Bengals.com senior Geoff Hobson sat down with head coach Zac Taylor this week to discuss the bye, the Ravens and the quarterback switch, among other topics.
How was the team when everyone re-grouped on Monday?
Good spirits. Good energy. Guys are ready to approach this divisional game with the right attitude.
What did you do over the bye week?
The coaches were in last week, but I also got a chance to spend time with the family. Of course over the weekend, you get a chance to watch pro games, college games. It’s fun to see.
Were you curious about the game Sunday night between the Patriots and Ravens?
I went to bed. It was a little too late for me on Sunday night. I woke up the next morning and came in early to watch the game.
What are your thoughts on the Ravens?
Baltimore is having a great season. They are really dynamic on both sides of the ball, really in all three phases. Their special teams have been solid for a number of years. They’ll present a great challenge for us.
How did you use the bye week to prepare for the second half of the season?
We are just trying to make sure we are putting our guys in the best position for the second half of the season and trying to find things we think we’re doing well, maybe things we thought we’d be better at in training camp that we’re not. So we’re just trying to figure out how to put our guys in the best position possible.
How big of a role do analytics play in what you do?
We certainly get information every week that we think can benefit us. We try to sift through what we think we can use. Anything that can help us gain an edge every single week, we use as a resource.
Is there such a thing as too much analytics?
You don’t want to overthink things. It’s like anything. We look at numbers with or without analytics as we study tape every week. You have to factor in how much it can really help you.
What are some areas you would like to see improve?
Whether you’re 0-8 or 8-0, there are always things in training camp that you think you’re really going to hang your hat on, and sometimes things evolve as the season goes, and those are things we’re looking at. You’re always looking at ways to improve the running game based on where we’re at in the league right now, and the red zone. We’ve got to improve in those two areas number one. That will help us have a better second half of the season when we do that. Any successful offense needs to be efficient in the run game. We ended Week 8 with a solid performance and something we can build off of the last half of the season.
What have you done well that you would like to see continue in the second half of the season?
We’re in the top five in the league in certain areas of third down. Passing, we’re right there in the top 10 range. We just have to improve in the red zone and the rushing attack.
Are there certain players that have stepped up in the first half?
All of our players are trending in the right direction. We’ve got guys that have stepped up in all three phases, but it’s only the first eight games of the season. We still have a long way to go. There is plenty of time for guys to improve their performances. We need to continue to see consistent efforts from the guys who have stood out the first half of the season.
A young guy like rookie middle linebacker Germaine Pratt seemed to be coming around the last couple of games. With Ryan Finley getting a shot at quarterback, is this another rookie you want to see more?
We’ll give him a chance to get more experience this week. Up his snap count and see what he can do for us. He’s physical. He’s done a nice job in the run game. He’s progressed in some other areas and now’s a chance to see him a little more.
A week into the switch from Andy Dalton to Finley, how is that working out?
They’ve both handled it like pros. Andy is there to encourage Ryan and help him. Both their attitudes have been outstanding and I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Andy was here on the day off.
Good to see. The quarterbacks have been here on Tuesdays throughout the season. That wouldn’t be a change. They’re on their own on Tuesdays. They’re off, but they come in and get a little extra work.
Andy said if you guys knew you were going to make this move, he wished there would have been time to try and trade him. How do you respond to that?
There’s obvious frustration any time that happens. We did it on the timing we thought was best. I didn’t want to do it any game sooner because he was our best chance to win. It’s just coincidence it happened during the bye week, during the trade deadline. All that was just coincidence. We made the decisions we had to make.
I’m assuming that falls into the category you’re not looking to give up your best players.
People want your best players for cheap and we’re not willing to do that.
Anything that you found out about yourself a week away from it? Anything about yourself that you’re trying to improve on?
I have to grow in a lot of areas. Not unlike the players. We all have to continue to improve and we can all do better than what we’ve done so far.
When you look at your own performance, do you look more at the play-calling or how you’re coaching the overall team?
Both. It’s all very important. It all ties together in some ways. I try not to make the same mistake twice.
What do you know now that you didn’t know on Opening Day in Seattle?
That’s a hard one to answer. I just feel like there have been subtle things on my end that I don’t realize I’m learning. There’s always a lot of information to take in and you have to do your best to filter through it and keep improving.
Joe Mixon did an interview this week where he expressed his frustrations with the run game.
I didn’t (see it). Of course we want to be better in the run game. That’s on all 11 players and the coaches. Every great running back I’ve been around has been frustrated when things don’t go the way they anticipated them going. Joe’s attitude and approach have been outstanding so far this season.
What are the top two or three things this team has to do in the second half of the season to turn it around?
On defense we have to create more turnovers and be better tacklers. We’ve missed too many tackles. Offensively we have to improve on our rushing and red-zone efficiency.