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Zac Taylor credits 2021 assistant coaching hires as major part of Bengals’ turnaround

In the Super Bowl LVI Opening Day press conference, Zac Taylor lauded the work of a handful of first-year assistants.

NFL: JAN 09 Bengals at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

An influx of talent from both the draft and free agency from these past two offseasons have been a major reason for the Bengals’ ascension to the Super Bowl. Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, Trey Hendrickson, D.J. Reader, Mike Hilton, Chidobe Awuzie and so many others have spearheaded the drastic turnaround.

However, unheralded coaching additions at the assistant level have also contributed to the Bengals’ success this season. In the Bengals’ first official press conference of “Media Week” at the Super Bowl, Taylor spoke of a trio of assistants who have particularly aided things.

Cincy Jungle contributor, Anthony Cosenza, was in on the virtual session and asked about the contributions of wide receivers coach Troy Walters, defensive line coach Marion Hobby and offensive line coach Frank Pollack, respectively.

“I think a blanket statement would be that they go above and beyond,” Taylor said. “They really teach the details of their position, and they’re on their guys to have that consistency since they’ve had since August...I think that’s what is key: they don’t back off, they don’t take a break, and they’ve stayed on those guys every step of the way and that’s why those units have been pretty consistent.”

The Bengals’ wide receivers had good seasons in 2020, to be sure. Higgins sniffed a 1,000-yard season as a rookie, despite Burrow playing in just 10 games and the rookie wideout’s own couple of minor injuries. Tyler Boyd continued his consistent ability to be a chain-moving threat last year, but it all took a huge step in 2021.

Chase had a rookie season for the record books, while Higgins did eclipse that 1,000-yard mark and Boyd continuing to be a key offensive weapon. Taylor spoke very highly of Walters in the presser, noting his familiarity with him from their time at Texas A&M and his ability to raise the position group’s already-high level of production.

“He’s (Walters) done a tremendous job raising the standard for that room and getting the most out of those guys,” Taylor said of Walters.

Of Pollack, Taylor noted that he was the least familiar with him of the trio but knew the organization loved the offensive line coach from his previous brief stint with the club a few years ago.

“He’s been a great fit—I really love working hand-in-hand with Frank,” Taylor said. “He’s done a great job with that O-Line, that run game as a whole—he creates a great plan that he believes in and the players believe in. He’s been a great asset there.”

There are lingering concerns on the offensive line, but Pollack has gotten a lot out of this group. The drive-killing penalties have greatly subsided from recent, previous groups, while Joe Mixon completed his best professional season.

Obviously, there is room for improvement, but everyone agrees that Pollack has had a positive impact on the group from his predecessor. And, the designation of Pollack being named “Run Game Coordinator” this year has also been a big benefit to the team.

However, one of the biggest leaps in overall positional group improvement has been on the defensive line. Improved health and the additions of Hendrickson, Larry Ogunjobi and B.J. Hill all made a large difference.

“Marion Hobby—we hired him from the Dolphins and you talk about a guy with no ego, he just wants to get the most out of his players,” Taylor concluded. “He’s been a great fit on the staff and in the defensive staff room. He’s certainly got a great group as well, but he gets the most out of them. Those guys believe in him and what he’s teaching them and how he’s helping them improve.”

It’s all part of the culture and with everyone buying into the vision Taylor has laid out for every layer of his team. Belief, hard work and and an innovative, aggressive approach has the team in the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years.

If you needed more proof, Taylor finished his answer with “I’m glad you mentioned those three guys—they’ve done an outstanding job for us.”