Taylor Mays could re-emerge on the Bengals’ defense this weekend. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
It was just over thirteen months ago when the Bengals defense was looking awfully slim at linebacker (and especially the pass-covering ones). Both Emmanuel Lamur and Sean Porter suffered season-ending injuries and the Bengals were left searching for answers. Mike Zimmer, the defensive coordinator at the time, chose to try something new. Knowing how much Taylor Mays had struggled to become a NFL-worthy safety, he chose to turn Mays into a linebacker-safety hybrid. Mays took hold of the nickel-backer role and turned in a quality season prior to his own season-ending injury in Week Eight against the Jets.
The Bengals find themselves in a similar position heading into Week Seven this year. The Bengals are likely to be missing Rey Maualuga for some time after he sustained a hamstring injury this past week against the Panthers.
This as Emmanuel Lamur also sustained a shoulder injury near the end of regulation on Sunday.
Rey Maualuga has played some snaps within the nickel set–the set the Bengals utilize most often–but Emmanuel Lamur’s absence is the more concerning one. Despite the Bengals pitiful performance on defense lately, Lamur remains the team’s best cover linebacker.
His absence becomes even more concerning when considering the Bengals will face the league’s top passing offense. Andrew Luck is at the top of nearly every passing category while also producing a top 10 completion percentage; clearly the Colts want to throw and throw often. Making things even more concerning, the Colts love to utilize multiple tight end sets. Covering these types of tight ends is the primary job of Emmanuel Lamur, so the Bengals will need to find a replacement quickly.
As Coley Harvey’s tweet points out, the Bengals have been trying out some safeties of late. These tryouts are probably for depth as it’s easy to imagine the team will replace Lamur with Mays as they did last year.
The question here is whether or not Mays can re-emerge? He played well in the role last year despite being throw into the position “on the fly.” With more knowledge and experience this year, can Mays capitalize on his opportunity? More than that, Mays could find himself in a very opportunistic position on Sunday. The Bengals have been torched by pass catching tight ends historically and that trend has only gotten worse this year. Here’s a look at what these tight ends have done to the Bengals thus far this year.
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As you can see, not only have the Bengals been significantly hurt by tight ends, but the Patriots utilized the double tight end sets often to completely demolish the Bengals’ defense.
Can Mays use his speed, length, and athleticism to stop this trend? If Mays can help counter the opposition’s tight ends, he may find himself as an invaluable asset to this defense. He’d be irreplaceable and certainly bring up the discussion of whether or not to re-sign him again this off-season; the Bengals signed Mays to a one-year deal this past off-season following his injury.
Sunday could potentially be an incredibly unique and fortuitous opportunity for Taylor Mays. Let’s hope he makes the best of it.