Taylor-Britt embracing leadership role in young Bengals’ secondary

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — Cam Taylor-Britt feels like he blinked and suddenly became one of the veterans in the Cincinnati Bengals’ cornerback room.

The departure of Chidobe Awuzie this offseason means Taylor-Britt is now the oldest of the outside cornerbacks entering just his third season. Only slot corners Mike Hilton and Jalen Davis have more experience.

Taylor-Britt is embracing that role and making his voice heard, especially now as the rookies have joined the team for the offseason workout program. This past week marked the first full-squad voluntary workouts with the 10 draft picks and 14 college free agents the Bengals signed.

“The pressure is on now,” Taylor-Britt said. “In (offseason) camp, you’re doing it up, and they are pushing us every which way, and being a vet in the room, I’m able to voice my opinion a lot more, push everybody else to be the best they can be.”

Cincinnati has gone through a youth movement at cornerback since drafting Taylor-Britt in the second round in 2022. The Bengals selected DJ Turner in the second round last year, along with D.J. Ivey in the seventh round, then went with versatile cornerback Josh Newton in the fifth round of this year’s draft.

Taylor-Britt earned a starting job midway through his rookie season and became the team’s No. 1 corner last year, while Awuzie worked back from 2022 ACL surgery. Turner made 12 starts opposite Taylor-Britt during that time but seemed to hit a rookie wall at the end of the season as the defense struggled overall.

Now as new rookies come into the team, Taylor-Britt is reminded of how far he’s come.

“In a blink of an eye, that’s how it happens in the NFL,” Taylor-Britt said. “Me and (cornerbacks) coach (Charles) Burks, coach Lou (Anarumo), we always chop it up since we’ve been back, and it’s like, ‘Wow, two years have flown by.’ It’s like, man, but we’ve got plenty more to go.”

The 24-year-old from Montgomery, Ala., said he learned a lot in his first two seasons and he believes he is poised for his best year yet. He shared the team lead for most interceptions in 2023 with four, despite missing five games due to injury, and Taylor-Britt felt like he was having a Pro Bowl-type campaign before he was sidelined for five weeks at the end of November.

Taylor-Britt returned for the final two games and finished with 50 combined tackles and 11 passes defended, in addition to his four interceptions.

“The development is kind of crazy,” Taylor-Britt said. “Two years is a long time but it doesn’t seem like a long time. I’ve learned so much in those two years and I believe my teammates can attest to that. Just maturity on and off the field has gotten a lot better. I was able to see a lot on the field and deal with people off the field, just getting my life together. It’s been a huge difference these two years.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The next step is just staying consistent and making sure his teammates know what they are doing.

Taylor-Britt was a team captain at Nebraska his senior year in 2021 and was known as an energetic locker room leader there, so it’s no surprise he is stepping into a more vocal role now. He had to earn the respect of the veterans when he first arrived but said he always planned to step up as a leader when the opportunity arose.

Last year’s secondary struggled in part because of a lack of leadership with so many young guys starting games. Jordan Battle was a rookie starting at strong safety, and Dax Hill was a first-year starter at free safety.

Communication was said to be a big issue, and Taylor-Britt realized at the end of the year something needed to change there. As soon as the 2023 season ended, he was already making plans to get the other defensive backs together in the offseason to work out and keep building chemistry. Taylor-Britt said a bunch of them met up in Florida, and since the team has been back in Cincinnati for the offseason workout program, they have been “non-stop” trying to do things together outside of the stadium to create stronger bonds.

“I would say I was trying to play into that role when I first came in, but not having those older guys there and me being the oldest guy in the room besides Mike Hilton and JD (Jalen Davis), it’s a huge difference having guys come up to you now,” Taylor-Britt said. “You’re having to give off the information and be that guy, it’s not something I didn’t ask for so I’m ready for it.”

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