Zac Taylor is hitting a crucial year as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Struggling to find consistent success in his first two seasons leading the team, some thought Taylor’s seat was already hot last season after a slow start combined with a Joe Burrow injury.
Still, Taylor seems confident that this is the year things will turn around.
“I just think overall scheme wise, it’s year three for some guys, year two for others and obviously we’ve got some rookies and new vets, but we’ve really taken strides there,” Taylor told reporters this past week. “It makes sense to the guys. They’re not just out there trying to remember what to do, they know exactly what to do and now they can take the next step there. That’s the part that I think is most exciting as you look at it from a head coach is to see the ownership the players have taken in the systems and the leadership that has really emerged and put us in a really good position.”
Taylor and Director of Player Personnel, Duke Tobin, have overseen an intense roster overturn since the 2019 offseason when Marvin Lewis was replaced. Veterans like Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard and many others that defined the Bengals’ offense over their five straight playoff seasons are gone. The remaining players are very much Taylor and Duke’s guys.
Most of the offense is made up of young players like Burrow who were drafted under Taylor, but many more are guys like Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon who were re-signed during this new era as key pieces for the future. Most of these guys have a couple of years under their belt in this offensive system. It has also been helpful that this offseason has been a bit more normal after a Zoom filled offseason in 2020.
“We made plenty of errors this offseason.” Taylor said. “But you get a chance to reload, get the correction done so seeing it live and in person is far better than having it on Zoom. So, just being able to get these guys out there for these 10 practices is a night and day difference than spending the whole offseason on Zoom.”
It is pretty incredible the season this offense was having considering Burrow really didn’t have that much preparation under his belt actually throwing the ball to his receivers. It is unfortunate that he is still recovering from his ACL injury last season, but he has still been plenty active at practice getting to work on his timing with his teammates.
On top of Burrow, though, Taylor and his players have had a few seasons to really focus on the finer points of this offense. There is reason to think that there should be a step in the right direction from this offense. If there isn’t, it will be interesting to see how much patience Mike Brown and Katie Blackburn have with Taylor during this tiny window of having Burrow on his rookie deal.