As the regular-season approaches closer each day, there are still several positional battles that have yet to be determined. The most competitive starting spot that has yet to be determined is at strong safety. After the Bengals cut Chris Crocker this offseason, it appeared the Bengals were ready to hand the reigns over to Taylor Mays, whom the team traded for and gave a year to develop under Mike Zimmer.
But special-teams ace Jeromy Miles has developed into a very nice safety, and has been given a lot of reps with the first-team defense over the course of the preseason. He’s much more versatile than Mays, as he’ll occasionally line up at CB, and did so very well against the Packers Thursday night.
The Bengals held a walk-through practice yesterday, and here’s what Marvin Lewis had to say about the safety battle:
"No. 1, Taylor’s physical presence back there. He’s really become a confident player as far as what we’re doing and helping other guys. I think he wants to be good. Now he missed a tackle (Jennings on the sideline), but he’s been an excellent tackler and I hope that continues to be the way that it is.And I think Jeromy has the versatility. He’s a great blitzer, he has a chance to come up and play nickel and do some things for us in special situations. When you’re playing against tight ends that flex out and do those types of things, you have some flexibility with a Jeromy Miles."
Mays also offered these comments:
"I think I still have a lot of potential to reach but being here with these coaches has unlocked some of that. Playing with athleticism is the main thing. I feel like I made a lot of strides coming from OTAs to minicamp. That was the most important thing knowing what I needed to do and how they wanted me to play defense. I feel good where I am right now but I have to keep pushing my game. I feel content right now but I just have to keep going."
I fully expect this battle to go into next weeks’ preseason finale against the Colts, with Lewis giving both players playing time and one last chance to show they deserve the starting nod. I also expect both players to receive multiple starts during the regular season, as both players have a different set of skills to offer. Mays would probably be a better option against a run-heavy team like the Eagles or Jaguars(assuming they have MJD), while Miles will be the better option against pass-happier teams like the Giants. One things for sure, Mike Zimmer will do his best to put both players in the best situations to utilize their strengths while hiding their weaknesses.