Cincinnati’s rookie head coach is certainly not shy. Zac Taylor’s decision making has left Bengals fans interested, excited, and maybe a little confused. But that is the nature of a fanbase that endured 16 years of the conservative and predictable Marvin Lewis.
So what are some of the biggest roster surprises? For one, the Bengals kept three quarterbacks, despite their starter, Andy Dalton, being rather durable, save for his right thumb. And the two guys they have backing him up are no hot shot up-and-comers or grizzled veterans there to improve the culture. Nope. They’re rolling with both fourth-round pick Ryan Finley and undrafted free agent Jake Dolegala.
While Finley and Dolegala probably won’t see the field, another pleasant surprise will actually start Week 1: Damion Willis. Taylor showed that performance (regardless of one’s draft position or years on the team) is rewarded by giving the undrafted wide receiver an opportunity. And receiver Auden Tate, who nearly went undrafted last year, also made the team.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side, Cincinnati decided to keep 11(!) defensive linemen, three of whom (Andrew Billings, Josh Tupou, and Renell Wren) are 315 pounds or heavier. This might seem strange, as the Bengals no longer have to stuff the likes of Jerome Bettis. However, when you only have four linebackers and maybe only two (Nick Vigil and Preston Brown) who can be expected to perform consistently, you get creative.
Keep the best guys. That was Taylor’s approach. Well, except for O’Shea Dugas, who seems to have made the roster because the team is so desperate at tackle. (Dugas has since been placed on Injured Reserve)
So will Taylor’s “bowling balls” actually produce results? Or is he just establishing culture for next year when the Bengals find their future quarterback and officially launch a new era? That was all part of our debate, which can be found on YouTube for now!