Initial comments ...
Taylor: "In the second round, we took Cam-Taylor Britt, corner from Nebraska. He came out as an outside corner and will come in and compete. We had him in here a couple weeks ago. Love everything he's about. Love his energy. Love his athleticism, his size. A really competitive guy. Great feedback from talking to people about him. So, we're excited to get Cam over here and get back to work."
Did you have any connections there? Background on culture?
Taylor: "We saw quite a few people. Oftentimes, he's been compared to (Bengals WR) Stanley (Morgan) in terms of how he is on the practice field —in terms of the character, the makeup and the energy. I think that paints a picture for all of us, so that's a good thing."
By trading up, did you feel like you couldn't let that one go sliding by?
Taylor: "That was somebody we identified we wanted, and we didn't want to risk it there with maybe team or two in front of us that could take him, or someone could jump in front of us and take him. I felt like we needed to do that."
I know you guys see him as an outside cornerback, but his background says he has played safety too. So is versatility the theme of what you guys are trying to do so far?
Taylor: "I'll let Lou speak to more of his background because he's played a little bit of other things."
Anarumo: "Yeah, you kind of see what we've been doing with that stuff. And the more they can do, the better. Some of the techniques that we'll ask them to do will involve playing a deep zone. If you look at the guy's measurables, he can really run, as Zac mentioned. He has good size and he's tough, so the more of those guys we get, the better we will be."
Was speed the other common thread in your first two picks?
Anarumo: "Always. You always want to try to get as fast as we can get and hope these guys can really run."
I know part of his background, as Lou just said, is that he was versatile playing both zone and press coverage. Does that matter to you that he can do both?
Anarumo: "Sure. Absolutely. We want guys who are able to play man-to-man, because when it comes right down to it, when the rubber hits the road, they have to be able to guard a receiver and stop them from catching the ball. He has proven he can do that. He's a good press corner, but he has also shown some flexibility in playing in deep zones and some safety stuff, but also as a corner. So, he has done a little bit of everything, which is great."
Is he a solid and willing tackler?
Anarumo: "Very much so. I think that's one of the first things that jumps off the tape. He's not going to be afraid, and he's going to go in there and get guys on the ground, which is so important with all the perimeter plays we see these days. You see it right away from this guy."
Is that part of the reason why you felt good getting Dax Hill in the first round, knowing you guys felt good about the depth at corner where you were picking?
Taylor: "It's hard. Dax is just a guy that really almost fell to us, and we really felt like he could help us on defense. But Cam is certainly just in that pocket of players that we really wanted in the second round, and we weren't sure he'd be there much longer, so that's why we came up and got him."
When you guys are going into the draft, how important was it to take a cornerback with the first couple of picks? How important was it to address that?
Taylor: "I think that's the best way to put it. We would've liked to take one early, like we did. We weren't going to pencil ourselves in there and make us do it, but obviously, the right player was there where we felt good about it. And what we didn't want to do is say that we were going to take a corner, and then take one that we don't feel good about and cross our fingers that he pans out. We felt good about this one, and he fit a need for us as well."
Lou, for a defense that was on the rise last season, how excited are you with these first two picks, and to bring these two guys in to bolster that defense?
Anarumo: "It's great. Anytime we can add talent to our group. We did a great job in the offseason last year more on the free agency side, and it paid dividends for us. Again, we expect these guys to fit right in and hit the ground running when they get here. But it's great. So far, so good."
Lou, how does this add to the competitiveness of not only the cornerback room, but the safety room and DB room in general?
Anarumo: "A coach's best friend is competition. We've got some guys that are slotted that played a lot of good football for us. These guys will come in and support those guys, and we'll see how it goes from there. They're going to provide good depth for us for sure."
What does a rookie need to do to be a Day 1 starter?
Anarumo: "He has to go out — like we ask all of our players to do — and show consistency. That's what we're looking for. We're looking for guys to be the same person, same player every day. The more they can do that, the more trust and faith we will have in them. It takes time. It's something we have to build trust in them, and he has to build trust in his teammates, too. We believe in that, so it takes a little bit of time."
