Cinicnnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis spoke yesterday at the NFL Scouting Combine. Courtesy of Bengals.com, here is the entire transcript:
Any progress on your free agents or any decision about the franchise tag?
I think throughout the whole thing it’s an ongoing process. I don’t have any confirmation yet that we have signed anyone. We’re working hard on it and there are some meetings and positive things that have to continue to come. Hopefully we have a number of guys who we have to get re-signed and we will work very hard at getting that done.
The progression of Trevor Robinson and Clint Boling?
Clint has done a nice job. He’s really continued to progress. He’s been a tough guy; he’s played football through injuries. We’re able to address some things with him physically and we’re excited to see him come back for this third season. We’re in good shape with the interior of our offensive line with Kevin Zeitler and now the emergence of Trevor Robinson who will compete this year with Kyle Cook at the center spot. He came in as an undrafted free agent and really hit the ground running and showed well. When he got an opportunity to get in there and play he really (rose).
Open competition at center?
Every job on our roster has to be open competition all the time, other than one wide receiver spot for a bit. Trevor did a nice job, Kyle came back and after you miss as long as he did it’s a difficult thing. He worked his tail off to get back on the field. We owe it to the rest of the building to always have competition.
What areas or positions do you like in this draft?
I don’t have enough information to give you an early look on anything. I’ve only watched eight players. From where I’ve started there seem to be some talented offensive tackles and people have told me there are some talented defensive players, but I haven’t gotten that far. I’ve only concentrated on a couple positions on offense.
How do you characterize Andy Dalton’s second year?
He continued to grow and become the leader of the team. That’s what I challenged him throughout the year to do and he did a great job of responding to that. You have to give him the affirmation that he can do this and this is his team. I think as we go into Year 3 there are some things and some plays that we continue to leave out there. We want to get better at that. There some revisions that we have to make. We have to do better as coaches. It doesn’t all fall on Andy. We’ve got a lot of improvement to make. We have to get better as a coaching staff; we have to get better in our planning and putting guys in position to make plays. I think Andy is excited for this offseason to continue to grow, get stronger, to get himself in position to play better and be the leader of the football team.
Dre Kirkpatrick’s first year?
It was kind of like one of those college freshman redshirt years. He got an opportunity to get a sniff of playing, which worked out in our favor. We knew after the season that we would have to address his lower leg which we did a little earlier than we had hoped. He’s doing fine now. The limited opportunities he got he played his tail off on special teams, he got some real positive snaps on defense, it was great to have him on the practice field to learn. He had a great group of mentors in that room with their leadership. He couldn’t have been put in a better situation to learn how to be a pro.
Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns:
They are inheriting a much better football team. They’ve done a nice job over the last couple of years of the addition of guys through the draft and watching them grow. Rob (Chudzinski) has been a productive guy as a coordinator. His coordinators are experienced. Mike Lombardi has had great experience in the NFL, Joe Banner. They have put together a group of people that have been successful and you come together and bring some ideas together. They are a much better football team than what their record showed. It was a team that was improving. In my mind they were going in the right direction. We have a tough division and have to play great football.
What do you think you have to do to get over the hump?
You have to have more points than the team you are playing in the playoffs.
Is the focus on the offense?
The focus is on everyone. In order to win games you have to make plays in all areas. We have to do a better job. We’ve had opportunities and haven’t played as well in those games. I didn’t think that would be an issue for us. We played the last half of the season like those were playoff games. We knew that if we lost the games we were going to be out of it. We put wins together but didn’t go down in Houston and play well. We were relaxed but didn’t have that resolve or attack.
Can Burfict play middle linebacker?
Vontaze can play wherever he wants to play and we’ll play him where we want him to play.
This year’s playoff loss more disappointing than last year’s?
“I think anytime you fall off that cliff. It was disappointing. It’s hard to gauge. I have a lot of disappointing losses. I remember them more than the wins. We’ve got work to do. I feel confident with our guys. We’ll be a better team this season. Guys realize you don’t get to start off where you left off. We’re going to have change but whatever that is we’re all going to have to get better.
