Taylor-Made Takes: ‘We Have To Find A Way To Play With The Lead'

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, left, talks to head linesman Jerod Phillips (6) during the first half of a NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, left, talks to head linesman Jerod Phillips (6) during the first half of a NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com sat down with Bengals head coach Zac Taylor to talk about locker room culture and how his offense has to take the pressure off the defense early in games.

I think what’s interesting is that after every game you have a player say something. Is it always a veteran?

Whoever steps up and says something. They usually take the lead on that one. Guys have stepped up and say what needs to be said and you appreciate that.

Sam Hubbard mentioned after Sunday’s game there are young leaders starting to emerge. Do you get the same sense?

I do in a lot of ways. Some of our younger guys are starting to step up and be more vocal and lead by example. I don’t care where the leadership comes from. Young, old it doesn’t matter. As long as we’ve got it.

Which young guys? I would think Sam is one of them.

Sam is a guy that steps up. Tyler Boyd has stepped up. I don’t know what you consider young. We’ve certainly have had guys of all ages and experience that have led in their own ways. Some of them by example. Some of them taking great notes in meetings. Some of them for challenging guys that don’t always do it the right way. It’s been a lot of good things.

Who is your best note taker?

Tight ends generally. I see those guys taking really good notes. Quarterbacks, too.

Some of the guys were saying Giovani Bernard stepped up after the game and said some good things.

Gio has been great. Gio leads the right way in every shape and form and he’s somebody that we certainly depend on.

You’ve emphasized culture as much as anything in getting your program established. On that front you had to like what the defense did in the second half after you challenged them at halftime. Lou Anarumo told us he’s been in a lot of games where running backs walk in on that last drive that Baltimore had with the first down on the 5.

They held them to six points in the last two and a half quarters. The start wasn’t good enough. Guys kept fighting throughout. We gave ourselves a chance. We didn’t do enough early. That’s been the story of the season so far. You look at all three phases and everyone gave their best on the last possession each unit was out there.

How do you establish culture now?

You hold everyone accountable. Make sure the standards remain high and no one falls underneath it even in tough times. You make sure everyone’s approach is still correct and you hold them accountable in every single way. In tough times character reveals itself a little bit. You get a real good sense of everybody.

Is the key accountability? Probably a great test right now.

Yes. Doing your job to the best of your ability. Not worrying about what anyone else is doing. Making sure you’re accountable for everything you do and everyone in this building has to continue to improve every day.

I thought your message about A.J. Green last week, that you guys want to keep him, was as much about culture as anything else.

We want guys that do things the right way.

Do you sense a house cleaning at the trade deadline?

I don’t want to speculate on anything that can happen. Just keep working.

It seems like you face a totally different kind of running game this Sunday than you did last week.

(The Ravens) present a lot of challenges with what they do schematically. The last time I saw it was this offensive coordinator at San Francisco (Greg Roman) with Colin Kaepernick when they went to the Super Bowl. Last time I saw this scheme. And it’s very similar. It presented challenges then and challenges now. We see them in a couple of weeks, so we have to make sure we start quicker on defense. But we didn’t break in the second half and our offense has to be more productive and help them.

(Jacksonville) presents its own challenges. Different style than what we saw last week. They’ve got a good runner. They’ve got good guys up front. The play-caller does a nice job and the quarterback is a good creator.

How do you fix the run?

We have to play with better leverage. Guys on the perimeter have to do their job. Turn plays back inside. That’s the biggest thing that has really hurt us.

What are two or three of your priorities to win Sunday?

We have to finish the first quarter stronger as a team on both sides of the ball. It’s very clear we have to score more points on offense in the first half and that will help us play with the lead at halftime and finish the game off.

Everybody talks about getting in situations having the whole playbook available. I would imagine a quick start does that.

It allows you to be a little more creative and do other things. Right now, we just have to find a way to be more productive.

I guess it’s hard to manage a game when the game is managing you because of a lack of complementary football.

That’s a good way to put it. We’re trying any way to move the football. It’s been a challenge for us. We have to find ways to be explosive and pick those moments at the right time.

You’re a guy that likes to run 11 personnel. The three wide receivers. Any way you can meld your philosophy into playing more tight ends and running backs?

We always try to attack the fronts and coverages we think we can attack with the personnel. Every team presents different challenges on defense. We always try to attack the best fronts and coverages with the best personnel we think has a chance of succeeding.

I would imagine the slow starts have dictated the personnel groups as much as anything.

We’ve got to play with the lead. We’ve got to find a way to play with the lead and that will certainly be able to dictate what we do.

People have said that you’re the Rams. The Bengals have the Rams style. Everyone is looking at the Rams. They have had trouble scoring. Has the league caught up to that?

Everyone has their issues. Whether it be injuries or whatever it is, everyone is fighting the same battles right now.

Speaking of injuries, your offensive line has protected the passer as well as you could have hoped, I would think, the last two weeks.

They gave up two sacks in the two-minute drill and, really, aside from that they haven’t given up a sack in the last two games. They’ve competed well. They’ve targeted. They know who they’re assigned to block. They’ve kept guys off.

Do you expect Darqueze Dennard to play at cornerback on Sunday?

We get a chance to look at him this week and start his 21-day clock and determine if we want to play him this week.

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