Stay back. Stay back. Stay back.
Demetrious Cox keeps repeating this phrase over and over in his head. It's like an actor who works on repetitions in which they have simple line of dialogue and keep repeating it over and over again, trying to wring out every possible meaning from that line.
For Cox, he’s seen this route before on film and on the field numerous times. Cox knows a double move is coming and that the receiver is going to break to the outside. Eventually his quick backpedal turns into a sprint to the sideline. Within moments, Cox identifies the double move and jostles right past the receiver.
During organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, Cox has quietly impressed with a few interceptions and pass breakups. In the NFL, Cox knows it is about taking advantage of an opportunity.
"Really just trying to take it day-by-day," said Cox. "I feel like I've put a lot of good things on tape. Obviously still learning the new things on defense, trying to get things down so I can play fast and try to limit my mistakes. Limiting the same mistake twice is a big part for me."
On paper, the Bengals look fairly deep in the secondary, but that doesn’t stop a guy like Cox from out-performing expectations and making the team. One advantage he possesses is his versatility. Cox played both cornerback and safety at Michigan State and helped out on special teams.
View some of the the top images from the 2019 offseason practices.
Cox has also used this offseason to grow with the new coaches and system. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and secondary coaches Daronte Jones and Robert Livingston early on have shown an ability to communicate well with players and help the guys understand not just the scheme, but the reasoning as well.
"Coach Lou, Coach Livingston and Coach DJ have done a great job installing the new defense and allowing us to play fast,” said Cox. “They try to make it as easy as possible for us. I like the defense. I feel like it allows us to communicate and be ahead of the offense.”
Being ahead of the offense was noticeable by many who observed the Bengals spring workouts, which is encouraging to help bolster a defense that struggled mightily in 2018.
"I think Lou being a former secondary coach really shows up, because those guys do a really good job with the details and the fundamentals," head coach Zac Taylor said before the start of mandatory minicamp. "You see it show up. They give (the offense) a difficult time every single day at practice. (The offense) has to be on our toes and be prepared. The defensive staff has really done a good job of teaching the techniques and the defensive plays.”
A 6-foot, 200-pound safety, Cox went to the Bengals in 2017 as an undrafted rookie free agent. During that 2017 preseason, he played in all four games and recorded an interception and a sack. Cox was among the final cuts that year and later was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers. At Carolina, Cox played in four games registering four tackles before being placed on injured reserve in October.
Cox had an up-and-down 2018 starting in Carolina when he was released on final cuts once again. The Arizona Cardinals signed him to their practice squad, but released him a month later when they brought in another safety, Darian Thompson, who had more regular season experience.
Cox returned to Cincinnati later that season as a member of the practice squad and has been working on his game with small, incremental improvements to get back to the 53-man roster.
The Jeannette, Pa. native will have to show the Bengals that he can cover in space and be versatile as a safety who can play multiple positions in the secondary. There is some who believe a change of scenery into this system is what Cox needs to flourish.
"Being in my position you kind of have your back against a wall,” said Cox. “You want to come out and fly around. At the end of the day, you have to have fun and play the way you feel you can."