Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson sat down with head coach Zac Taylor to talk about going against his old boss and team when the Bengals travel to London to play Sean McVay's Rams Sunday at Wembley Stadium. Taylor talks about what qualities he admires in McVay and why Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the best player he's ever seen on tape.
Is it weird spending the week preparing to play a team you've been with the last couple of years?
I wouldn't say so. It's an offense I've spent an awful lot of time watching. They're doing some different things schematically now. There's a lot of familiar players on the tape.
Those changes, do you think that was a reaction the Super Bowl?
No, I think it's just any team. Subtle changes. Nothing major.
There's a theory out there that the way the Patriots defended that offense in the Super Bowl, they've found the key to what the Rams are doing.
I think the Patriots have shown they have a key to a lot of offenses. The Rams have one of the most explosive teams over the last two and a half years and I don't think they're going to let one game change what their identity is.
Is that the look you want this team to have? The Rams' look?
They've got great players, great chemistry. It's a Super Bowl caliber team. Certainly we strive to be a Super Bowl caliber team and there's a lot of qualities you're trying to build toward.
Do you expect A.J. Green to play this season?
Everybody always talks about the Rams offense. But that may be the best defense you play all year. (With apologies to the Patriots.)
They have certainly arguably one of the best players in the NFL. Michael Brockers. Dante Fowler. Samson Ebukam. A lot of guys that can rush the passer. It's a front that you have to have a great plan for.
How good is Aaron Donald?
Reigning MVP for a reason.
He might be the greatest D-Lineman ever.
My history doesn't go back so far, but I would say he's the best player I've ever seen on tape.
What makes him so good?
He's relentless every single play. He's physical, powerful, quick, smart. Gives the same effort level on every single snap.
You coached quarterback Jared Goff last season. How does he look to you?
Good. He's got a great receiving corps. He's smart, he's accurate. He knows where to go with the ball. He's got great familiarity in the system three years into it. He did a nice job in the win the other day.
He's got three receivers that are healthy.
They have four receivers that are healthy. They consider Josh Reynolds a starter. He's a great player. They've used some 10 personnel (25 snaps of four receivers) and their tight ends they think a lot of in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. They have a lot weapons to throw to. They use some 10 this year because they think they've got four starting wide receivers.
How does that help them?
It puts another weapon on the field so if you play nickel against it you've got to match up with some of those starting receivers on a player they think is a mismatch.
What makes your old boss, Rams head coach Sean McVay, so successful?
He's very, very creative. He knows how to get the most out of his players. He does a great job communicating with everybody. Coaches, players, personnel staff. Everybody. He's a real solid leader.
What are some of the things you've tried to take from him?
The way he treats people. You always feel valued as an assistant coach. I think the players always feel their value. He does a great job pointing out the positives.
He's doing what you do. Running the team and calling the plays. Is there anything that you've looked at what he does and how he's able to do both?
I was around him for two years watching him doing it. Now I'm in the same boat. There's probably something I don't realize that has helped me. You just go through the process you're used to seeing it. It makes your job a little easier.
Some people think in this day and age it's too tough to do both. Coach the team and call the plays. You saw him do it. He's done it. Has that helped?
Correct. I think there's only a handful of coaches that don't call one side of the ball. I think most do. There's pros and cons to both. I'm sure the people that don't have their reasons, but I won't speculate.
Have you kept in touch with Sean?
I talked to him two or three weeks ago.
Did he have any advice for you?
Just keep doing the things you believe in.
Clearly you can't talk to him this week.
How hard is it to go against a guy you know so well?
It's not hard. There's plenty of times in my life I've coached against my brother, coached against people I've coached with. There are only 32 teams in the league, so about every single week there's some sort of connection you have with the other team and this week is no different.
What do the Rams do well?
They've got a lot of talent across the board. They've got a lot of Pro Bowl caliber players that are not just talented players, but they're really smart players. They've got a lot of leadership on that team. In all three phases. Their specialists are leaders on that team. When you watch them on tape you see a connected team. When you're around them you see a connected team and those are things that important.
You've been talking about the leadership of your team the last couple of week. Apparently you talked to some young guys last week, like Sam Hubbard, C.J. Uzomah, guys you think can be leaders right now.
There are a couple of them that approach things the right way, stepping up and calling it like they see it. If you're a hard worker and a good player and do things the right way, people respect you and will listen to you and we want those voices to be heard. I've done it over the course of the season. I always try to identity the people that we think are leaders and have the ear of the team.
Some young guys probably don't even realize they can be leaders.
Some guys just like to lead by example. Some guys have the mentality they're in their second or third years and aren't a veteran. But whoever does things the right way needs to step up.