The less variables in Lou Anarumo’s defense, the more comfortable he is. The fifth-year defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals is known for his strong stance against rotating young players in and out of the secondary.
We’re just five weeks into the season, and Anarumo is now taking the opposite approach with one spot. Anarumo told media members Wednesday that he will continue to rotate Nick Scott with Jordan Battle at the safety position.
“Keep rotating those guys.” Lou Anarumo on Nick Scott coming out for Jordan Battle mid-game.
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) October 11, 2023
Why is this a big deal? A little over a year ago, Anarumo was asked about then rookie safety Dax Hill, the team’s 2022 first-round selection, getting more snaps in the secondary despite having all five starting spots locked down with veterans.
Anarumo had expressed virtually zero interest in even entertaining the idea of Hill getting rotated into the defense in fear of messing up chemistry between his vets.
“Because those guys are the best guys and you don’t mess with corners and DBs,” Anarumo said in September of 2022. “I don’t want to get mad.”
“That [secondary] is my baby. The DBs right? I always say the shortstop, second baseman, if I just flip you the ball because I know the guy’s going to be there without even looking. That stuff takes time. The communication. Plays [with] high-level pass offs during a play, where guys are communicating.”
“These young guys have no idea what that’s all about.” “Confidence for those guys is huge and when you have a tight-knit group like we have, there’s absolutely no reason to screw up that chemistry.”
That was back when Cincinnati’s starting safety tandem was Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, two experienced starters with two years of playing next to each other under their belts.
Bates and Bell each left the Bengals this past offseason, leaving Hill to take one spot and the newly-signed Scott to take another. Battle was later added in the third round of the NFL Draft. The reason why Battle is getting legitimate looks at safety as rookie is because Scott is just as new in the system as he is.
There is no Bates-Bell relationship to screw with here. Even Hill is a first-year starter in Anarumo’s defense. Scott has underwhelmed as the newest starter on the defense.
He’s allowed a passer rating of 125.3 in coverage and missed six tackles compared to just seven defensive stops, per Pro Football Focus.
Outside of Week 2 when Scott suffered a concussion during the game, Battle’s snaps were extremely limited in his first four games. This past Sunday, Battle took 22 snaps to Scott’s 38, the majority of them were in place of Scott.
The arrow is pointing downwards for Scott and upwards for Battle, who recorded his first pass breakup in his busiest game yet against the Cardinals. His progression combined with the play Scott’s putting on film is leaving the usually stubborn Anarumo little choice but to evolve his process.