It was Sean McVay’s system that got the Cincinnati Bengals interested in life after Marvin Lewis.
Zac Taylor, an offensive assistant for two years under McVay, was tasked with bringing his own version of the Los Angeles Rams’ flair to Cincinnati, but offense is only half of the game.
McVay hired the legendary Wade Phillips coordinating his defense for the first years of his head coaching career, just two years after Phillips’ defense carried the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl title.
Taylor hired Lou Anarumo to do the same.
Not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison when looking at their resumes. But Anarumo, like Taylor, has completely altered the perception of his abilities as a play-caller and developer of talent.
After two practices against Anarumo’s ever-evolving unit, McVay took notice of how the Bengals’ defense has grown.
“I think they’ve got really good players on all three levels of the defense,” McVay said. “I think Lou [Anarumo] does a tremendous job of being able to keep you off balance offensively, but, a lot of really good football players, they tackle well, they see things as one. They play the run well, they play the pass well, and they understand what offenses are trying to get done. I’d be really surprised if this wasn’t going to be an excellent defense this year and pick up right where they left off.”
It was last year when the Bengals’ defense started to shine under Anarumo’s watch. They finished 11th in EPA/play allowed, and performed even better in the playoffs.
Against McVay’s Rams in Super Bowl LVI, the Bengals played out of their minds against the run, and intercepted Matthew Stafford twice. If not for a questionable holding penalty on Logan Wilson, it was that side of the ball that would’ve won the Bengals their first Lombardi Trophy.
McVay’s respect means a great deal considering his reputation as an offensive mind, and it’s further testament to not only Anaurmo’s growth as a coordinator, but the sheer talent he’s amassed from the past few offseasons. Roster turnover was the name of the game for Cincinnati’s defense during Anarumo’s first three years, and the welcomed transition to continuity this year bodes well for the unit’s progression.
Where do you see the Bengals’ defense ending up in the league rankings this season? Let us know in the comments!