CINCINNATI — Nick Scott is confident in his ability to step in and be a leader at a safety position that lost two veteran starters – even while he is adjusting to a new defense and playing alongside a young player still settling into his role.
The Cincinnati Bengals signed Scott, a former strong safety for the L.A. Rams, in free agency to help fill the void after Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates moved on to different teams. In Week 6 of the team’s offseason workout program, Scott said he fits in well.
Scott is expected to start alongside second-year player Dax Hill, a first-round draft pick last year who mainly played as a reserve but filled so many roles he never got to hone in on the free safety role he will fill now. Scott is still learning the playbook but brings experience as a guy who earned his job late in 2021, while helping the Rams win a Super Bowl against the Bengals that year.
That’s why he knows it will work out between him and Hill as the new projected starting tandem.
“I’m in the league now for a little bit, and I got confidence in Dax because of the player he’s been in the past and in college,” Scott said. “He got the opportunity to learn behind two great safeties, two beloved safeties here in Cincinnati. I don’t think anybody should take that lightly, what it’s like to be a young guy that can be in that room and listen to those two guys. The third thing is the coaches trust him. They brought him here for a reason, they expected him to step into that starter role for a reason. So, anything I can do to help him out, I’m gonna help him, and anything that I need from him, I know he’s gonna return the favor.”
Last year was Scott’s first full season as a starter, and he believes he can help bring Hill along in the same way others did for him in L.A. Scott had played 31 games as a reserve and special teams contributor over his first two seasons in 2019 and 2020 and was in that same role for all but one regular-season game, which he started at strong safety before being tapped for that job throughout the playoffs.
Hill was preparing with the first-team defense all last offseason and most of training camp while Bates was sitting out to avoid injury risk while playing on a franchise tag, but once Bates arrived, he moved around to different roles. Scott said that experience all still helps.
“I think he’s well aware of the gravity of his situation right now, which is the same gravity for any guy coming into a starting position,” Scott said. “It was kind of the same position I was in last season. ... He’s got a great head on his shoulders and I keep coming back to it, but it is so true, it carries so much weight, is the support in a locker room, and the coaches’ trust and all that stuff. Nobody’s doing anything by themselves, and he can lean on anybody he wants to in this locker.”
Scott said even though he himself is still learning the defense, he can still be a leader in the general sense of “leading by example, doing the right thing, showing up on time and creating a standard.”
Not only will Hill be looking to him for some guidance but rookie Jordan Battle also is new to the group and just now learning the league.
“It can be a little bit of a challenge, because I can’t necessarily yet tell these guys, hey, here’s the call, here’s why we want to do this, here’s the best way to do it,” Scott said. “I’ve had versions of certain calls and everything like that, but, you know, I’m really trying to learn the makeup of defense as much as they are. So, yeah, you wish you could kind of have a little bit more of that leadership ability. But I got great coaches, who are going to be able to fill that void for now, and you know, I can just talk from my experience in other defenses and just playing in the league for a little bit, so I can help understand concepts and things like that.”
Not only is the safety tandem going to be new, but the back end of the Bengals defense could look a lot different from what it was for a lot of 2022. At cornerback, Eli Apple is gone, Chidobe Awuzie is coming back from ACL surgery and Cam Taylor-Britt, a 2022 second-round draft pick, is entering his first full season as a starter after replacing Awuzie in Week 11.
Scott said he was at his best when the Rams defense was playing as a unit, and he was able to take advantage of having a great front applying pressure and great coverage across the board to make plays against some top quarterbacks he faced. He sees the Bengals defense helping put him in good positions to be successful in the same way.
“I think you could definitely iron it out, especially when we got a supporting cast as strong as we do with our front end, our corners have been here for a while and the linebackers and everything like that, and we got great coaches,” Scott said. “They’ve been able to break it down for us and basically start with the foundation of his defense, which is helping out Dax and I, and of course, me and Dax are just gonna keep building off each other and learning one another and building that relationship because that’s extremely important.”
“I don’t think there’s going to be any drop off just because the guys we have in this locker room. Everybody on this field can make plays. So I’m excited. I just want to earn these guys’ trust day by day with my play and how I approach communication, everything like that. I think the sky’s the limit.”
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