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Film Room: The Bengals’ class of 2022 must step up in 2023

Sophomore bump.

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Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cincinnati Bengals were able to remain a Super Bowl contender last season without their 2022 NFL Draft class contributing much outside of Cam Taylor-Britt and Cordell Volson.

And while those two played significant snaps and played well down the stretch, it was a mixed bag overall. Taylor-Britt finished with a 56.1 Pro Football Focus grade, while Volson had a 51.6 mark.

For the 2023 Bengals to contend for a Lombardi Trophy, the 2022 draft class must step up significantly to make that dream a reality.

S Dax Hill

2022 first-round pick Dax Hill did not see much action on defense as a rookie season, particularly at his intended position, free safety. With the departure of both Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, Hill will be stepping into some very big shoes.

Hill is #23 in white, lined up on the hilt of the Buccaneer sword.

Hill brings elite athleticism to the Bengals secondary, but he also has the strength to come up and play the run.

In this clip, he does an excellent job of taking on the lead blocker and forcing the ball carrier to cut back inside to a streak of Bengals defenders.

Hill is #30 in white on the far right of the screen.

Covering tight ends is one area where Hill’s predecessor struggled, but Hill has the potential to excel in that area.

In this clip, the tight end releases vertical on the bender route. Hill should have inside help from the hole dropper, but that defender hard reads the quarterback looking left and stays close to the line of scrimmage.

No matter. Hill has the make-up speed to break underneath the route and make a play on the ball. He tips it up in the air and falls to the ground, but he stays focused and is able to make the interception on the ground.

The Bengals are looking for defensive playmakers who can force turnovers, and they found one in Hill, the next clip will illustrate that point even further.

Hill is #30 in white. He starts in the slot on the bottom of the screen, then shifts to the deep field zone with the motion.

Due to his role in the Wolverine defense, many people saw Hill as a slot corner coming out of college. That’s really underestimating his versatility.

In this clip, he starts out lined up in the slot, then shifts into a Cover 2 alignment. He breaks on the outside vertical route and pulls in the game-ending interception.

Hill has excellent range and can be successful as a deep field safety. He also has the physicality to play in the box and the versatility to play in the slot. Some even think he could be a successful outside cornerback.

Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will put on of white lab coat and have a blast playing mad scientist and confounding offensive coordinators by moving Hill all over the defense.

CB Cam Taylor-Britt

Taylor-Britt is #5 in white at the top of the screen.

You want speed, Cam Taylor-Britt will give you speed.

In this clip, he is running underneath the outside vertical route in Cover 2, and with an incredible burst of speed, he is able to pull down the interception. My favorite part of this play is watching the safety. He gets up and signals “incomplete.” Taylor-Britt is so fast that his own teammate didn’t even see the interception.

Taylor-Britt is #29 in white at the bottom of the screen.

We saw this speed in his rookie campaign as well.

In this clip, Taylor-Britt gets beat by the receiver’s release but is able to run him down and make a play on the ball.

Tragedy averted.

Taylor-Britt is #29 in black. He will enter the screen from the left side.

Stereotypes about cornerbacks aside, to play for Lou Anarumo, you have to be physical. Taylor-Britt ends up being the force player on this play. That means it is his job to make sure the ball carrier does not get outside. That’s why as he enters the screen, he stays square to the line of scrimmage. As the ball carrier commits, so does Taylor-Britt. He shoots inside and makes the tackle for a short gain.

Taylor-Britt showed excellent potential as a rookie and should make a big jump in Year 2.

DT Zachary Carter

Carter is #95 in white, lined up in between Logan Wilson (#55) and Germaine Pratt #57) on the line of scrimmage.

In this clip, Carter takes on the guard’s block and shows in the B-Gap. As the ball carrier cuts back, Carter disengages from the block and takes chase, getting involved in the tackle for a short gain.

Carter is #6 in white, the second defender from the top of the screen. (Also, there will be a big orange circle pointing at him when you hit play.)

Carter’s rookie season went the opposite of how I expected it to. I thought he would need to improve his run defense, but would give them some interior pass rush situationally. Instead, he looked excellent against the run but didn’t give them much as a pass rusher.

The potential is there. In this clip from his Gator days, he shows a nice club/rip move to get into the backfield for a sack.

Carter is #95 in white, lined up between #61 and #67 in blue.

He has success with the same club/rip move in the preseason matchup with the Rams, and it led to a strip sack.

The loss of Larry Ogunjobi in free agency hurt the Bengals defensively in 2022. They need to find a way to create more interior pressure, and Carter could be the answer. He did a good job as a run defender, but needs to step up as a pass-rusher and cut more into B.J. Hill’s reps.

LG Cordell Volson

Volson is number 67 in green, the right guard. (Also, there is a big gold circle around him at the beginning of the play.)

Cordell Volson is exactly what a guard should be: a people-mover.

In this clip, he climbs up to the second level to block the linebacker. He drives him about 10 yards down the field before finishing his block the way I like to start my Sunday: with a pancake.

Volson is #67 in white, the left guard.

Volson likes pancakes on Sunday, too.

On this play against the New York Giants, Volson comes off the backside double-team and pushes the linebacker past the play before putting him on the ground.

Volson showed steady improvement during the course of his rookie season. Now, he gets to play next to Orlando Brown Jr., who has played next to the likes of Marshal Yanda and Joe Thuney throughout his career. That can only help Volson’s development.

S Tycen Anderson

Anderson is #1 in white. He’s lined up at linebacker almost directly in the middle of the screen.

Suddenly, the Bengals are very deep and very young at safety. In the last two drafts they’ve selected Jordan Battle, Hill, and Toledo’s Tycen Anderson.

Anderson missed his rookie season due to injury but will look to make his mark in 2023.

Can he run?

Can he hit?

Can he process information quickly?

Those are the three questions that must be answered in the affirmative for the Bengals to draft you at safety. Anderson is no exception. He shows closing excellent speed as he brings down the quarterback for a loss on this play.

Anderson saw a lot of action on special teams and should make a major impact on the kickoff and punt coverage teams this fall.

DE Jeff Gunter

Gunter is #93 in white at the bottom of the screen.

Jeff Gunter is extremely agile, which makes him excellent at executing defensive line stunts like the one in the play above. He will need to improve his all around game to earn reps in a loaded defensive end room, but this trait gives him potential as a unique change-up pass rusher.

They aren’t rookies anymore. Now it’s time for these six players to step up.

Hill needs to establish himself as a playmaker in the secondary as he looks to fill Bates’s big shoes.

Taylor-Britt and Volson were both regular starters as rookies, but need to up their game as this team looks to compete for a championship.

Carter had some quality reps but needs to show that he can provide some much-needed pass-rush juice on the interior.

Anderson needs to make an impact on special teams and prove he can be a reliable backup safety.

Gunter needs to step up his game as he faces fierce competition for a roster spot from a talented group of defensive ends.