To move up three spots and to give up the fifth-round pick, is it a combination of targeting him, but also the bucket of players is really dwindling, so you don't want to hang around at No. 63, go up to No. 60 and get the guy you feel the best about?
Taylor: "He's just a guy we identified that we really wanted to come away with. And so, to risk sitting there for three more picks, when maybe some corner-needy teams would like him and jump up, as well. We just didn't want to miss on that."
What makes Stanley Morgan such a good practice player?
Taylor: "Like Lou just said — same guy every day. When Stanley walks on the field every day, you know he's going to bring energy and competitiveness. And however many days he's been here, he has done those two things every single day. So when you hear that comparison of 'this is what he's going to be like at practice,' that's a great thing. That's what we love — we love guys that bring energy, because it's a long season and that's a hard thing to do. And so, the more guys that can bring that, the better the team becomes. The more fun practice is for your guys to sit there and watch in that first however many minutes and for us to be a part of all year. That's a really positive thing."
Lou, with your experience as a defensive back's coach, in your system specifically, what is the one trait to play outside the most important?
Anarumo: "I would say there's a couple, but at the top of it they have to be able to run, obviously. But I'm also a big fan of guys with long arms and able to get in and out of plays. Those two things play into it. And then ball skills, and on from there. But they've got to be able to run, and the length also helps them be good tacklers when they have that. That's why I'm so adamant about that when it comes up."
Zac, Cam did a little bit of punt returning in college. Was that something you discussed at all in the pre-draft process about him?
Taylor: "That's something he's done, certainly. How that factors in remains to be seen. He played quarterback in high school too, so we'll probably put him over there at wildcat, and let him do some stuff as well (laughs). But he's a good, well-rounded athlete that obviously has been very versatile. For a guy to have played safety and corner, and to return punts and have quarterback background — those are all really good traits for a guy to have."
You've got your top five defensive backs back, but you've used your top two picks on defensive backs. What does that say about the need for depth at that part of the team and the state of the game right now?
Taylor: "How critical it is. As a 17-game season goes on, and you go into the playoffs, that depth is critical. How many teams do we see that come into December in these critical games — they're down a couple DBs, and they're pulling guys off the practice squad? I think it is great competitiveness like Lou mentioned, just for all of our guys. But you're going to need that depth over the course of the long season, that we're going to have to endure."
Anarumo: "Yeah, just to follow up on that question and Zac's answers, we play so many different things where there's going to be six — sometimes seven DBs — out on the field at one time. No other position on the field, offense or defense, is going to do that. It's just so critical to have depth there, for sure in today's NFL."
In today's NFL, is the difference in skillset between corner and safety disappearing?
Taylor: "I'd have a hard time saying that. There are some guys you can tell are safety bodies, and some guys that are corner bodies. Obviously there are some guys that have maybe done both in their background, and so you can see a little more crossover, but I wouldn't go that far to say it's all the same person."
Anarumo: "I agree."
Given all the receivers that have gone off the board in the first sixty picks, how thankful are you that you drafted Tee and Ja'Marr over the past couple of years and you don't necessarily need one?
Taylor: "Yeah, it's nice. It's a nice luxury to have right now. We feel like we've got those guys (who provide) good depth at the position right now — guys who have been here for a good period of time now, even (other guys who) are behind those guys. Certainly, (there are) a lot of weapons in that room, and that's a good thing for us."
How important is it for you for you guys to dictate what you want to do and basically carry out a game plan in these first couple of rounds so that the last couple of rounds you have some wiggle room?
Taylor: "Yeah, I think it's good. You always have your needs — things you want to come away with — (but) you don't want to reach for them. I think so far so good for us, to where you feel like the value there in those later rounds — guys that maybe you had slotted higher than they go — they fall in your lap and you get an opportunity to add them and feel really good about the in these later rounds."
Lou, you guys drafted a safety and a corner for your first two picks, and they're behind guys you like as starters right now. Is that good for these young guys to be around vets who have been around the game for a while and get a feel for things as they break their way in right now?
