Players, Coaches Thoughts After Preseason Week 3

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton participates in a news conference during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton participates in a news conference during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

BENGALS POSTGAME QUOTES

AUG. 22, 2019

NEW YORK GIANTS AT CINCINNATI

ZAC TAYLOR

Head coach

Initial Comments ...

“I was proud of the energy the guys played with. We said that we needed to show that we’re a connected team and play for each other in this game, and I think the players showed that on the sidelines and in the game — they were picking up their teammates. What it came down to at the end of the game is we needed to get the two-point conversion. We fought back, but we needed to get the two-point conversion, needed to get the stop on defense, and then gave up a punt return for a touchdown. Those are the things in this league that are going to get you beat. So, those are some areas we can improve on. It was a good learning lesson for our guys. I’m proud of the effort they played with, and I’m encouraged with the direction this group is going. We’ll get some guys some work next week in the fourth preseason game, and then be ready to go for Seattle in Week 1.”

DE Carl Lawson’s knee looked pretty, and we saw him out there getting pressure. Is he ready?

"Yeah, that’s a secret we were waiting to unleash. But, yeah, he’s looked really healthy. He thinks it’s the best he’s felt in a long time. It’s really good to have him back on the field.”

HB Rodney Anderson was back on the field. Was he ready to go?

“He was. He was getting in the groove there with some of those check-downs on that drive. He was really moving the ball. Normally, we’d kick a field goal in that situation, but he was rolling so we wanted to keep giving him some touches. We were planning on converting that fourth down, and keep feeding him the rock a little bit. But, I thought that he responded well in his first game of full action.“

What did he do to show you something?

“He’s a tough runner who’s hard to take down on first contact. So those are the things that show when he got put out in space, one on one with somebody — good luck to you, especially if you’re a skill guy on defense. Those are the things he showed on his college tape, and he proved it today. It was hard for us to get a feel for it, because he hasn’t had many padded practices. These are the traits we expected to see from Rodney, and he showed some of that today.”

Mentally, how good was that for him? He made a hard cut on his first touch ...

“He’s gotten so much work on it that he’s good with all that stuff. But it’s his first live action in the NFL. He gets the chance to make a couple of guys miss some tackles, and break some tackles. That’s got to give you confidence as a runner. He’s back into the form we expect him to be at.”

Was the plan always to keep Joe Mixon on the sidelines tonight?

“It was. It really was. We just didn’t really feel the need to give him any touches. What’s one or two touches going to help him two weeks from now? So, we just made the decision to keep him out. He’s fully healthy and went through warm-up with no issues.”

You had just 29 rushing yards as a team tonight. Was Mixon’s absence felt as part of that?

“We have a lot more variety in the run game than what we’ve shown in the preseason so far. It’s not a recipe for great success in the rushing game, and we want to keep feeding those backs and letting them work. But there’s a lot of things we’re not quite ready to put on tape yet that give those guys the best chance. So, conversely, I thought the passing game looked sharp. We had a couple of communication errors that were critical up front. That led to some sacks and some hits while Andy was in there, particularly. We have to get that cleaned up. But other than that, I thought our quarterbacks were efficient in getting the ball out and our receivers did a nice job catching the ball.”

Mixon seemed attached to your hip. Was he on you the entire game?

“Joe’s been on my hip every game so far. That’s how he is. When he doesn’t practice, he’s been sitting next to me, waiting for the call. In the three preseason games so far, he’s been right there — like a little puppy dog. So he’s into it. He’s a gamer. These are the guys you want on your football team — guys that care about it, they’re passionate about it, and they want to be involved and know what’s going on. Joe has done everything’s that’s expected of him”

Talk about the passing game — all three quarterbacks performed well ...

“Our guys have a really good grasp of what we want to accomplish. They understand the intent of everything we’re asking them to do. We’ve seen them make quick decisions. They’ve been aggressive when we’ve wanted them to be. We want to attach some people down the field, so we saw in this game that we gave them a little more opportunity to be aggressive with some of those throws. We hit some, and we didn’t hit some. But, at the end of the day, that lets the safeties know that they’d better get out of the box and deepen up a little bit, because we’ll come after you. I was pleased to see that from the quarterbacks.”

Ryan Finley looked poised. Would you like to see that more?

“I would. All three quarterbacks have done a great job, and Ryan has shown that through three weeks so far. Jake Dolegala got out there and made some big-time throws. It was encouraging to see those guys get in there and compete. Those guys aren’t afraid to take a hit. None of them are afraid when the backers walk up, blitzing. That doesn’t faze those guys. It’s really encouraging.”

You keep saying you’re toning it down right now, as if there’s more excitement to come. Are you excited about that?

“Absolutely. But I look around the league in the preseason, and I love watching every offense that has played a preseason game so far. There’s not a lot of rushing games getting off the ground right now. I think that’s a product of everyone following the same plan so far. It’ll really be exciting to show what we’re really capable of.”

