PHOENIX, Ariz., _ Head coach Zac Taylor and quarterback Joe Burrow have been joined at the hip since the Bengals drafted Burrow No. 1 overall three years ago and since Burrow has become the NFL's all-time completion percentage leader to go along with a Super Bowl start, that makes Taylor one of the league's "quarterback whisperers."
About 13 questions during his 35-minute or so appearance at Monday's AFC coaches' media breakfast here at the NFL spring meeting concerned the No. 1 pick or molding a franchise quarterback or both. But there was also time for Taylor to offer some Bengals updates, which included that they have started extension talks with Burrow:
_Even though reports have Jonah Williams asking for a trade, Taylor said he expects him to be a Bengal and battling with Jackson Carman for the right tackle job while incumbent La'el Collins rehabs from an ACL tear.
"I like everything about Jonah. I'm excited to see him come in and compete at right tackle," Taylor said. "He's always been everything we wanted him to be about. We've never had issues with him. Hopefully we can work through this and he can come in and compete at right tackle for us. That's what we're counting on him to do … He's never been an issue and I don't anticipate that being an issue."
Williams, the 11th pick in the 2019 draft, has been a left tackle all the way since he began a career that's been challenged by injury and he's shown his toughness on more than one occasion. After missing his entire rookie season (pectoral tear), he missed six games the next season and he gutted out a dislocated knee cap this past season before he aggravated it in the Wild Card and missed the last two games.
With the signing of left tackle Orlando Brown, Taylor thinks Williams can make the move to the other side.
"I played quarterback, so I'm not going to sit there and pretend that I've got experience moving (on the offensive line)," Taylor said. "I know that there are some reps that need to take place to feel completely comfortable with that, but most of these guys have done it at some point in their careers. So they've at least got experience doing it and that's just the way it will go for us."
_Taylor said Collins' timeline for a return is "undetermined," and indicated he sees a competition involving Jackson Carman on the right side. Since Collins got hurt Christmas Eve, Williams and Carman would appear to be competing for the Opening Day start. Carman, the second-round left tackle who was moved to right guard as a rookie in 2021, won the third tackle job last season and played well in Williams' spot during the two biggest games of the year, the AFC Divisional and AFC title game.
"I was proud of his growth this year overall. The whole course of the year. I thought he competed, he wanted opportunities to compete. He's about the right stuff. I think he and Frank have developed a really good relationship," said Taylor of Carman and offensive line coach Frank Pollack. "I know those linemen as a whole were really proud of the way that he performed during the playoffs, those veterans, he's earned their respect. So, that's no shock. Linemen come in and the first year is tough and the second year gets better, the third year gets a lot better so we've seen it enough now where that shouldn't surprise us."
Also in the mix at right tackle is the newly-signed Cody Ford and incumbent backup Hakeem Adeniji.
_Taylor shared a laugh with long-time Cowboys beat reporter Clarence E. Hill Jr. when Hill asked if the Bengals had any interest in former Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
After Taylor answered, "There are a lot of great players that are always available. I think that we do our due diligence making sure we try to find the best fits for us and talk through every available prospect," Hill followed with is that yes or no?
"That's what I just said," Taylor said.
_But Taylor did offer that in the wake of Samaje Perine's departure to Denver that he thinks fifth-year man Trayveon Williams has earned a shot at more time. His more well-rounded play overtook Chris Evans for the spot behind Joe Mixon and Perine in the second half of the season. He also didn't rule out adding backs via the draft or free agency.
"He just hasn't had an opportunity because we had two really good running backs in front of him. We re-signed them for a reason. We've got high hopes for Trayveon," Taylor said. "He's a guy I've really seen mature professionally. I just think he understands what it takes to play in this league. And he showed us that he's ready to be able to compete for real opportunity, and Chris Evans as well … if we continue to add in free agency or the draft, then so be it."
_Taylor defended Mixon's production last year as he gets set to turn 27 around the time his seventh training camp starts.
"He's been a captain for us. And, you know, I thought he's performed really well for us over the last couple of years and he's always been someone we've been able to count on when it comes to that position," Taylor said. "When we're getting efficient runs, that's what we want. We got what we wanted out of those guys. There were big games that they had where they really stepped up for us, but I was proud of the job that (the position of) running back did for us."
_Taylor is impressed with No. 1 cornerback Chidobe Awuzie's rehab from an ACL tear and since it happened Halloween there is historical evidence he could be back for the opener. But Taylor didn't want to venture into any timelines.
About the time Taylor was saying a team can never have too many defensive backs, the Bengals announced the signing of veteran cornerback Sidney Jones IV after his Monday visit to Paycor Stadium. It looks like the one-year deal doesn't take free agent Eli Apple out of the mix after he started 30 games the last two seasons, as well as every postseason game. Like Taylor says, the more the merrier.
Either way, Jones is an intriguing pickup.
He played just 110 snaps last season for Seattle and Las Vegas after he played a career-high 728 in 2021 for the Seahawks. He's been primarily a backup since the Eagles drafted him in the second round in 2017. At 6-0, 181 pounds, Jones has first-round talent and he had a chance until he injured his Achilles at the University of Washington pro day. Still, Philly took Jones with the 43rd pick and he played well enough with the 2020 Jaguars that Seattle traded a sixth-rounder for him. Like Apple, Jones, who turns just 27 in May, is one of these young guys with traits that the Bengals hope they can draw out.
_Taylor was asked about ownership's willingness to spend in the wake of an NFL Players Association survey and it had to be a tough question to ask ten days after they gave Orlando Brown $31 million to sign. But Taylor talked about how much commitment the Bengals have made in and around Paycor Stadium for investments in an indoor facility and expanded training room. He also knows no owner in the league has more passion for his team than president Mike Brown.
"I think we've got the best ownership in all of football in terms of caring about their players," Taylor said. "Show me an owner that shows up to every single practice and walk-through for 365 days, who's here at 6 a.m., cares more about the players than probably anybody else in the building. I know how supportive they are and how much they care about our team. It's all they care about. So they're willing to do anything it takes to make sure our players can perform at a high level and feel like they're taken care of."
Taylor said plans for the training room and indoor facility have been long on the burner.
"That was ownership saying, 'What do the players need?' And us saying we need to upgrade our training part of things," Taylor said. "They stepped up and spent millions of dollars on that. I hear the renovation under my desk every day, all the drills. It's annoying for me, but it's going to be awesome when the players walk in. I'm really proud of the steps we're making. Our ownership has really never told me 'no,' on anything I've asked them for."