Taylor Transcript: 'Defense And Special Teams Stepped Up'

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor addressees the media following day one of the team's rookie minicamp.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor addressees the media following day one of the team's rookie minicamp.

Initial comments ...

       “I saw a report today on Cedric Benson’s passing. If it’s true, that’s a real tragedy. I was just talking to some guys in the cafeteria that knew him. He seemed like a great guy. I didn’t personally know him, but growing up in Oklahoma, I followed Texas high school football. He was one of the all-time greats. He had a great career at Texas and then a great career in the NFL. Again, if that is true, then that’s a real tragedy and we’re certainly thinking about him.

       Aside from that, I thought we rebounded better in the game the other day — I can’t even remember what day that was, but whatever day we played a game (laughs). This week gets a little funky. I really felt the defense and the special teams stepped up and played much better. As you look at the offense as a whole, there were some good things. We have to clean up the penalties — we’ve had 11 penalties these last two weeks, and that’s too much. Our guys need to be disciplined. Last year in Preseason Week 1, there were 40 offensive holding calls. This year in Preseason Week 1, there were 120 offensive holding calls around the league. There are three times as many being called. Whether you think you’re doing it or not, it’s a point of emphasis. It’s our job to play within the rules, so our guys just need to do a great job of understanding that it’s a point of emphasis. Any time your hands are outside the framework of the defender, you need to expect a flag. You can either complain about it and allow it to keep happening, or we can make our adjustments and make sure we’re not stalling our drives. That’s been a big point of emphasis for our offense this week, and we expect it to be cleaned up coming into this game against the Giants.”

Is the offense starting to look the way you want it to?

       “Yeah. For the most part. It’s the nuts and bolts of the offense right now as we go out there and play in the games. We just want our guys to be able to execute the technique on our base plays. From a mental error standpoint on offense and defense, we were really clean last week. We had the penalties like I mentioned, but in terms of the mental mistakes we had four times fewer mistakes in Week 2 than we did in Week 1. The guys cleaned up and played well. They really only gave up seven points. The offense gave up six and the defense gave up seven. Offensively, guys were going where they need to go. Again, it’s just a matter of needing to be disciplined and not shoot ourselves in the foot on some of those drives. It was disappointing because the offense really felt like we had a chance to go down and score. As disjointed as the drive was with all those penalties, we were still in a position on third down to score, and unfortunately the ball gets tipped by the defensive end at the line of scrimmage and it goes the other way. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. We might be feeling a little differently had that ball hit the running back and scored. That’s just the way football goes. We needed to rebound. The offense needs to come back onto the field and we need to go back down the field and score. We just gave up six points, so we need to go down there and put points on the board. We didn’t do that, so that’s something we need to take care of this week.

Is there anything QB Andy Dalton could have done to prevent the tipped ball interception?

       “I’ve spent so many hours talking about quarterbacks avoiding tipped balls at the line of scrimmage. Sometimes those guys are running games up front, and all of a sudden a hand just flies up out of nowhere. I try not to over-coach that, to be quite honest with you. Some defensive linemen have a knack for that, sometimes they get lucky; they just get their hand up in that split second the ball comes out. It was man coverage, so eyes, from a quarterback standpoint, aren’t that big of a deal. You’re watching a ‘choice route’ by a running back on a linebacker. There’s no one he needed to be affecting with his eyes. The safety was a little lower in the red-zone, so he’s the one guy that would see that. As far as him looking anybody off, that’s not really a big point of emphasis against man coverage on a ‘choice route.’ You chalk it up as, ‘Hey, let’s go get it back. Let’s turn around and go score on the next drive.’”

Does Andy Dalton throw an inordinate amount of tipped balls?

       “No. I think every team always thinks that their quarterback leads the league in tipped passes. You look around the league, and it’s pretty much average for everybody. If a quarterback has a lower release point, that’s typically an issue, but Andy doesn’t do anything that would cause alarm.”

Has G Michael Jordan shown you enough for you to start him at left guard?

       “We’re not ready to make that declaration yet. He does continue to get better with every practice and game he’s played, but we’re not yet prepared to say that one guy is the starting guard. We continue to see improvement from that unit. The pass protection up front has been really good over these two weeks. I watch a lot of games around the league and buzz through some other offenses — it’s a sack fest in some cases. Our guys, fortunately, have done a great job. We need to sustain that through his next game, but so far they’ve done a really good job in protection.”

Will regular-season Week 1 starters play through the first half against New York on Thursday?

       “You won’t see them play that long. I feel confident that we will get good work in, however long that is in the first half. Guys will be ready to play against Seattle. We will not play (starters) the first half and into the third quarter like it has been done in the past. I think the trend, and I don’t really care what the trend is, is the guys will play a series-or-two shorter than what has happened in years past. Whether that’s good or bad, that’s what we believe in — keeping our guys fresh and healthy. They’re getting enough work. We feel good about our plan.”

Will the opening-drive starters on Thursday be the likely starters in Week 1 against Seattle?

       “I wouldn’t say that necessarily. It could be. It very well could be. We’re not ready to make that decision quite yet. We’ll utilize the next three practices, and we may utilize the game if we need to. What’s important, and what Jim (offensive line coach Jim Turner) and I talked about, is that starting early next week, we need to have that ironed down so that starting group gets two good, clean weeks of practice before we play Seattle.”

What are your overall impressions of Andy Dalton so far?

       “Impressive. As expected, to be honest with you. He sees protections very well, so you always feel like he’s going to protect play calls that you’re not fired up about once you get to the line of scrimmage. He’s going to find his man and get us to the next play. He has good touch, good accuracy, and he knows where the ball should go. I’m very happy that he’s our quarterback.”

Is there still a battle at the center position?

       “Billy (Price) is still dealing with a foot injury. It’s been sore on him, so Trey (Hopkins) continues to get work there. We need to focus on getting Billy healthy.”

Do you expect G Christian Westerman to return to the team?

       “Westerman is excused right now for personal reasons. We have been in touch with him. I’m going to let him handle that, but right now he’s not around for personal reasons.”

Do you expect him to be back?

       “I don’t know. I’ve spoken to him and I want to let him have his time right now. We’ll revisit that in a couple of days.”

Have you been able to get a handle on the run game?

       “We’re pretty vanilla right now in the run game. We were down to one running back very quickly (against Washington), being Jordan Ellis. It’s not what our running game is going to look like. We’re going to continue to be hard on our guys and hold them to a high standard. I thought Jordan competed his tail off. He did a really nice job for us. At the same time, we look forward to Joe (Mixon) and Gio getting a great amount of carries and seeing what this offense looks like with those guys. We’ll have a lot more variation in our scheme. It’s a starting point. What we can focus on right now is the technique in the targets of our offensive linemen. That’s something we can take away. The receivers battling in the run game – that’s been a huge point of emphasis for us. Those are the things right now you can really grade and be hard on those guys about. That’s what the preseason has been good for.”

Which Week 1 starters will see action on Thursday against New York?

       “Everybody that’s healthy will be ready to roll.”

What is HB Trayveon Williams’ status for Thursday’s game against the Giants?

       “I don’t think Trayveon will be back the remainder of the preseason. Hopefully he’ll be back by the first game or two of the regular season. It’s hard to say because it’s an injury that takes a couple weeks. He will not play the remainder of the preseason, but hopefully he’s back sooner rather than later.”

Now that coaches can challenge pass interference, how has it gone through the first two weeks of preseason?

       “Great for us (laughs). I think it’s just players getting an understanding, because players across the league get frustrated. The ‘clear and obvious’ standard is what they have to understand. We spent some time two days ago showing some examples of our game, and games around the league, to illustrate why (pass interference) is being called. I think it’s gone how we would have envisioned it going, in terms of when we challenge and what the communication is with the officials. I know Jay (Redskins head coach Jay Gruden) was probably frustrated with the way things went. Those calls are hard to overturn if the flag has been thrown and the coach wants to challenge. It’s hard to overturn. There was a play where they ‘picked’ (our player) on fourth down. The official will say that if there is any movement by the receiver, then we can’t say it’s ‘clear and obvious’ that the defensive player didn’t ‘pick’ him. I get how that would be frustrating for the Redskins in that case, but that’s the way they have to officiate right now. We’re all going to have to get used to it.”

Does the offensive line have to make an adjustment because of all the holding penalties being called against them?

       “Yeah. We just have to fit our hands inside. Anytime you’re on the edge of one of those runs and the ball bounces out to you – whether it was Cordy’s (OT Cordy Glenn) on the left, or C.J.’s (TE C.J. Uzomah) on the right – the last thing the ref sees is your hands outside the framework of the body. We have to be smart and be on top of those fundamentals. At times it’s hard to block those guys when you don’t feel the strain from the defender, because the defender is reading you. I can see why those guys have a hard time with it, but again, we’re making the point that it’s being called more than it was last year. We have to be able to adjust and not make excuses for it and do a better job.”

