For the past three offseasons, Zac Taylor has been attempting to put his thumbprint on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster. The turnover has been a blend of his own vision, mixed with elements he learned from Sean McVay in his time with the Los Angeles Rams.
While many big names have been netted in free agency and the draft, Taylor only has six wins in his first two seasons as head coach. One of those big veteran names is Mike Daniels, who has just inked his second contract in as many years in the Taylor era.
We caught up with Daniels recently on The Orange and Black Insider, and chatted about his return, what drove him to re-sign and the very active offseason—from a number of standpoints—by the club.
The Bengals’ faithful remains hopeful that Taylor is the guy to get Cincinnati to the Promised Land. But, after such disappointing seasons to start off his head coaching career, the calls for a hot seat in 2021 have grown louder. Inside of Cincinnati’s locker room, however, Daniels is one of the guys who ardently supports his head coach and what his staff is building.
“Three things,” Daniels said when asked about the reasons he wanted to return to Cincinnati after they finished 4-11-1. “The coaches—Zac Taylor, that’s my guy. The quarterback (Joe Burrow) and the locker room. I can’t say enough good things about those three aspects, right?”
For “Joey B”, Daniels said he’s “young greatness”. And, in case you aren’t up to speed on Daniels’ quality pro football career, he’s played with a couple of great signal-callers. Namely, Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and Matthew Stafford in Detroit.
In a way, even the latter two facets can be tied back to Taylor. He got his guy at quarterback in Burrow and he has strategically brought in players with some combination of team captain backgrounds, productive veteran resumes and overall high character. It hasn’t translated directly to a lot of wins, but continuing roster turnover, improved health and a couple of assistant coaching tweaks could be the key.
“Zac Taylor—I’ve probably said every synonym for the words ‘good’, ‘awesome’, or ‘cool’ in the thesaurus for this guy,” Daniel continued when talking about his head coach. “How many times in the past have you seen this many free agents sign in Cincinnati (these past two offseasons)?”
The conversation then shifted to the Bengals’ big win on Monday night versus the Steelers last year. Is that lone win one that can carry over momentum and bring about a successful season for a group of coaches and players desperately wanting it?
“It more just stems from a winning mentality. I’ve bought into it, they are too—coaches, players, the organization, they’ve really bought into that winning mentality,” Daniels told us. “We beat an 11-win ‘big brother’ with a third-string quarterback on Monday night. A lot of boxes checked right there. I’d run through a wall for that man. Well, I know fifty-plus other guys who would too—including the new ones who just signed because they signed for a reason, right?”
Aside from getting D.J. Reader and Josh Tupou back, Cincinnati added Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi to the defensive line for new position coach, Marion Hobby. Geno Atkins’ departure is huge, but the door might be cracked open for a reunion as well.
While Daniels didn’t have much of a previous relationship with Hobby, his new position coach did reach out to him this spring and the two have chatted. The veteran defensive lineman is excited to be working with Hobby and feels he can be productive in his second season under defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.
“He (Hobby) gave me a call when he accepted the job and I’m excited to get to working with him,” Daniels said. “He excited to be in Cincinnati. It’s always good when you’ve got somebody who is excited to work with you, you’re excited to work with them—that’s just a recipe for great energy.”
Daniels noted how Hobby’s defensive front in Miami got after Brandon Allen and Ryan Finley in Week 13, notching six sacks against the Bengals. It’s obvious that Cincinnati is emphasizing getting after the passer this year—both because of the guys they signed and because of others in whom they had interest (Sheldon Rankins, Carl Lawson and Ryan Kerrigan).
“Really, with me, though, the defensive coordinator is the same,” Daniels noted about his growing comfort level in the Bengals’ defensive scheme. “It’s very comfortable for me, like, I’m very familiar with what’s going on. It’s a great opportunity for me for more productivity on my end, instead of coming in a few days before the first week of the season, have to learn everything. Now, no—I know it all and now I can start being me on the football field.”
As you listen to our conversation, it’s easy to tell why Daniels is so well-liked in league circles and how he very well could have a post-football career in television/radio. Some other facets of the interview with Daniels:
- Daniels talked about the addition of a regular-season game to the schedule.
- With both Atkins and Giovani Bernard gone from Cincinnati, Daniels could be one of the top locker room leaders as the most NFL-tenured player on the Bengals’ defense.
- Daniels catches us up on which anime he’s currently watching, as well as his interesting “Dance Dance Revolution” game obsession.
- And more!
We also continued draft talk on this week’s podcast episode. John Sheeran talked about some small school prospects and how the Bengals could trend away from using high picks on players from “Power Five Schools” because of the athletic backgrounds of some promising small school guys.
To that point, we also provided a Prospect Profile on Louisiana Tech defensive lineman, Milton Williams. His athleticism and production should make him a coveted day two interior defender for many teams, including the Bengals.
Our thanks to Mr. Daniels and his representation at EAG Sports for his generosity in joining us! Thanks to the live listeners and to those of you who downloaded the show afterward. Check it out on all platforms now, if you haven’t already!
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