Advantage of coaching at Senior Bowl?
You see a few players. It’s really hard when you’re at the Senior Bowl to focus much on anything. You’re better served when you can get back and watch the tape of practices and individual drills. It’s kind of an introduction to some of the players. But to me the recall of them is not as great as when you can sit and do it the right way. I don’t spend any time talking to them at the Senior Bowl. Our coaches do that and the personnel scouts. When I come here I have an opportunity where they can map out a course for me. It’s a better environment for me.
If you’re coaching the Senior Bowl, it’s a different situation. But that’s not my goal, to coach the Senior Bowl. I don’t want to be available to go to Mobile, to tell you the truth.
Ever get here and are shocked?
I don’t have much preview of the guys. I’ve had a 30-second preview basically of some of the guys are here, mainly the junior players, before coming here. This is really the first step in the process for me. I can read the reports already written and that’s about all the information I get. But when we sit down w some of these players, there are some impressive young men. That part is why we do part pof the process. Then as we go through it we’ll say, OK, we need to go specifically see this guy on campus. We need to bring this guy to Cincinnati and spend more time with him.
Your recent drafts have been acclaimed around the league? Has anything changed?
I think Duke (Tobin) has done an outstanding job with the organization of things. He’s done a very good job of putting the information together, t eh cross-checking of things, the organization of things. He’s really streamlined it, I think both personnel and coaching-wise, we have a pretty good blueprint for what we’re looking for what we do on offense, defense and special teams. We’ve shown some flexibility that for whatever reason we may have had a little higher grade on and were available to us when it was our turn to pick. We’ve done a great job of doing what those guys have done on their college campus and tried to give them at least that No. 1 thing to do when we got them on our field. So they know they’ve had a degree of success and as they become more well-versed in the other parts of their game, they need to get up to speed to be productive on NFL speed.
What is your relationship with Duke?
Any time you come into a new situation … I was in Pittsburgh and I was very familiar with how we did things there. Then I go to Baltimore and I became familiar with how we did things there, how certain guys looked at ability and talent. The same thing when I spent the year in Washington. Then I come over and I get to know how our evaluators do things. I’ve been very impressed with Duke from the very onset. He’s continued to grow. Mike has given him a great deal of responsibility and put him in charge of a lot of things. He’s my liaison as far as what we do on the pro side, when we have injuries and he’s directing the scouting efforts throughout and making sure that everything’s done and the cross-checks are done so we’re able to do everything we have to to evaluate these guys.
You have two new scouts:
I think both Robert (Livingston) and Steve (Radicevic) have been outstanding. These are two guys Duke has hired. They’re two young guys who were collegiate coaches so they understand these players. They had great ties to where they were working and they’re excited about their jobs and what they’d done. We run across them once in a while at games on the road and you can talk to them about where they’re been. They’re excited about it. I think they’ve done a great job in the process. You listen to them last year as they’d read their reports. It was great to hear how they evaluated guys. I think one of the best parts of scouting is the ability to compare from last year and see what the guy did in the NFL. I always tease people that there’d never have been a Ray Lewis if there hadn’t been a Michael Barrow or a Jesse Armstead because they showed me how good Ray could be because they were coming out my first two years evaluating guys in the NFL.
You have a lot of guys to sign, a lot of money under the cap. Do you feel as if you need to go that route or can you fill the needs with your own guys?
We don’t have enough players to play right now, so we’ve got to get some of our guys signed back. We’re excited about that process. That’s the way you want to do it. We want to keep developing our guys in my way, our way. We want to be very sound with that. But in some cases we’re going to need to move on parallel paths. I’m confident we’ll get things done. I’m excited about it.
That seems to be the philosophy. If you’re going to make a big move in free agency, it’s going to be your own guys:
Right. It’s got to be that way. There’s been very few unrestricted free agents signed by a team and it’s been that beneficial. I think it’s better served that way. We have good players. We want to retain our good players and keep growing them up and keeping rewarding them for their maturity and the levels they play at.