The Combine has (surprise!) the NFL rumor ‘n’ speculation ‘n’ disinformation mill running at full blast. Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis put in his $0.02 today, providing some insight into how the team is approaching this year’s draft.
That the team’s top priority is getting more out of the passing game is no secret.
We need to be able to make vertical plays and if we throw it down 40 yards and get a pass interference penalty that counts. Those are the things we’re going to look to do. We need to make more chunk plays offensively and be able to effect the game so that we don’t grind it out and have 25 first downs every week.
The bigger question is, will the Bengals address this by going after a wide receiver, a tight end or an offensive lineman (with an eye toward improved pass protection) early in the draft? If Lewis is to be believed, it seems WR is the most likely answer. Lewis says he hasn’t paid a lot of attention to the TE position yet, and he was very complimentary toward the offensive line and last year’s first-round pick, Andre Smith.
We have a group up front that really grew together that came out of the ashes and grew to be pretty cohesive and effective. We’ll be able to have Andre (Smith) in there from the start which will help immensely.
Meanwhile, asked about current Bengals wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Jerome Simpson, Lewis offered fairly boilerplate praise of Coles’ professionalism and the same-old-same-old on Jerome.
Is Jerome Simpson ready to break through? “We’re going to do everything we can to help Jerome progress down that road. He’s a player who I feel very good about. He tries to do everything we’ve asked him to do. We can’t get him on the field and let him feel good about himself enough. We’re going to take some steps to keep him down that road.”
Can he be that deep threat? “He can be that guy. He should be that guy. That’s why we drafted him.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, that.
On the defensive side of the ball, Lewis said flat out that linebacker would not be a position that they would focus on early in the draft, but safety would be “considered” at some point in April.
Of course, how much of this is real and how much is smoke is anyone’s guess, but I didn’t read anything in Lewis’ comments that struck me as fishy, except possibly the bit about not having paid a lot of attention to the TEs. For my money, it still looks like wide receiver at 21.
UPDATE: Cincy Jungle has a man at the combine and some bonus Marvin quotes from a post-press conference mini-presser with local Cincinnati media assembled in Indianapolis. In this, Lewis says that he’s looking for a vertical threat who can contribute earlier rather than later in the season, suggesting the Bengals head coach would prefer a free agent. That could be a tough sell to a front office still reportedly feeling burnt by the Coles signing last year — and thanks to the CBA mess, free agency this year is more sparse than ever.