium will occur when the win column reflects the workload.

Poll

Have you bought into what Zac Taylor is selling, yet?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    For sure!
    (486 votes)
  • 43%
    Not yet—need to see more.
    (473 votes)
  • 11%
    Nope. I’ve been a fan too long and have seen too much
    (124 votes)
1083 votes total Vote Now

Also on this week’s episode:

  • Former Bengals offensive lineman Willie Anderson stopped by and reminisced about the Marvin Lewis era.
  • Anderson also gave his take on Cincinnati’s two rookie offensive linemen in Jonah Williams and Michael Jordan.
  • Anderson talked about his experience in Nashville, in which he announced the Bengals’ 2019 second-round pick (Drew Sample). It’s an interesting story that involves Marvin Lewis, believe it or not.
  • Speaking of Lewis, could Zac Taylor turn the Bengals around in 2019 the way Lewis did in 2003?
  • Who are some of the names to watch as potential Bengals breakout players this year?

Our thanks to the live listeners and to those who submitted questions!

If you’re unable to join us live for here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube every episode, all Orange and Black Insider content is available here on CJ, the Stitcher, Spotify and Google Play Music apps, our YouTube channel, as well as through Megaphone and, as always, on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at theobinsider@gmail.com. Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels!