What Zac Taylor Said About The Recent Defensive Turnaround, Energy And John Ross

191202-Taylor-Zac_news_conference (AP)

ZAC TAYLOR

Head coach

Initial Comments ...

“Good energy in the building today. It’s nice to come in on a Monday after a win. You forget what that feeling felt like. It’s good to get back in that vibe. Now, we need to put that game behind us and move on. We have a big divisional game. We haven’t played Cleveland yet this year. They have a really good team with tons of talents. It will be a tough test for us. It will be a good chance for us to go get our first divisional win. The guys have responded well so far today, but the biggest thing is now we need to learn how to handle winning and find a way to be consistent with this. Although that was our first win and it’s a good step in the right direction, now the key is we need to be consistent with it. You can’t change your approach. You can’t just wash away some of the things we did poorly yesterday. ‘Oh well, we won. It’s OK.’ No. We need to maintain that standard and find that consistency that’s going to lead to more wins. That will be the challenge, for our guys to handle that this week, and I expect them to respond the right way. I’m excited to see it on the practice field, in the meetings and carry it over to next Sunday. I’m excited for this opportunity.”

Have you been invited to your kids’ school to be the secret reader after the first win of the season (laughs)?

“No. Normally they wear a uniform, but today they got to wear their Bengals gear. It was a nice little email they got last night.”

How was the wine?

“Good (laughs).”

What can you do to ensure that the team handles success correctly?

“Well, you don’t change the way you’re coaching guys. You’re still making the corrections, making sure everyone is being held to the high standards. Just because you win and you had a few good blocks, a few good catches, a few good tackles, doesn’t mean that you let those six or seven plays that weren’t up to our standard go. Our assistant coaches have done a great job with that throughout the day. The guys want to be held accountable. They see that there were even more plays out there yesterday that we didn’t make that we could have made, that could have really helped us in a lot of ways. We’re going to need that going forward. That game didn’t come down to the last possession necessarily, but we’re going to be in some down the stretch that are. We can’t let anything slide at this point.”

It seemed like many of the players were happier for you to get your first win than they were for themselves. What does that mean to you?

“I think everybody feels that way. I’m happier for them than I am for myself. That just goes to what I told you last night. This goes back to April and the relationships we started forming with the players because, when you face adversity, when you face some tough times, it’s easy to point fingers and blame. If there isn’t a relationship there, that’s a very easy thing to do. When the players know that you have their best interests in mind, you’re working your tail off to make them a better player, you’re putting them in position to win, then, when things do get tough, they trust you. There’s love in that relationship. That just goes to your point — everybody felt good for everybody else. No one felt good for themselves. They felt good for everybody else. That’s what you want, and that’s going to lead us down a road of much success in the future.”

What does the recent defensive turnaround say about your players on that side of the ball?

“Everybody is doing their best to do their job. You can say that. We made the point after the bye to throw away those first eight weeks and just continue to work on getting better, and the wins will come because of it. Outside of that Baltimore game when it got away from us, you’ve seen improvement, especially on defense, in all the other games. It was going to lead to a game like this where we held them under 10 points. Offensively, we were able to score more points than we were scoring these last few weeks and give ourselves a win. It was a total team effort. The defense did an excellent job limiting explosive plays. We didn’t get the turnovers we wanted, but we got the safety, which was two points and we got the ball back. They did a great job limiting that offense.”

The defense didn’t allow the N.Y. Jets into the red zone. That was complementary football at its best, wasn’t it?

“It was, especially on defense. The coverage complemented the rush. Those guys went hand-in-hand. They played pretty well. We were tight in the back end and affected the quarterback up front. Guys had some good production up there. It’s very encouraging to see the progress that’s being made on that side of the ball.”

Is the recent defensive improvement linked to a better understanding of how to utilize personnel?

“That’s a great way to put it, on both side of the ball, really. You certainly show up with a plan of, ‘These are the things I’ve done in the past. These things work,’ but you need to fit the personnel as it goes. What do these guys do best? What do they seem to struggle with? Sometimes you figure that out in training camp, sometimes it takes a few games into the season. We feel like we’ve been making progress, starting with the Rams game, (when) we really felt like, ‘All right, we’re starting to get on the same page. We lost to a good football game. We made some mistakes that cost us.’ But since then, we’ve been getting better. It just wasn’t showing up in the win column. Finally, it was able to pay off.”

What does it mean to have consistency in the coordinator roles?

“Change always take some adjustment. It’ll be good to have some consistency for us. We can’t speak to anything that’s happened in the past. We’ve seen improvement as this season has gone on. Guys are feeling more comfortable in the scheme. We have a better understanding of what the guys excel at. They’ve been good steps in the right direction that we’ve asked our players and our coaches to do. Again, it was encouraging to let that lead to a win.”

What went into neutralizing N.Y. Jets S Jamal Adams?

“He’s a great player. You don’t really feel like you shut him down because he affects the game in so many different ways with the ways he disguises, the way he comes off the edge. He does a great job in coverage. That was a thing that we saw on tape — that he’s a premiere safety in this league. He leads to a lot of targeting errors up front in the run game. That’s one of the reasons their defense against the run game is so good. They’re really strong inside with those two interior guys, and then the way the defensive backs move around — it’s hard to always be on the same page. That’s why they’ve had the success they’ve had. He’s a big part of it. He’s a tremendous player. He affects the game whether it shows up in the production or not. He’s a guy that affects the game.”

What led to the decision to start rookie Michael Jordan at left guard, and will he continue to be the starter?

“That’s something we’ll continue to evaluate every week. He’s a young player that we think has great potential. He just needs to continue to get reps. Billy (G/C Billy Price) has been fighting a little bit of a back (injury). We’ll continue to see how that develops over the course of the week. We’ll make some decisions as the weeks goes as to what we want to do there.”

In your eyes, how did the interior offensive linemen perform?

“We faced some challenges in the run game, no question. In protection, our offensive line did a really good job of keeping guys off of Andy (QB Andy Dalton). There were a couple times where they got some free runners that we need to do a better job on, but overall, the line gave us a chance, especially in the passing game, to win the game. It was great communication by those five guys up front.”

What is the plan for WR John Ross III this week?

“That’s something we’re working through right now. He’s been practicing, really, the last two-and-a-half weeks. He’s healthy and ready to go. We’re starting to incorporate him into the game plan. We’re doing a good job of mixing in those receivers, and making sure no one is getting worn down as the game goes and taking some reps off them. It’ll be good to get John back, and he certainly brings a speed element that will be helpful. We’ll create a plan for him over the course of the week.”

Do you expect Ross to be active against Cleveland on Sunday?

“I do.”

How has OT Cordy Glenn played since his return?

“He’s done a good job. Overall, our line did a great job in protection. He’s done the things you want your left tackle to be able to protect to keep guys off the quarterback. He’s done that.”

Will Ross be on a snap count on Sunday?

“Overall, we just want to make sure we evaluate all of our receivers and make sure they’re getting the right amount of reps. He’ll be a part of that. I don’t know that we’ll necessarily put anyone on a snap count. Some games, it’s different how the drives are distributed in the first half. You need to plan to play a guy 45-55 plays in a game, and then the time of possession goes one way or another in the first half and that affects it. We don’t need to sub him out every time if we haven’t had the ball in seven minutes. That stuff factors in as the game goes.”

The team didn’t give up any turnovers and only surrendered two penalties ...

“The discipline has really shown up from our players. There were some situations where our defense did a good job holding water. They were backed up and they were trying to get us to jump. They did a nice job. We took the one delay of game on purpose. What led to that was the wind, (which), like I said yesterday, was a pretty big factor. There are sometimes when you really consider going for it in those situations at midfield when they were going into the wind, (but) Kevin (P Kevin Huber) was doing a great job, (and the thought was we could) pin them down there and make them go 90-something yards into the wind. That was not a recipe for success for many offenses yesterday. We got the one (penalty) on the long run, which was tough.”

What do you expect from OT Jonah Williams for the rest of the season?

“We’ll take a little more time with him before we get him involved in practice. There are three weeks when he’ll be able to practice for us. We’ll give him another week, and then we’ll make some decisions on that.”

Do you have an expectation that he will play this season?

“I don’t foresee him playing in a game this season, but we’ll see. We still have a little more time to sort that out.”

Did Dalton elevate his teammates’ level of play against the N.Y. Jets?

"Yeah. That’s not to say anything negative to Ryan (Finley). I want to make that clear. Andy certainly has a lot of experience here. Everybody felt that energy. He had a great week of practice. He did a great job as a leader, even in his time away. Anytime someone is thrust back into that role that the team has great respect for, it naturally elevates them, and he’s an excellent leader on top of that. He gets a lot out of the guys. They certainly believe in him. He has that confidence. He had some great suggestions yesterday as the game was going — things that he was confident in. He was talking to receivers on the bench and we incorporated them into what we wanted to do, and they were successful. Any time a quarterback has confidence in something, you want to make sure you do it. He’s earned that right over nine years. He’s seen a lot of football. It was good to have him back there, and he did a great job for us.”

Did early-down success on offense limit what N.Y. Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams could call?

