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Quick Hits From Zac Taylor At NFL Meetings: Burrow, Tee, Dax, And New Weapons For Offense

Head Coach Zac Taylor before kickoff of the Vikings-Bengals game in Week 15 of the 2023 season on December 16 at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Head Coach Zac Taylor before kickoff of the Vikings-Bengals game in Week 15 of the 2023 season on December 16 at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

ORLANDO, Fla. _ Highlights from Bengals head coach Zac Taylor's appearance Monday morning at the AFC head coaches media breakfast during the NFL's annual meeting:

_When it comes to nose tackles or cornerbacks or any position, it's always free agency.

"Duke's job never ends," Taylor said of Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin. "It's something we always assess. Free agency doesn't end. We continue to have conversations every day and it will bleed into the draft at some point."

*The Tee Higgins trade rumors? Taylor sounded like a trade was the last thing on his mind.

"We're excited for Tee to have a great year for us. We think he's our best chance to help us win a Super Bowl," Taylor said. "I've enjoyed working with Tee over the last four years and I expect this year to be another good one."

*Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said earlier this month he expects to be fully cleared by mid-May as he comes back from surgery for a torn ligament in his throwing wrist. On Monday, Taylor said everything he hears continues to be positive.

"Everything is encouraging and tracking well for the offseason program and we'll continue to give him space to rehab. Everything is going exactly the way we hoped it would go," Taylor said. "We've always targeted this offseason program as a good time for him to be back out there with the guys."

*After adding safeties Geno Stone and Vonn Bell in free agency and eyeing starting jobs, Taylor isn't saying if he's counting Dax Hill as a safety or cornerback.

Hill, their 2022 first-round pick, led the defense with more than 1,000 snaps this past season in his first full year starting at free safety. As a rookie, he largely played as a versatile cover nickel player, which is what he also did at Michigan.

"We've got a lot of DBs and we'll find the best way to utilize them," Taylor said. "We've got high expectations for Dax. We drafted the talent. One thing about Dax is he served a lot of different roles at Michigan and here. We'll continue to assess as the offseason goes and that could evolve over the course of the summer. We still have high expectations for Dax. It was great this year for him to get on the field with the amount of snaps he was able to play and the different situations he was in. That's only going to serve us well."

SLOT GAMES: As the Bengals approach ball spring without Tyler Boyd, Taylor already has options without a move yet in free agency or the draft for a slot receiver. They're called three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and free-agent vet Mike Gesicki, their most prolific receiving tight end in more than a decade. They could fit into the offseason plan of generating more big plays.

Chase has played in the slot before, but how much this year?

"He can do anything you ask him to do," said Taylor, reiterating how his football IQ allows him to have a full plate of responsibilities. "We've always got players we can move around, and we make sure we get the best players on the field that fit inside and outside at the same time. I feel confident in Ja'Marr we could give him quarterback reps and it would play out well if we moved Joe to receiver. He's capable of doing anything in our offense."

Taylor says he's never had a tight end like Gesicki in Cincy.

"The first things that stand out are his catch radius and timed speed. That's a different-style weapon than we've ever had in the past. We've had great tight ends I have high value for. (Catch radius), that's the No. 1 thing," Taylor said. "He's a tight end in our offense and we'll continue to do those things, and there are things we can do differently with him and those are things we're exploring right now."

ZAC ON MOSS: Taylor has another different kind of weapon with the Joe Mixon trade yielding free-agent pickup running back Zack Moss and Taylor can't wait to use him.

"He's a great fit for what we're doing on offense," said Taylor, who noticed him on tape as they prepared to play the Colts last season. "He's spent most of his career in the (shot gun) in Buffalo and Indy. That's helpful. That's a big part of our offense as well."

After spending time with Moss, Taylor can see the comparisons to former Bengals running back Samaje Perine when it comes to professionalism and reliability.

"His demeanor. Just the way he carries himself. A lot of things that remind you about Samaje," Taylor said. "He's got a high football IQ, which translates well to pass protection. Good hands coming out of the backfield. I think he's a really patient runner. He does a good job of setting the backers at the second level, exploding through the hole. Really good fit for what we're doing. That's a guy we had targeted and it worked out for us."

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