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Film Room: Cam Taylor-Britt shows potential

The Bengals’ second round pick saw a lot of action this weekend

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The Cincinnati Bengals’ pro scouting department and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo have a great track record of finding players who have not panned out for other teams and making them key contributors in Cincinnati. Tre Flowers is one example and so far Jay Tufele looks like another.

The greatest example, however, may be Eli Apple. To say that Apple struggled at his previous stops would be a gross understatement. He was a pariah, but in Cincinnati, things have been different. Apple has been a big part of this defense’s success.

Unfortunately, he still struggles with consistency, and cornerback just happens to be the worst position for someone who is inconsistent because a single mental error can easily turn into a touchdown.

That’s why the Bengals were aggressive, moving up in the second round to select Nebraska cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt. It’s also why Anarumo broke his own rule about rotating defensive backs, by getting Taylor-Britt into last week’s game.

Let’s take a look at what Taylor-Britt did with his opportunity.

Taylor-Britt is #29 at the bottom of the screen on the 45-yard line.

On this play, the Bengals are playing a form of Cover 3 with an extra defender dropping into the middle hole.

Taylor-Britt has the deep-outside third in the shade on the bottom of the screen. The receivers on that side of the formation line up tight to the formation, bunched close to each other. Taylor-Britt maintains outside leverage on the top of the numbers as he works back. Two receivers break off their routes short, and one comes into Taylor-Britt’s deep field zone. As the receiver breaks to the outside, Taylor-Britt stays on top of him. When the receiver gets to the sideline, he turns up field, and Taylor-Britt does the same, staying with him stride-for-stride.

Taylor-Britt shows good understanding of his role within the defense and excellent athleticism on this play. He is a smooth runner, who transitions well, maintaining leverage on the receiver.

Taylor-Britt is lined up just above the “3” on the 29 yard-line

This clip really shows off Taylor-Britt’s athletic prowess.

He lines up in press-man coverage against the wide receiver. On the snap, the receiver releases outside, and Taylor-Britt opens his hips in that direction, keeping his eyes focused on the receiver’s hips. You can tell this because just before he gets to the 35 yard-line, the receiver sinks his hips and Taylor-Britt mirror’s this action. This is exactly what Taylor-Britt should do, because sinking hips is an indicator that a receiver is about to make a cut, following suit is an anticipatory action by the defender which will allow him to stay with the receiver when he cuts. However, in this case, it is a farce. The receiver continues his route, not actually cutting until he gets to the 42 yard-line. Taylor-Britt shadows him the entire way.

When the ball is thrown underneath, the receiver tries to block Taylor-Britt, but the rookie disregards the block and dives in to make the tackle.

This is an excellent play by Taylor-Britt, doing his job in coverage, then making a play when the ball declared itself.

Taylor-Britt is #29 on the far left side of the screen and will make the tackle

I used the word “dives” intentionally in my description of the previous play, because it was less a tackle and more an uprooting. This may be a concern, and some have pointed to his low tackle on the play above as a potential problem, but I actually think that was a good play in run support.

I can’t give Taylor-Britt much credit for getting off the block because the receiver is trying to block both him and Vonn Bell. Not surprisingly, the receiver blocks neither.

Taylor-Britt recognizes the play and heads toward the sideline for a showdown with the ball-carrier. When they meet, the rusher lowers his shoulder. Taylor-Britt goes just low enough to avoid a potentially dangerous helmet-to-helmet collision. He doesn’t dive at the ball-carrier’s feet; he puts his shoulder on the rusher’s thighs, bringing him down. I prefer the type of high tackle that you see from the Bengals’ linebackers, but this is a good play by Taylor-Britt. Particularly, because he was at a disadvantage in terms of size and power, and this may have been the most effective way to make the play.

Anarumo talked previously about coaching Xavien Howard during his rookie season and stated that Howard wasn’t himself until the end of the year. Taylor-Britt was very much feeling himself things out and will have a steep learning curve to get where he needs to be.

The Falcons’ unwavering dependence on the run made for a relatively easy first-showing for Taylor-Britt. The rookie, though only marginally challenged, showed a lot of potential. It will be fun to watch him develop over the course of the season.