Anarumo: "Yeah, I think it's critical. The first year of a rookie player is so important for him in his development, both on and off the field. And when you have solid veterans that can lead them down the right path, that's invaluable. We have great leaders in that room —guys that will indeed help them how to study the tape and all of the little things, how to take care of their bodies and all the things that it takes to be a great pro. Chido (CB Chidobe Awuzie) will be in their ears, and Mike (CB Mike Hilton), the whole crew. We're blessed to have those guys that we have, for sure."
Any playful joking that you got a Cornhusker?
Taylor: "It's a good thing, you know. They bring a certain element of toughness and football character (laughs) we like to have here, so you know what you're getting when you get a Cornhusker. I anticipate us being three-for-three really in my time here with Cethan Carter, Stanley Morgan and now Cam Taylor-Britt. Those guys are all three good ones that we've had come through here."
You mentioned trading up. Can you characterize what those discussions are? Was there a lot of "should we? / shouldn't we?" The Chiefs took a corner at 62 ...
Taylor: "Did they? OK (Laughs). There you go. They had taken one earlier, so we thought they wouldn't be the one to take one. You feel good about that. I forgot the first part of your question, because you caught me off guard there. But Duke (Tobin) does a really good job. Duke and Mike (Brown) do a good job kind of going back and forth, and what we would give up. We felt good about giving up the sixth round pick to get a guy who is going to come in and provide some great competition for us in the second round. We felt comfortable there. Duke and those guys did a great job handling that. Great poise ... great poise under pressure by Duke."
Should we be expecting the third-round pick having some connection to you? The first one was from Oklahoma, the second one played at Nebraska ...
Anarumo: "This is where we're going to grab somebody from New York or New Jersey (laughs)."
Taylor: "I think I've run out of ties at that point."
A Butler transfer at some point, maybe?
Taylor: "Oh yeah, if they were a JUCO kid, then yeah, they're right on our radar (laughs). And Darrin (Simmons) too. We're both Jayhawk (Community College) Conference guys, so anyone from Hutch (Hutchinson), Dodge (City), or Coffeyville usually catches our eye pretty quickly. Keep an eye out. Do your research on who has gone through that system in this draft."
Has nickel become almost the base defense in the NFL?
Taylor: "It's pretty close — from what we've faced offensively. Mainly because we utilize so much 11 personnel, we see a ton of nickel. You know our defense has to face a ton of different styles of offenses, so we get more of a traditional base defense sometimes. But Mike Hilton logs a lot of snaps for us. We're in nickel quite a bit."
Anarumo: "Yeah, we were over 70-something percent this year."
Taylor: "I think that's got to be pretty close to the league average there."
What was your reaction to getting that call from Cincinnati?
"I was so excited, I couldn't even say any words (laughs). It was just a dream come true. My visit there was amazing. Just to get picked up by a team, especially the Bengals, is surreal to me. And Coach Zac (Taylor) played at the great University of Nebraska, that makes it even better."
What made your visit here so amazing?
"The staff is great. Everybody on the staff — from when I got to the airport, to communication, to me getting from place to place. They were on time with everything. They were just professional with everything they do. I really got along with their DB coach (secondary/cornerbacks coach Charles Burks). We had a great time in there just kicking it and not even talking about football. We ran out of time, but that's the conversation you want to have with a coach. You want to have that relationship."
Did you leave your visit that day thinking that you might end up in Cincinnati?
"It's crazy because I did (laughs)."
Was it Coach Burks that you met with?
"I believe so. Yes sir."
What did you like about him in your interactions?
"He's just a real guy, man. He doesn't give you any fake stuff. Our conversation was as genuine as possible. He just let me know everything that I would be coming in to do and what he expected of a rookie to come in and produce."
Did you tell anybody that you thought you'd end up in Cincinnati?
"Not at all (laughs). I told my agent and he marked down some things. But other than that, no I didn't."
Given what you know about it, how do you think you fit in this defense?
"Honestly, I feel like I fit great. I'm very versatile, and they can put me at corner, nickel or safety. I have the opportunity to come in there and help the defense out, and hopefully get back to the Super Bowl and make something happen."
Who are your favorite CBs to watch and study?