Third possession on offense — is that what you really want to see?

“It was. We felt like it was. We had a protection error on third down that got us off the field. And, on the second drive, we had a shot versus man coverage — a potential big play that we didn’t convert on. But we were headed in the right direction on those two drives, but third downs killed us. It was good on the third drive — we finally made some plays and overcame some of that stuff. It was great to see C.J. (Uzomah) get rewarded on that big play. It was a great throw and catch by those two (Dalton and Uzomah).”

Damion Willis got to start at WR. What are your thoughts on that?

“Damion has been an ascending player all camp. It’s never been too big for him. He’s an undrafted free agent from Troy. He was on Last Chance U four years ago. This moment has not been too big for him. It’s been exciting watching that guy compete. We gave him an opportunity tonight, and he more that held his own against the starting defense. We’ve been encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.”

Update on Auden Tate’s injured knee?

“Not yet.”

C.J. had big year last year. Is he a weapon?

“He has made the play every time his number’s been called in camp. So, I’m really pleased to see the progress he has made. I say ‘progress,’ but he’s been a solid player (for a while). That’s why we resigned him. We wanted him back in the fold. We see what he’s capable of. Every single time we’ve sent a play to C.J. in training camp, he’s stepped up and made those plays. He’s certainly a reliable target for us.”

It looked like a spirited conversation with the refs after the two point ...

“Well, I was just making certain that they were looking for the DPI. It’s hard to see on that bang, bang play, if that was a potential. We just want to make sure that everything is being reviewed. Obviously, in that situation, we want to get another shot at it. Just wanted to make sure we’re all looking at the same stuff.”

Did you really want to tie the game at that point?

“I did. We’re not going to concede defeat. I don’t care if it’s a preseason game or not. We’re down eight points, so we’re not going to go down there and kick a field goal, or extra point and concede the game. We’re trying to instill a winning attitude with these guys and (help) them feel what it’s like to win. We didn’t get there (tonight), but that’s important to us, no matter what game we play.”

How would you evaluate the first-team defense?

“They gave up a couple of big plays ... the two runs got out on us. We just have to fit them up a little better on the perimeter. But, overall, I thought those guys fought well. They’re run game didn’t really get going. I know there were some chunks in the pass game. But, overall, I thought they responded well. We need improvement in all three phases so far, we’re clear on that. We’re going to use these next six practices to clean some stuff up as we get ready for Seattle. But, now we get the chance to really start game-planning for an opponent — honing in on things were going to practice against a team. We’re all looking forward to that.”

Will Dre play next week?

“I would not expect Dre to play next week, but I do expect him to be ready for Week 1.”

Do you have answers tonight about the offensive line?

“That’s something we’ll have to see on tape, to be quite honest with you. We’ll get a chance to find out and talk it over with Jimmy (Turner) and Ben Martin and those guys in the morning. We need to make some decisions here quickly, so those guys can continue to gel these next two weeks. That’s something we have to solve really fast.”

Was it good to see Dolegala do well?

“It was good to see him get some action. Period. He’s been attentive in meetings, works hard, and he doesn’t get many reps. So, you’re seeing him go down and make some plays without many reps. That’s really encouraging to see. He’s an undrafted free agent — Central Connecticut State. This has got to be by far the biggest atmosphere he’s ever played in. It was great to watch guys like that go out there and have success. It’s a credit to (quarterbacks coach) Alex Van Pelt and the position coaches that we have on both sides of the ball who get these guys ready to go when they walk on the field. They have confidence and go out there and execute without any fear. Again, that’s a credit to Alex Van Pelt and the job he’s done with that whole room.”

What did you think about Andy tonight? (smiling at the question, since Dalton had just walked into the news conference room) ...

“He did a nice job. He got us to a potential big play on third down. The ball got knocked down. The next drive, he threw a nice ball on a through route that could’ve been another explosive play. He rebounded nicely with that throw to C.J. over the top. Andy’s done a nice job with his leadership and communication with that group, making sure we’re all on the same page. We’re really happy to have him.”

ANDY DALTON

Quarterback

How did you feel about your play today?

\“We did some good things. The first drive ended with a miscommunication that we need to get fixed. The second drive, we had an opportunity to make a play on third down and it didn’t happen. But we responded on the third drive and were able to punch it in. We moved the ball well and did some good things, but there are things we definitely have to correct.”

What impressed you most about Damion Willis?

“He’s gotten better every day. From where he started in OTAs to now, he’s taken a huge jump. When the ball comes to him, he makes the play. That’s what it comes down to. It’s a lot of fun to see his growth and progression.”

What about Rodney Anderson? What did you see out of him today?

“He was big. I thought he played really well. It’s his first action; he hasn’t been out practicing a ton. For him to get the action he got today and make the plays he did were huge. It shows the potential for what we have in the running back room. We have a good group of guys.”