“He still threw some stuff at us. That was not easy. Being inefficient on first and second down is really what hurt us the week before against Pittsburgh. We were in so many third-and-longs. It became a struggle for us. That was a big point of emphasis, regardless of the opponent we played. We need to be a lot more efficient on first down, and we did a really good job of that, taking some completions. We were calling some (plays where) you could be aggressive and push it down the field, and Andy did an excellent job finding C.J. (TE C.J. Uzomah) underneath, and finding the running backs sometimes on some check downs, that kept us in some manageable situations and allowed us to be a lot more aggressive with some things we wanted to do. That made it easy to call the game.”

How much pride do you feel in this building?

“So much, because of all that work that has been put into it. For it to finally show up in the one thing that everyone measures (wins), it’s a nice reward for all the work that everyone has put in. And that’s everyone. I’m talking equipment managers, trainers — everybody. Everybody feels the losing and wants that winning taste. It feels good to walk into the building on a Monday after a win. You’re happy for everyone involved that walks into this building every day to go to work. You’re happy for the fans that have shown up to every single game and cheered us on, and the people who still wish you luck when you’re out getting gas, or whatever it is. I’ve run into a lot of great people in the community that I don’t know that have said really encouraging things to me, and you know they’re standing there with you. It’s a nice way to start the week.”

Are you happy for the Bengals fan that doesn’t have to live on his roof as a part of a bet he made?

“Yeah. That would be tough. I didn’t see his setup, but I hope he had some heaters out there or something. That’s tough.”

On the play that Uzomah dropped a potential touchdown pass, the play looked similar to the one that Oakland ran to defeat you. Was it stolen?

“We stole it from Oakland last year because our offensive coordinator was there. We ran it against San Francisco and threw it to T.B. (WR Tyler Boyd). C.J. is the No. 2 in that progression. Against San Francisco, we ran it on third-and-two and hit Boyd in the flat because the No. 1 was open, and we got the first down. C.J., hopefully no one saw him on tape sneaking out the back side. That was the same one that we called.”

Red zone efficiency on offense went a long way to deciding that game ...

“It did. You go back to that play (C.J. Uzomah’s drop), and those are the ones that you can’t just let go. We need to find a way to put a little more touch on it, or lay it out. We need to get together on that to make sure we don’t lose those four points. There are going to be some games down the stretch where we need those plays. You can’t just let them go. We need to find a way to correct it on both sides. The plays like that, we need to make sure we’re staying on top of.”

Is it as simple as recognizing that Uzomah ended up all alone?

“There’s a lot of window dressing going on there. You’re hoping to get man coverage in that short-yardage situation, and that stuff can happen. They lose sight of it, you have a run action, and you have a guy in the flat who’s doing a bunch of motions. You’re banking on C.J. slipping out the back uncovered, and he was.”

In that situation, is there a benefit to using pre-snap motions?

“In that case, it helps. There’s a lot of communication on the back end as to what’s happening with Tyler (Boyd). If you watch that clip, you know the safety and the corner are trying to pass it off. Ultimately, whether that led to C.J. being open or not, that’s usually the plan.”

Credit to Uzomah, it seemed like he caught everything else and was an effective blocker ...

“C.J. plays with tremendous energy. I know that for a fact because I just watched 30 minutes of raw, uncut, mic’d-up (NFL Films) footage of C.J., and you appreciate it even more because there a lot of things on the field that you don’t know. He just is an outstanding communicator — a great energy guy. He really elevates everybody. He’s happy for all of his teammates. He’s one of those guys you love to have on your team and is very important to have in the program. He’s someone you can rely on to do things the right way. He’s a good mentor for the younger guys. He’s earned everything he’s ever received. For him to get those catches was rewarding for him, because he blocks his tail off. He’s in there in protection and ripping on defensive ends. He does a great job in the run game. It’s good to see him get some production in the pass game.”

It seems like Dalton and your coaching staff ably handled the winless start to the season. What does that teach the young players?

“The biggest thing for us is to treat everyone with respect. It’s a business and there are some decisions you have to make sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a human side to it. You treat everyone with respect, you explain, you’re open with your communication, and you don’t try to mislead anyone. Everybody has done that regardless of what decision has been made. I don’t even know if I’m answering your question right now, but there’s a good vibe in the locker room right now. Andy does a great job. He handled it with — I don’t even know the right word for it. Andy is a top-notch guy, a top-notch leader. (He has great) character, all that stuff. It was good to see him play like that and get that win.”

Do you have an update on WR A.J. Green?

“No A.J. update.”

Do you second guess yourself about benching Dalton for three games?

“No. There are a lot of things you can look at in hindsight and second guess yourself. We made a decision. We did it. That was just the decision we felt like we had to make at the time. We decided three weeks later to go back to Andy, and (we’ll) just keep moving forward with it.”

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