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Searching For Clues At The Combine

Posted by Dan Hoard on February 24, 2012 – 8:18 pm

I certainly didn’t expect Marvin Lewis to step to the podium on Friday and tell us who the Bengals are hoping to select with their two first round picks in this year’s draft.

No GM or coach is that forthcoming at the NFL Scouting Combine, and Lewis is always guarded in what he shares with the media.

Still, there were possible clues to the team’s off-season plans.

Most mock drafts have the Bengals using one of their first round picks on a cornerback.  It is a position of need since Leon Hall is trying to come back from a torn Achilles, Nate Clements is 33-years-old, and Adam Jones is a free agent.

The last two times that the Bengals drafted a corner in the first round, they did well by picking Hall and Johnathan Joseph,

“There’s research that says that the best starting corners in the National Football League are first round picks,” said Coach Lewis.  “There’s an occasional second round guy or third round guy, but year after year, the best ones are generally first round picks.”

That doesn’t guarantee that the Bengals will choose a cornerback in round one, but it would not be a surprise.

The Bengals could also be looking at running backs.  Cedric Benson will become an unrestricted free agent next Month and recently told Sirius NFL Radio that he has not talked to the club about a new contract.

“We want to improve our running game, and if that includes Ced it will include Ced,” said Lewis.  “But we know that is an important part of what we need to do as a football team.  We need to create more explosive runs and more explosive plays offensively, and I think that’s going to be a part of it.”

Several mock drafts have the Bengals targeting an offensive guard with one of their first round selections.  Nate Livings, Mike McGlynn, and Bobbie Williams are all free agents, and the 36-year-old Williams broke his ankle late in the season.

But Coach Lewis disputes the notion that the Bengals have a dire need at guard.

“We’ve got some guys in the bank, and last year we didn’t know who those guys were,” said Lewis.  “Otis Hudson had an outstanding training camp for us before he got injured.  We drafted Clint (Boling) and at the beginning of the year he started for us.  We’re in no situation where we have to panic.  Nate is a free agent and we have the opportunity to get him back.  We brought in McGlynn who filled-in a void between center and guard.  We’re in pretty good shape.”

Marvin did make one guarantee:  He told us what position the Bengals won’t target in the first round.

“I think we’re going to pick a guy that has a chance to contribute to our football team very, very early and he probably won’t be a quarterback,” said Lewis.  “But I think that basically any other position is in our sights depending on who the best guys are.

“We have a good opportunity ahead of us. We do have the two first round picks and know that it’s important to hit on guys that can come in and make a contribution at some point.  I don’t know if it’s going to be Day 1, but he’ll have the opportunity to become a productive player year after year after year.  They have to share the passion of being able to play, the ability to be able to play, and we’ll probably have an opportunity for them to play right away.”

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Coach Lewis had interesting things to say about a pair of former UC Bearcats.

Running back Isaiah Pead is generally projected to be picked late in the second round or early in the third round after being named MVP of the Senior Bowl.

“I think he’s a really good prospect,” said Lewis.  “I have not watched much tape on him so it would only be TV scouting.  I think he showed a different dimension with the punt returning that he did at the Senior Bowl and I think that’s going to do nothing but elevate his stock and his opportunity.  I have not even met him and he’s not on our interview list here because we’ll be able to spend enough time with him back at home.”

Wide receiver Armon Binns went undrafted last year, but was signed to the Bengals practice squad on September 20th and will battle for playing time in training camp.

“I think Armon made great strides,” said Lewis.  “Our offensive coaches at the end of the year wanted me to put him in the game.  They wanted to not only dress him but, ‘Can we start him?’  There’s another player that we identified last year as a good prospect.  We’re not afraid to play young players if the guy can do it.”

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