What were you thinking watching Jake Dolegala’s drive?

“It was a lot of fun. Like Zac (Bengals head coach Zac Taylor) was saying, Jake is a guy who hasn’t gotten a ton of reps. When you throw him in there, he knows exactly where to go with the ball. You can see that with what he showed tonight. I was happy for him to get an opportunity to play, he’s in not getting a ton of reps (in practice). But now getting game action and to play the way he did, I’m happy for him.”

Is it tough to find a rhythm with the constantly changing offensive line?

“We’ll have to figure out our group. I wouldn’t say it’s hard to find a rhythm. I’d say it’s harder on those guys to make sure that the whole unit works together. We’ll get that squared away, and when the guys are solidified I think the thing will take off.”

What did you think about QB Ryan Finley’s performance?

“Ryan’s done a great job. He’s another guy that’s gotten better every day. He’s smart with the ball and very accurate. He puts balls in the right spot. For a rookie to come in and move the offense the way he has and throw touchdowns, he’s done a really good job.”

Is this the best you’ve felt all preseason?

“I felt good about tonight. Not to say I didn’t feel good in any of the other ones. The first game, we had a solid drive. The second game was a little different. I felt good after today.”

Is it good to close out what’s likely your final preseason play with a touchdown?

“Absolutely. If this is going to be a dress rehearsal, you want to end your last play on a touchdown. It showed some of the things that we can do offensively. The next time we’ll be out there is when it counts.”

What did you see on that touchdown to TE C.J. Uzomah?

“C.J. did a good job of getting separation. He made it pretty easy for me. I just had to lay it out there and let him go make the play. It was a great play call.”

Do you get a sense on WR John Ross III’s availability for week one? Do you think he can play?

“We hope that’s the case. It’s just the whole process of getting cleared and being out there. We’re obviously hoping that’s the case.”

Is it hard to establish a connection with the other receivers, with A.J. Green and John Ross out?

“There’s been a lot of competition in the receiver room. For me, it’s a lot of different combinations. There are a lot of guys that have been getting time. We’re trying to find the guys that can help us when the season starts. It’s been good seeing some of these guys step up.”

JESSIE BATES

Safety

What is your assessment of the defense’s performance tonight?

“I think we did a decent job. I think we came out hot, besides two plays I think — the deep ball and the long run (the Giants made) ... that’s what we need to fix. We have goals of not giving up explosive plays, and we’ve done that for the past two games (before tonight). It’s just been two plays where we give up a lot of yards, and that’s where the yards (allowed) come from.”

The Giants want to blitz linebackers and safeties, but the Bengals have not shown much of what you want to do during the regular season. What you are playing defensively, you, as a team, seem to be playing it well ...

“Yeah, we’re not putting a lot out there, but we’re playing fast, and that’s a good thing for us.”

JOSH MALONE

Wide receiver

and

AUDEN TATE

Wide receivers

Josh, take us through what happened on your touchdown tonight ...

Malone: “It was just a simple fade (route). I saw the cornerback’s leverage, (which) gave the quarterback some time to run through his read, I beat him outside, and he threw a dime (perfect pass).”

Auden, can you say anything about your status following the knee injury you suffered tonight?

Tate: “I’m good, I’m good. It’s just a little banged up.”

You both have had great training camps and, with the injuries to other receivers, you guys are taking advantage of the opportunities you have ...

Malone: “I’m not speaking for Auden — but I definitely feel like, from what I’ve been seeing and what I’ve been doing, we’re definitely taking advantage of the opportunities that come our way.”

Tate: “I definitely (agree). Like I’ve said, I’m taking advantage of the reps (I get). I hate to see our teammates down (and injured), but at the same time, it’s an opportunity for us to step and do what we do. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

The offense had 325 yards passing tonight versus a small amount for the running game, but based on the plays you did have, first and second down could be big opportunities for this team, right?

Malone: “With this new offense — we’ve been saying this since the first time we were thrown into it — there are a lot of opportunities and plays for us on the outside as wide receivers. As the running game gets more involved, we’re going to be a (difficult) offense to stop.”

Once that gets going, it could lead to a lot of points. Do you agree?

Tate: “Coach has put us in good positions and given us good opportunities; it’s just up to us at that point to make a play. But he definitely does a good job of putting us in good positions to make plays.”

CARL LAWSON

Defensive end

You were throwing Giants offensive lineman Nate Solder around with ease out there tonight ...

“Yeah. It felt good (to be on the field tonight). Like I’ve said, there are steps to the process. In the offseason, I was re-evaluating my game, taking in and putting in the practice, and then I noticed everything about my game I needed to change and fix. It showed up in practice, and the final step was putting it (into action) in a game, and now my confidence is sky high to continue on that path. There’s a lot of stuff I still need to work on, but I’m excited my hard work is starting to pay off.”

