Bengals’ defensive backs use off-day meetings to get ahead

The Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs have been getting together on the team’s off day each week to get a jump start on the defensive concepts that will be discussed ahead of the first practice to prepare for the upcoming opponent.

Those meetings seem to be paying off lately, and there surely was much to discuss Tuesday when the players had their weekly extra meeting. The Bengals’ secondary has a big task to get ready for this week in the rematch against Kansas City on Sunday in the AFC Championship.

“It’s really a jumpstart on the game plan and who we’re going against and how we will get attacked on first and second down,” safety and captain Vonn Bell said. “We have the coordinator come down, we have our position coaches come down, and I really ask them what I need to show the group and how can we get started on the week to get a good jumpstart for Wednesday.”

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said those meetings have been helpful in developing chemistry in a group that saw a lot of change this season. Bell and free safety Jessie Bates were the only returning starters in the secondary with Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton and Eli Apple all joining in free agency this offseason.

Being on the same page will be important Sunday with Patrick Mahomes’ tendency to test defenses with a potent passing game that includes 1,000-yard receivers in wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.

“It (the meeting) allows them to communicate their own way,” Taylor said. “They have a clear understanding of the scheme that we’ve employed. Especially with Vonn and Jessie being here the last two-three years, with the linebackers, you add Chido and Eli and Mike, they can have that meeting. We added veteran players. The scheme is not that much different from other places they have been. I think it’s good to make sure the players are all on the same page. That is what we always say. As long as 11 guys are on the same call you have a chance to do something even if something is a little bit off, as long as 11 guys get the same call. I like they have created that chemistry together, that they can meet on their own. I know the whole defense does that on Friday as well.”

‘Down to the wire’

Bell said he enjoyed watching how Buffalo’s defense tried to attack Kansas City on Sunday in their classic AFC Divisional Playoff, which saw three lead changes in the final two minutes and needed overtime to determine the Chiefs the winners.

Buffalo had the No. 1 scoring defense, net defense and passing defense this season, but ultimately could not get the stops needed to win. The Bengals will be expecting another “down to the wire” game Sunday.

“Just watching those guys going out there and competing, going against a potent offense as the Chiefs, just seeing how they’re going to match up and how it’s going in situations, third down, the red zone and two-minute, last minute of the game, into the half, and just go out and try to learn from them,” Bell said. “And you learn from that and you don’t want to repeat history. I really want to show the guys this the next day so we don’t be in a situation because games like this always go to the wire. You’ve been seeing it week in and week out with us. It’s always going to the last play of the game on fourth down and field goals, so it’s going to go down to the wire. And you don’t want to make mistakes, you want to learn from them, so that was a huge, huge learning point from this past weekend, for sure.”

The Bengals’ last two games came down to the defense making a play. In the first-round game against the Raiders, Germaine Pratt intercepted Derek Carr in the redzone to seal a win, and last week at Tennessee, Logan Wilson intercepted Ryan Tannehill to set up Evan McPherson’s game-winning field goal.

Bell said the key to controlling Kelce and Hill in the first matchup -- when they combined for just 65 yards on 11 catches – was just having “trust in the plan, everybody just going out there executing, high level communication both pre-snap and post-snap, diagnosing the formation, knowing where the guys are at and just taking away the threats.”

Injury updates

Taylor said defensive tackle Josh Tupou, wide receiver Stanley Morgan and defensive end Cam Sample likely will be limited in practices this week, but he wouldn’t rule any of them out for Sunday.

Defensive tackle Mike Daniels, a practice squad call-up player who was injured in the playoff opener, was back to work Wednesday as well.

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