"I've studied Jalen Ramsey a lot. And Aqib Talib. I just love their footwork and how they get off press-man (coverage) and getting out of their breaks as fast as possible. That was one thing I worked on during the offseason — getting out of my breaks as fast as possible with no false steps. I told that to every coach that I met with, and that was one thing that I really harped on during the offseason. You could see in my film that I would get high, and I would be one second late off of a (pass breakup) or a pick. I get really frustrated with myself, because I want to be great. So that's one thing I was really working on. But Jalen Ramsey, Aqib Talib, Jaire Alexander — a couple guys."
One thing the coaches brought up was how you coming here would raise the level of competitiveness in the CB room. What kind of competitor are you?
"Honestly man, I just want to be first. That's in everything I do. I don't care if we're playing badminton, tennis, soccer — any sport possible. I always want to be first. I promise you that once I come in there and get in that DB room, they'll feel my presence. I'm a competitor. I love it. You tell me I can't do something, and I'll show you that I can. It's always been like that."
How much has your background at QB and WR helped you with things like ball skills and route recognition?
"It helps me so much. Just making that transition from playing QB and being recruited as that, and looking at the defense from the offensive view. And then when I got to CB, it was just the total opposite. Just getting to that position, and coach Fisher (Nebraska defensive backs coach Travis Fisher) at Nebraska took me from the bottom of nothing into what I am now. It helps me a lot, because I know formations and down-and-distance — different things that can help me out. It works, man. It helps me when needed."
Zac Taylor was talking about how you bring that 'juice' to practice. Where does that come from, and why are you built that way?
"I've always had it. I'm from (area code) 3-3-4, man — Montgomery, Alabama. I was born and raised there, and I felt like anyone from there, we have a different type of juice. The juice came from me playing quarterback and playing after Cam Newton — I have the No. 1 and everything. But I transferred over to being a DB. I feel like my drip is cool in the game, and I feel like I play with the tenacity that a lot of players don't play with. So I call it 'juice.'"
Do you know Daxton Hill at all?
"I do. He played at Michigan. We played them a couple years when I was at Nebraska."
Do you have any relationship with him by chance?
"Not too much, but we will most definitely."
You both ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash. Do you think there's a race in the future between you guys?
"We can make that happen (laughs). I told you, I'm a competitor, man. I'm not going to say no (laughs)."
As a competitor, how much do you look forward to practicing against Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins?
"That was the first thing I thought about — can't wait (laughs). Like coach said, I bring the juice at practice. It's just like the game. Going against those kinds of receivers helps my game so much that guarding other receivers won't be as hard. I can't wait to get out there and get to practicing one-on-ones with those guys."
It sounds like you've had a smile on your face since you've gotten the call from the Bengals. Is that the case? Are you on cloud nine?
"It is the case. I've been smiling since I've been on the phone with you guys too (laughs). I promise you that ever since I saw that area code and city and state, I was very excited."
Besides the versatility, what's the best part of your game?
"I'm very physical. Like you said, I have ball skills as well. But I feel like I'm very physical at CB, S, nickel — wherever you want to put me. But I'm not scared to hit. A lot of guys don't put their head in there, but I will with anybody — I don't care how big you are or anything. That's what I bring to the table."
When was your visit here?
"Two or three weeks ago, maybe."
Did you know Stanley Morgan at all at Nebraska?
"Oh yeah. That's my big bro, man. He kind of brought me in as a DB. When he was playing receiver at Nebraska, I always tried to go against him just being the competitor that I am. I promise you that if you ask him to do an interview, he'll tell you that I was always the first one to try and knock out Stanley Morgan just because he was a superstar on the team. I just had to solidify myself and show that this freshman wasn't afraid to come in and work."
Coaches say that Morgan is a beloved teammate because of the way he practices. Did he set the pace for you in that area?
"Most definitely. That was someone I actually looked up to, even though he was on the offensive side. As a leader and a person that you never see quit — it didn't matter what he went through family-wise, school-wise, football-wise — once he stepped on that field, he was a problem. And a problem that you didn't want to deal with."
Your new head coach is a Nebraska Hall of Famer. Do you have any knowledge of Zac Taylor's career at QB for the Cornhuskers?
"I kind of do. He made sure of that (laughs)."
What did he share?
"That he was probably one of the best quarterbacks to come through Nebraska (laughs)."