Your speed rushing was giving Solder fits. How many moves do you have now?

“Elite moves, I have three ... you’ve got to defend all three. So now, I’ll just keep working. I’ve got an inside move, a power move and now I’ve got a speed move. In the offseason, I was really just working on (my) speed and getting that half second faster. Like I’ve said many times before, I don’t feel I have trouble beating people; I just think I wasn’t getting there fast enough. This year, with the stuff I’ve studied and stuff I’ve been working on and how I changed my body, I’ll get there faster.”

What did you do to change your body?

“I definitely lost a little weight, so I’m a little quicker, but I’m also keeping myself stronger. I gained a little bit of weight last year to prove I could be a defensive end, and now I don’t need to carry more. If you’re strong as an ox, you can throw anybody around. So I may have put on a little bit too much (weight) last year. But with that (losing weight) and film study, and knowing when the ball is coming out at all times, I think that will help my game tremendously.”

TREY HOPKINS

Offensive line

How tough is it to build chemistry when you are moving around in different spots and groups?

“It’s not as tough as you think, because throughout the week in practice, you are playing with those same guys. Even though you see the group switch a lot, the same groups are moving together in practice that week. (Offensive line coach Jim Turner) makes it clear that you are going to be doing this that this week. He lets all of the groups know how he is going to mix it up. If things do change, you are surprised in practice, and not on game day. Guys are not nervous where they are going to be at or uptight. You know exactly the spots you could possibly play, and if you are not comfortable with that, he is not going to put you out there. He is not going to put you in the position to fail, or not put your best food forward, or not put your best tape out there. Those are the things that, not just myself, but the entire offensive line appreciates about coach Turner.”

Do you think you know what the offensive line is going to look like Sept. 8 in Seattle?

“My thing, right now, is focusing on what I can control. Yeah, there have been question marks about that since Clint (Boling) had to leave us. I am in the position to wherever I am pointed to play, I am going to play, and let the chips fall with the rest of that.”

CJ UZOMAH

Tight end

The offense seemed sharp on that last drive ...

“We moved the ball very well, regardless of what it was, running or throwing. Andy was putting it on the money. We have some pieces. We have a lot of guys, so you can’t just lock in on one person. That is kind of what makes us so multiple, so versatile.”

The running game struggled tonight. Has it been for a variety of reasons?

“We are not game-planning as much as we would in the regular season. Tonight, we did a lot of game-planning, and we just faltered a little bit. There were some missing assignments. The defense was filling gaps on the inside, and interior guys and myself, not coming out for a second-level player to spring the guys up.”

How does Andy look to you?

“He looks like A.D., the Red Rifle, back there.”

That touchdown pass was alright ...

“It was a dime. It was a perfect call in the red zone, the orange zone. He threw a dime. I caught it, celebrated it and put six points on the board.”

DAMION WILLIS

Wide receiver

How did you feel about your first NFL touchdown?

“It was the first one of my NFL career, so it felt real good.”

What has been the key to your improvements?

“I have been getting a lot of reps, so I am getting real comfortable with the system. When I get to the game, I am not going to say it’s easy, but it’s kind of easy.”

What would you call the celebration?

“It’s DaBaby dance. You all probably don’t listen to his music. It’s DaBaby dance. You all should listen to it.”

Take us through the play ...

“All I know that, in the play call — it was called X fade, so I was the X at the time — I knew I was getting the ball on the play. After that, (receiver) Ventell Bryant said I had to hit the dance, so I hit the dance.”

You seem to stay even-keeled. Where do you get that mindset ...

“I was the underdog coming up. I didn’t get the big offers coming out of high school, and I didn’t get the big offers coming out of junior college, so I am not going to take everything too big.”

What did starting mean to you?

“It shows I am going to get the opportunity to go with the 1s.”

And go against the 1s ...

“Especially when they called that play, and I was able to catch that ball on Janoris Jenkins. That was my highlight of the night. I am going to remember that forever. A rookie on Janoris Jenkins. I am going to remember that.”

JAKE DOLEGALA

Quarterback

Your first play, you went down the field. Was that your mindset? Just attack it?

“It was Zac’s play call, and I think he wanted to see what I could do. We went out there and flung it around a little bit.”

What was it like to get your first NFL touchdown?

“It’s great. I mean, it is preseason, so I am not going to make it official, but it’s still pretty darn cool.”

You don’t get a lot of reps in practice. For you to go out and execute the way you did, do you feel like you accomplished something big?

“I do. It was a personal accomplishment. Obviously, the team didn’t win, so you can’t be too happy about. Personally, I did a good enough job to impress the coaches and prove to them that I have been working and grinding. I would say it was a good day.”

On the two-point conversion ...

“Yeah it was a P.I. (pass interference) for sure.”

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