Fournette and Ngakoue played big roles in the meeting last year. Fournette rushed for 131 yards, and Ngakoue returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. But while they are no longer concerns in this game, quarterback Gardner Minshew is. A good chunk of his 787 passing yards this season have come outside the pocket, and he rushed for 48 yards on nine carries last year against the Bengals, which was 46 yards more than Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard combined.
Cincinnati has struggled against mobile quarterbacks, and it’s unclear if Geno Atkins will be back to help the pass rush as he is slowly work back into practices after injuring his shoulder Sept. 3. Minshew could be a problem regardless.
Defensive tackle Mike Daniels, back from a groin injury, acknowledged the challenge of getting to Minshew but said facing Burrow in practice has helped prepare for elusive quarterbacks because he’s “got wheels” too.
Taylor doesn’t doubt that Gruden has his hands on Minshew’s development since last year. He said Gruden is someone he’s always thought highly of, and Gruden apparently at one time thought the same of him. Gruden tried to get Taylor to play on the Arena Football League team he coached in Orlando in 2007, but Taylor already was headed to the Canadian Football League to play for Winnipeg.
Bernard said he looks forward to seeing Gruden again, as Gruden was the Bengals' offensive coordinator his rookie year.
“He took care of me,” Bernard said. “I appreciate everything that Jay did. … I think the biggest thing was his overall demeanor. People that are close to Jay understand that he’s gonna be laxed and to not take things too seriously, but obviously go out and work. He’s obviously been one of those guys, when you’re just talking non-football stuff, he’s going to joke around with you and just have a good time. That takes a lot of pressure off a lot of people, especially for my rookie year, it took a lot of pressure off me, so I appreciate him…. And we get to see Eif too, so that’ll be nice.”
Eifert is another one of the new pieces the Jaguars added this offseason after he was not given a new contract to stay in Cincinnati, where he was made a first-round draft pick in 2013.
Taylor said Cincinnati wasn’t looking to replace Eifert, who was healthy last year for the first time in a long time, but made the decision to give some of the other tight ends a chance to step up and “that was just the future of the position” for the Bengals. Eifert has six catches for 55 yards and one touchdown this season.
“I know his receptions aren’t necessarily through the roof right now, but he draws some penalties,” Taylor said when asked how he’s used in Jacksonville. “He’s a tough match-up for guys. There are ways to use him where he doesn’t necessarily get the ball but you can feel his presence out there. We have so much respect for Tyler and the job he’s done. He’s in a system that will also fit him well. We felt like he fit well here last year. Again, that’s not an easy guy to go against. He’s certainly a weapon for them.”