AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens


The Bengals’ defense during DC Lou Anarumo‘s first two years was awful. They didn’t do anything well and Anarumo’s coaching in particular came under fire. Making it to a third year was legitimately in doubt, but HC Zac Taylor stuck with him and has been rewarded. The Bengals are a top-10 defense so far in 2021, with multiple offseasons of investment into that side of the ball finally paying off. 

“I believe in the scheme. I believe in what we’re asking our guys to do,” Taylor said via the Athletic’s Jay Morrison. “Certainly, there’s challenges in the first two years. You’re getting guys to understand the concepts, playing together and, like any team, we felt like the injury bug got us a little bit. But you’ve got to play through it. It just felt like if you just stayed the course and we put the right pieces to the puzzle together that we could have a really good defense. Not everybody loves to have patience, but that’s where patience pays off for you. You have a vision that once we get the pieces in place, it’s going to look good. And we just stayed the course. We don’t panic.

“It certainly hasn’t happened at any phase as quickly as we wanted to. If you get this job, it’s right off the bat, ‘we’re gonna play great in all three phases and go win a championship.’ That would be the ultimate vision. But we understood that there was going to have to be some patience, and we’re going to have to work through some things. Our coaching staff has stayed very tight-knit over the course of three years. We’ve added pieces, and it’s just a great collection of men that know how to lead the right way, know how to communicate, respect each other. We love being around each other, we love winning together and it’s just been a really fun process to undergo.”


  • ESPN’s Jake Trotter says Browns DT Andrew Billings has fallen behind in the rotation and could be a potential trade candidate ahead of the deadline. 
  • According to Mary Kay Cabot, Browns QB Baker Mayfield‘s shoulder is still swollen, which went into the decision to rest him on Thursday.
  • Jeremy Fowler of ESPN would not be surprised to see the Browns trade for offensive tackle depth given there isn’t “much optimism” about OT Jack Conklin (knee) this week. 
  • ESPN’s Bill Barnwell outlines a hypothetical trade between the Cowboys and Browns, where Cleveland sends LB Mack Wilson to Dallas in exchange for OT Ty Nsekhe, filling a big need for depth for the Browns. 


One of the ways the Ravens have been able to overcome so many injuries to become the top team in the AFC through six games is the performance of guys like OL Patrick Mekari stepping up to fill the gap. A former undrafted free agent, Mekari has slotted in at right tackle after the injury to LT Ronnie Stanley forced Alejandro Villanueva back to his natural position on the left side. He’s held up admirably. 

“I’ve seen a guy that’s just playing the position, really, in all honesty, about as well as you could expect it to be played. I mean, he’s getting the job done,” Ravens HC John Harbaugh said via the Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec. “I couldn’t be more pleased with him — run-blocking, pass protection — (and) his versatility, obviously, but he’s locked in at right tackle, and I couldn’t ask for a better player there right now.”

Mekari isn’t an overwhelming player physically. But he plays with good technique and aggression which go a long way on the offensive line. He’s also got rare flexibility. He can and has played all five positions along the Ravens’ offensive line since entering the league. 

“There’s no preference or ‘I’m only going to play this or I’m only going to play that,’” Mekari said. “It’s just whatever I can do to help the team win. That’s what I was brought here for. It would be selfish of me to do anything else.”

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