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Taylor-Made Takes:  No 'Weakness Of Talent At Any Level' On Defense

Head Coach Zac Taylor
Head Coach Zac Taylor

Even in a short week head coach Zac Taylor took questions from senior writer Geoff Hobson.

GH: How have you seen Lou Anarumo evolve as your defensive coordinator?

ZT: I think all of us as play-callers have grown. Lou had the experience he had in Miami, where he got a chance to call 12 games (as the interim DC in 2016) and then he gets a chance to reflect on that and go work for different people and then come here and institute it. We've continued to infuse talent into that side of the ball, and he's done a really good job letting those guys play to their strengths.

You see guys even from other teams that maybe are having even more success here. Plenty of guys who have had success elsewhere, paid them money and they came here, and they continue on, but even other guys that maybe were cut or traded, and I think our staff has done a great job getting the most out of those guys and allowing them to play with confidence.

GH: You said you wouldn't want to play against your defense. Why?

ZT: It's just a balance of, I think, the talent. I don't feel like there is a weakness of talent at any level. I think Louie does a good job of mixing up the calls and the guys do a good job of mixing up the looks. They understand why you're calling things and what you want to make it look like. They get how everything ties together, and that can create some difficulties.

They give you different fronts, several different fronts with the same personnel. That's always a challenge whenever a team does that to you. I think it's well-coordinated, I think it's well-executed, I think those guys do a really good job, the coaches and players.

GH: As we saw a year ago Thursday night, Joe Burrow did well against cover zero. The Dolphins play a lot of zero. Are they more likely to use the same dose on a short week?

ZT: We'll find out what they do. Their style of zero has certainly bled around the league a little bit. We do it here. We practice against it, we run it. It will be fun to see what they do on Thursday. We'll do what we do as well, and teams have to prepare for that. It's always exciting to see how these short weeks play out."

GH: Why does Burrow do well against zero?

ZT: He's smart and can get the ball out of his hands. He knows what protections to get us to. He knows where the weakest link is going to be in terms of the overall defense, where he wants to attack. It's just something, he can say this better than me, he takes a lot of pride in difficult circumstances you find yourself in. A lot of quarterback's fear cover zero because they're bringing one more than they can block.

I think that's one of the things about Joe, he embraces those challenging protection looks. He takes a lot of pride in mastering them over the course of the league and getting us the right protection and getting us the right play call, executing on time, and beating your best option. That's one of the things that makes him great.

GH: In that last drive against the Jets, you used not just a 13 package of three tight ends, but a "big 13" package with tackle Hakeem Adeniji. You seemed to use it more than normal in New York.

ZT: Had we not had that last four-minute drive, it would have been the same amount as we've done before. The double pass was a 'big 13' play. We've carried it every week. I can't tell you how many reps we've gotten, probably a couple against Dallas. Two of them were penalties. One of them was an illegal formation and one of them was a false start. This week, obviously with the circumstances, it called for a three- or four-minute (drive) and that helps with the four-minute package.

GH: Adeniji and tight end Devin Asiasi, in his Bengals debut, seemed to block well in that package.

ZT: I thought both of those guys performed well. Devin got his first opportunity with us, just getting here recently, three weeks ago. I thought he went in there and did a solid job for us.

GH: Every time backup running back Samaje Perine is in there, it seems like something good happens. On Sunday it was catching the first touchdown pass, picking up a blitz on Burrow's 55-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd and carrying it eight times in the last drive.

ZT: He plays a million different roles for us. He takes a lot of pride in his work. He's accountable, we can count on him under any circumstance to fill a role and that's why we have a lot of confidence in him. He's part of our running back core. He rises to the challenge.

GH: You've talked this week about how you are still showing the team some clips from the 2019 loss in Miami, 38-35, in OT to show situations. One of them is how wide receiver Tyler Boyd made the OT possible by knowing the rules.

ZT: That's part of our situational master's clip that we present every Friday. (Assistant wide receivers coach) Brad Kragthorpe and (assistant linebackers coach) Jordan Kovacs present different situations that can come up to the team and you never know what it's going to entail. You don't know if it will happen this week to you or happen late in the season or a totally different season.

I think we had 23 seconds left in the game against the Dolphins a couple years ago, so we ran a play that got us in position to be able to throw into the end zone for the last play. He caught a ball around the 25 and the challenge was he kind of got banged up on the play so I remember Tyler Eifert had to grab him and make sure he was up and facing the other team's end zone, because if you're down there's a ten second runoff and the game's over. So, it's critical your guys understand you cannot be hurt in that situation. TB was able to pick himself up and we spiked it and he got off (the field) on the next play. We probably put in Alex Erickson or somebody in his place and Eifert caught the touchdown to send us into overtime.

Those are just the meetings we have every Friday for five minutes and they have 100 different situations, and they pick three of them to cover. Thankfully TB was paying attention the day we said 'Hey, you can't be injured' and we're trying to clock the ball. Just get up and we'll get you out the next play.' And it paid off for us.

GH: Right tackle Willie Anderson is going into the Ring of Honor Thursday night, along with wide receiver Isaac Curtis. You've been able to get to know him.

ZT: Willie's been great. I don't remember the first time our paths crossed, but we text, we talk on the phone. I got a chance to see him when he came here for the press conference I think it was, or maybe his jacket-fitting, whatever it was. Yeah, I've always had a good relationship with Willie and just have so much respect for the guys that played all the time, sweat over the past decades here. I think this place has just got tremendous history and tremendous players.

GH You had Willie speak to the team when he visited training camp last month.

ZT: He did a great job. You can tell when these guys come from the heart. They're speaking from experience and he did a really good job of keeping it at the right amount of time. Some guys get up there and they get longwinded. I thought Willie did a great job of keeping it concise and short with a lot of heart in his message.

GH: Former Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth is on site broadcasting with Amazon and he's a guy you had at the Rams.

ZT: "He was a great veteran leader for us. He was consistent there at left tackle. I don't remember him missing a game in the two years I was there. Just was a really good veteran presence, a good leader in the locker room, good for Sean (McVay), I know, as a new head coach. (Whitworth) was voted a captain both years I was there, and he took a lot of pride in those leadership responsibilities."

GH: You've certainly got plenty of leadership in here. Was that experience with Whit a factor how you built your team?

The character in the different rooms, I think that's something we attacked and have done a good job here. (We don't have) the overall experience that he had. He had logged a number of years in the league. We have those same type of guys that have the same mentality of how they're supposed to practice, conduct themselves, and what it takes to develop the winning edge. We've got a lot of guys like that."