What are the challenges of working with a QB for the first time?

       “You’re trying to get a baseline of what they know. We’ve watched Andy Dalton for a long time, and I know coordinators that have coached him. So you have a pretty good feel for how he learns and what to expect. When you’re working with Driskel (QB Jeff Driskel) and Finley (QB Ryan Finley), two guys that you don’t know as much about, there’s that month or two feeling-out process where you try to get a feel for what’s in their brain and how they see things. Now that we’ve gotten into training camp, we’ve gotten a better sense of the backups and what they’re good at. If they ever get stuck in a rut, what can we come up with to try and get them out of the rut. That’s what we are starting to learn about all those guys right now, and they’ve had a good preseason so far.”

Will Driskel take more snaps on special teams and at wide receiver as the preseason progresses?

       “That would be the plan.”

What did you think of Mixon’s stiff arm on Redskins CB Josh Norman?

       “Glad that wasn’t me (laughs). That’s what Joe does well. When he can balance or get in space against a defensive back, that’s the expectation we have. I don’t care who the defensive back is. The expectation is that they should not be able to tackle our backs on the perimeter. Joe has had one shot so far this preseason and he made the most of it. Unfortunately, there was a penalty on us and a penalty on them, so we redid the down, but that was encouraging to see from him.”

How different can a running game look with a dynamic running back like Mixon?

       “That’s exactly how you expect your starting running back to look. It’s nice to get him back in there and remind yourself of what a really good running back in this league looks like. Not to take anything away from the guys that have been going for us, but those first two guys are difference makers.”

Who are some of the best blocking wide receivers on this team?

       “Auden Tate stands out. Stanley Morgan’s efforts are outstanding. Really, it comes down to effort, number one. Auden is obviously more physical because he’s a bigger body, but you see guys that are targeting the right way and getting their hands on defensive backs. You never know when the ball is going to cut back and you have the touchdown block on the back side. Those are two guys that stand out. Their effort has been consistent overall in camp. It’s not always perfect, but that’s the standard we are trying to set in that room.”

Do you have any desire to let Finley take reps with the first team?

       “No. I think it’s good for that unit to work together as a whole right now.”

What do you do with Driskel with regard to getting work at wide receiver and on special teams?

       “Number one, he’s a quarterback. He’s in the meetings and he still takes all his reps at quarterback. He’s also in the special teams meetings, which are typically bonus meetings. Normally, our other positions outside of quarterback aren’t meeting at that point, so he goes in those meetings. He does the special teams walkthroughs and periods. He’ll sneak in a couple reps at receiver, just so we can continue to evaluate him there.”

Can Driskel play running back?

       “I won’t say that he couldn’t, but I don’t plan on testing that out.”

If you make him active, can he be your fourth running back or seventh receiver?

       “Anybody with that body type, football IQ and mental makeup can play a strong role on any team.”

Do you know how many quarterbacks you plan to keep on the 53-man roster?

       “No, I think we will decide that at the end of next week. It can be two, three or practice squad. Those are things we have not had to iron out yet.”

Is there a rookie that’s impressed you most and is ahead of the learning curve?

       “Overall, there isn’t a rookie that’s stood out as, ‘Man, they’re just not picking it up.’ That has not been the case with any of these guys. That’s the reason we brought this group in – their football makeup and the character that they have. So far, no one has let us down in that regard, so overall it’s been an impressive group.”

Can you describe the Bengals’ success of bringing in college free agents?

       “That speaks to (director of player personnel) Duke Tobin’s staff and all the guys that do that homework. It also speaks to the position coaches and how they’ve developed these guys. We knew how scouts identified the guys they brought to our attention and how they fit what we are looking to do. I’ve known since Day 1 the coaches we brought in are outstanding teachers and communicators, and to me, that’s what has shown up with this young group of players we have. These guys have gotten them coached up.”

What was your take on DT Renell Wren’s first game action against the Redskins?

       “He played a lot of snaps, so you continue to see improvement from him. I think it’s just those young defensive linemen getting into the mix and being physical and understanding what the consistency needs to look like at that position. That’s something he’s learning, but we continue to see improvement from him each day. Since he’s come off that injury, I think he’s playing more physical.”

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