Bengals’ rookie second-round draft pick hoping he’s turned a corner

CINCINNATI -- Rookie cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt didn’t make anything of his slide down the Cincinnati Bengals’ depth chart last week when Eli Apple was out of team drills as a precaution because of an apparent ankle injury.

Taylor-Britt had been playing with the second-team defense to open camp and initially stepped in for Apple when he limped off the field last Tuesday and finished the day on the sidelines.

It had been a couple of rough days for Taylor-Britt, though, and by the next practice, undrafted free agent Allan George was getting the reps ahead of him. Perhaps that was the push he needed. Taylor-Britt followed with a bounce-back performance in practice Friday while sharing first-team reps with Tre Flowers and hopes he’s turned a corner.

“I didn’t take it hard,” Taylor-Britt said. “I feel like everybody needs an opportunity. He got his opportunity. Once I get out there I have mine. I feel like right now it doesn’t matter where you go in the group because everybody’s at the same level right now. You make a play when they come to you.”

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Cincinnati will begin to sort out the depth chart more after Friday’s preseason opener at home against the Arizona Cardinals, but Taylor-Britt is trying to make the most of every rep in practice as he wants to compete for a role this season.

The second-round draft pick out of Nebraska is hoping to build momentum from his strong showing to end last week. He had a near one-handed interception, that ended up a pass breakup instead, on a deep ball intended for Trent Taylor and a handful of other big plays, such a would-be tackle for loss on a screen pass to undrafted rookie Kendric Pryor.

“Honestly that’s just the start of something,” Taylor-Britt said. “I feel like once you actually get out there and things start going good, everything will come good after that. You just have to stick to your routine and keep doing it every day and you’ll improve.”

Taylor-Britt promised he would finish an interception before too long. He had six interceptions in his four-year career at Nebraska, including his last two as a full-time starting cornerback after switching from a safety role he played in 2019.

The 5-foot-11, 202-pound rookie said he had to have a short memory about his struggles earlier last week, and that was something the veterans on the team stressed to him.

“They just said, ‘Have a short memory,’ honestly,” Taylor-Britt said. “We’re in the big leagues now. Somebody will catch a ball on you and you’re in a perfect place. You have to go back out there and it’s first down again and you have to go at that same person, so you’ve got to forget about that and move on.”

The hardest part of adjusting to the NFL has been getting used to the speed of play, especially with the talented trio of starting receivers the Bengals have for Taylor-Britt to match up against. In one-on-ones, they’ve been throwing their best at him, and he said that only makes him better.

Taylor-Britt said he’s physically ready for those challenges, it’s just being mentally ready that is slower to develop.

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“You have to get up there and put your best football forward,” Taylor-Britt said. “We do have some great wide receivers. It just nothing but make me work on my technique and forgive and forget. They’re gonna catch a ball, but we have to finish on the play. If he runs into the end zone, I’ve got to run, too, to try to get the ball out or something. Can’t just cut the film on and see me give up on the play.”

The preseason opener Friday will be another test Taylor-Britt looks forward to facing and a “very important” step in his transition to the league. He said his mom will be there for sure -- she would be coming to practices if he didn’t tell her not to, so she won’t be missing it.

Taylor-Britt already has thought about what it will be like jogging out of the tunnel for his first taste of an NFL game as a player.

“I do dream about it a lot, especially now that it’s game week,” he said. “I woke up this morning ready to go just knowing in a couple of days I’ll get to showcase my skills and help this team out.”

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