Cincinnati Bengals safety Dax Hill got married this summer, but the only relationship anyone wants to ask about since training camp is the one he has with fellow starting safety Nick Scott.
Both players understand the interest in their ability to click, communicate, and lead the back end of the defense after three years of Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates essentially sharing a brain in coordinator Lou Anarumo’s scheme.
And while they acknowledge there is a long way to go in replicating the Bates-Bell relationship, they it’s further along than most would expect in a little more than four months as teammates.
Bengals Safeties Dax Hill, Nick Scott Discuss Chemistry
“We’re pretty much at that point where we know each other well; we know our tendencies, what we’re comfortable with, and everything like that,” said Scott, who signed a three-year, $12 million deal in free agency on March 17.
“That relationship is only going to grow stronger, but we’re in a great place already,” Scott added. “I feel from a trust standpoint that I could go out on the field with him and play today.”
Hill, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2022, has the edge in learning the scheme with a year under his belt, but Scott, a fifth-year pro, has more reps on the field — just not in Anarumo’s system.
And while Hill doesn’t have experience playing or building bonds at his level, he learned enough from watching Bates and Bell to know it can’t be forced.
“It has to happen organically. It has to take time,” he said. “You don’t want to rush into that because there’s so many moving parts to being a safety in the NFL. It’s really interchangeable, so we have to learn both positions. We don’t want to limit ourselves to one spot. I feel like that’s one thing we really have to be patient with. Time will get us there. It’s no rush at all.”
Safeties coach Rob Livingston is the first to admit there have been some downs with the ups so far, but adversity can be one of the most effective accelerants in building a bond.
“It’s going to be that way. I think everybody’s aware of that,” Livingston said. “But it seems like we’re still years away from the first game. They’re doing a great job so far.”
The entire safety room is in a feeling-out phase, with two of the backups having never played a snap in the league. The Bengals drafted Tycen Anderson in the fifth round last year, and the longest hamstring injury in team history kept him out — or stashed on IR, as the case may be — all year. Then the team drafted Jordan Battle in the third round this year.
The lone exception is a guy who is an All-Pro when it comes to experience, communication, and relationship building: 33-year-old Michael Thomas, who is entering his 11th season in the league and third in Cincinnati.
“The best teachers in the NFL are the players, the veteran players who have lived it and are not selfish and want to see people succeed,” Livingston said. “I know what the playbook says and all that kind of stuff, but Mike can say, ‘We’re playing it this way or that way because I saw this in 2016, and this is what happened.’ He’s just got a great feel for the players, and I lean on him a lot. He’s invaluable and a huge part of the group.”
One way to speed up the camaraderie between Hill and Scott might be to have them on the field in preseason games, processing information and making adjustments. But Scott laughed and said that’s a terrible idea.
“Heck no,” he said before repeating it. “Heck no, I’m not trying to play in the preseason. I feel like I’ve seen this game enough at that speed. So I know what to expect in Game 1. You can believe I’ll be strapped and ready.”
“Chemistry is extremely important,” he added. “That stuff comes naturally. It only gets stronger as the season goes on with the stuff that you go through, making plays together, celebrating, going through tough times, adversity — all that stuff. Those are things I’m excited for, but right now, Dax and I’s relationship is in a very good place, very strong. We’ve got trust in one another.”
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