Bengals Notebook: Staying The Course With Players And Scheme On Defense; Taylor Approves Of Skirmish To Protect Burrow

Left end Sam Hubbard and the Bengals defense are staying the course.
Left end Sam Hubbard and the Bengals defense are staying the course.

The postgame theme emanating from the Bengals in the wake of Sunday's 41-16 loss to the Browns was no panic.

It was the same Monday, starting with Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo when he suggested he's not looking to rip up his depth chart or his plan. It sounds like he's staying the course with what he believes are good players.

"I think so, yeah. That's exactly right," Anarumo said.

He knows the last two games have not been good for his unit. Not after giving up 75 points in back-to-back games to the Jets' next-to-last offense and a Cleveland team that hadn't scored 20 points in a month. (And the most points the Browns have scored in The Battle since a 51-spot beat Carson Palmer's six TDs in 2007.)

But Anarumo also knows before last week's implosion against the Jets in the 34-31 loss, his defense had played well enough to win every game and was not only No. 10 in overall defense, but fifth in scoring defense.

"It's been good since Aug. 14. I think we felt good walking off the field at Tampa," Anarumo said. "I think we felt good walking off the field at Washington. I think we felt good walking off the field at Minnesota. I think we felt good walking off the field at Chicago. Effectively we lost the game. You've got to win the game, but the same players you felt good about in Pittsburgh. Jacksonville didn't do enough (against) Green Bay. Did well at Detroit and Baltimore with the same players. We've got to do better than we did the last two weeks. So it starts and ends with just executing and really just keeping the focus on that."

Although they gave up a slew of big plays against Cleveland (seven snaps went for at least 21 yards), Anarumo says he doesn't need to simplify the scheme.

"It's not like there's a ton of mental errors. We had a few that you can't have. You don't want to have any, "Anarumo said. "But it's not to the degree of they don't understand what they're being asked to do. So I don't think it's that. It's just honing in on their jobs and making sure that we're doing it to the best of our ability."

DETAILS, DETAILS: Running back Joe Mixon talked about the lack of doing the little things and that apparently went for the defense, too. Particularly on the biggest plays of the day, a wide-open 60-yard pass where Donovan Peoples-Jones blew past cornerback Eli Apple and Browns running back Nick Chubb's 70-yard run where he broke defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi's TFL and Apple's second-level tackle.

But it just wasn't those guys.

"When you're playing a great running back and you get out of your gap just slightly or a guy misses a tackle, he's gone," Anarumo said. "The same thing on the long pass. A couple of little things that guys need to do better. If they do, there are three guys back there instead of one.

"He certainly could have played that one play better. He could have been on top of the route," Anarumo said of Apple's coverage in Cover Four. "Other guys could have, too, to help the situation … We could have fit it better than we did. It's like fitting a run. We have to match the coverage. We just didn't match it as well as we should have."

MORE DETAILS: Head coach Zac Taylor isn't looking to make major changes on offense, either. But he's also looking for more and better detail. On Sunday, the usually understated Taylor went ballistic (for him) when quarterback Joe Burrow took a sack on play-action off a slot blitz from, of all people, former Bengals cornerback Troy Hill. After the game Taylor made it pretty clear he wasn't happy with how his running backs picked up the blitz.

He was still fuming Monday.

"That's one we've picked up 50 times. This season a number of times last season a number of times," Taylor said. "Got to be on the same page on the protection. That should be a very simple pick-up and we missed it. And (slot receiver) Tyler Boyd should have had a big play."

RALLY AROUND JOE: One thing Taylor liked was how the offensive line rallied around Burrow when Cleveland's Jadeveon Clowney took the cheapest of shots on him when he drilled him after he clearly threw the ball away. Unbelievably, no flag for roughing the quarterback was thrown, but guys like left guard Quinton Spain and left tackle Jonah Williams made sure justice prevailed. They swarmed in people's faces on the Browns sideline and when the Browns retaliated they drew the 15-yard flag that should have been originally thrown.

