In case you didn’t know, a lot folks have recently been high on the Cleveland Browns this offseason. It hasn’t been so much the case, in terms of public opinion surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals, given some of their recent marks in media power rankings.
Don’t tell new Bengals head coach Zac Taylor about it though, as he seems to like what he’s been building over the past few months. He recently joined the folks at SiriusXM NFL Radio to talk about the sights and sounds from the team’s recent rookie minicamp.
.@Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor told us what he likes about Quarterback Andy Dalton and competing in the AFC North...— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) May 14, 2019
"Really feel like he is a perfect fit for what we want to do on offense."
And, once again, Taylor was predictably and pointedly asked about veteran quarterback, Andy Dalton. Some folks were surprised that he didn’t usher in a new, high-profile quarterback, but as he did so all spring, Taylor once again rushed to the defense of Dalton on the program.
“He’s a smart, decisive quarterback who has seen a lot of ball,” Taylor said of Dalton. “He’s seen just about every system someone can throw at him, defensively, so he is not unprepared by any stretch. He knows when we start to install something, he’s maybe only heard it a different way, but he knows exactly what the intent is—that’s what’s critical.”
Dalton has been the subject of a lot of conversation this offseason, thanks to a new regime, three straight losing seasons and his 0-4 postseason record as a starting quarterback. Rumors, ranging from the wacky (Ryan Tannehill) to somewhat-realistic (Dwayne Haskins) surrounded the team, but ultimately, Taylor has shown the faith in Dalton for at least 2019.
Part of the reason for that trust is in his philosophy and offseason moves. Cincinnati has made it no secret that they are looking to run the ball with more frequency this year, as evidenced by their picking up of two new running backs and inking six new offensive line contracts this spring.
“We feel like this offense starts with the ground game,” Taylor continued with the SiriusXM NFL Radio staff. “If we can establish the running game, and the play--actions and the movements, and the screens and build off of that...that’s really where our success is going to come from. So, Andy (Dalton) has full control of this offense, he’s done a great job buying in, understanding it and getting the younger guys up to speed. So, we really fell like he’s a perfect fit for what we want to do on offense and he’s going to do a great job managing it for us.”
Joe Mixon had a breakout second season in 2018, and should be poised to assume the mantle of one of the NFL’s top running backs. Aside from having last year’s leading rusher in the AFC, Cincinnati also has the versatile Giovani Bernard behind him, as well as two exciting rookies in Rodney Anderson and Trayveon WIlliams. Throw in the aforementioned capital in the offensive line and things should be heading in a positive direction for an offense that has been both stale and banged up over the past few years.
Regardless, the attention in the AFC North is being shined upon the other three teams in the division. The splashy moves by Cleveland, as well as the storied histories of the Baltimore and Pittsburgh franchises has Cincinnati lost in the shuffle this year.
“It’s a tough division. A lot of those teams have really talented players, great coaching staffs,” Taylor responded when asked about the talent in the division. “A lot of those teams (Browns, Ravens, Steelers) are getting a lot of well-deserved publicity in the offseason—that’s great. But, they still have to come play us. We feel like if we handle our business here, then we’re going to be a tough team to play.”
A statement like this from Taylor is refreshing for a variety of reasons. It would seem that his “aw shucks” nature, coupled with his youthful, optimistic and confident approach is breathing life into a franchise that has been plagued with apathy.
Of course, the games have yet to be played and the results probably won’t come as quickly as they did in Los Angeles with Taylor being part of that crew, but there seems to be a different approach in many ways—even if we’re grabbing that observation from just a few quotes from a first-time head coach. Some players have said they’ve already felt the difference, so excitement should be brewing for what’s ahead this summer and fall.