Usually Taylor preaches calm, especially after strong safety Vonn Bell drew a ridiculous taunting call on a key play in the loss to the Bears in Week Two.

But Clowney was outrageous and Taylor said so.

"I didn't like it, I loved it to be honest with you. They've got his back. It could be have been Joe Mixon, it could have been Tyler Boyd. There's a fine line there, but we've got to protect our teammates when we feel they've put in a bad spot," Taylor said, "I thought the response was tremendous from our guys. It was close to a penalty and I'm sure it could have been, but this is a team that I really do feel like represents what we're about right now. They're going to fight for each other. They're not going to tolerate that stuff. I was proud of the way they stood up."

Which is pretty much what Jonah Williams said and he wondered if they protested enough.

"I think that we need to set the precedent that you're not going to take shots at our quarterback. As a team and as an O line, we're not going stand for that," Williams said. "It's just defending our home turf and defending our quarterback. That's something we needed to go do, and I was proud of the guys for stepping up and telling him that he can't do that. It's frustrating when that happens. That's the response that we needed to have. I think it could've been even more."

ADENIJI GETS ANOTHER SHOT: Here's another reason why Pro Football Focus is a great service, but it might just not mean a thing for your favorite team. The grading web site handed Bengals right guard Hakeem Adeniji the lowest grade on the offensive line for the Browns game and the second lowest on the team in front of only Boyd on offense, only running back Joe Mixon in pass protection and only running back Samaje Perine in run blocking.

But it is the Bengals coaches that count and they felt Adeniji played well enough to get another start when they come back from the bye for the Nov. 21 game in Las Vegas. He played all 79 snaps despite being able to practice for only two weeks after returning from the shoulder injury he suffered during the spring.

It was also his first NFL start at guard after playing all 48 games of his college career at Kansas at tackle.

"This guy, talking about he hasn't practiced until two weeks ago," Taylor said. "Never put on pads. And so, to play the way he did is really impressive. It wasn't perfect. There's a couple of plays that he will need to improve on going forward but he played with a lot of confidence, he played physical and I think there's a lot of room for growth there. I just can't imagine coming in having not practiced till the middle of October, not putting pads on really since last December I guess you could say, and I thought he did some really good things to continue to build off of."

Taylor isn't ruling out Jackson Carman, the second-round rookie who started five games before they moved in Adeniji.

"We've got confidence in Jackson," Taylor said. It's just right now we're going to take a peek at Hakeem and see if he can build off this performance.

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Safety Brandon Wilson, their best special teams player, is lost for the year with a torn ACL and that's how Anarumo began Monday's meeting.

"There's a human element to this as well," Anarumo said. "And Brandon Wilson is quite frankly one of the best human beings I've ever been around. You feel it for him and his family."

There's also concern that second-year linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, another top teams player and a guy that had been getting the most defensive snaps of his career, is going to be out for the year with a foot injury. Taylor says he'll know more later and they're hoping it's not as severe as feared. Markus Bailey, another backer from that 2020 draft class, would be the next man up and he made a nice pass defensed in the end zone on Browns tight end Austin Hooper late in the game.

They've got two veteran cornerbacks they've recently acquired if they want to make any moves back there with Tre Flowers and Vernon Hargreaves III, just claimed off waivers Thursday and inactive Sunday.

Hargreaves, the 11th pick in the 2016 draft Apple went No. 10, has played his best in the slot but has also worked outside. Anarumo defended Apple Monday, but they also know they have two weeks to get ready for the Raiders.

"I know I liked him coming out (of Florida). Played nickel and has done both (nickel/outside) in the league, played inside and outside," Anarumo said of Hargreaves. "I'm anxious to watch him practice (Tuesday). That's great that we have him now. It's great that it adds to our depth. I'm anxious to see him move around, I really am … I know he's always played his best ball when he's inside but he's played outside recently. So, it's something we're going to have to take a look at."

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