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15 minutes of name

Posted Feb 23, 2012

Updated: 11:30 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — Even before he sees this current crop of linemen work out here this weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine, Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander has some definite opinions. He emerged from Wednesday night's interviews shaking his head. "Some guys confuse you," Alexander said.

But there is no confusion that the Bengals need some kind of help at guard and they'll be sitting pretty at Nos. 17 and 21 of the first round for Stanford's David DeCastro or Georgia's Cordy Glenn, the draft's two top guards.

And there is no confusion that current left tackle Andrew Whitworth delivered what is considered to be the best Bengals combine interview in the 15-minute interview era that began about 10 years ago.

"No question," Alexander reaffirmed.

It might have been fame for Andy Warhol's 15 minutes. Whitworth made a name in his 15 minutes.

Alexander, of course, won't say if he thinks there is a worthy first-round guard. The Bengals typically don't draft guards that high or pay them big money. But the three that played the most snaps last season are all scheduled to be free agents. So is Anthony Collins, who backed up both tackles.

But Alexander will probably have his answer by Saturday night. He likes the combine setup, starting with the interviews, progressing to the weigh-in, and then the workouts that he sees as mini competitions.

"A lot can be answered here," he said. "When you see them walk across the stage, you have to trust your eyes a little. Then you go to the workout and it's nice seeing them go against each other. On film, they're only going against themselves."

But he really likes the interviews.

"When you interview the guys you can tell if a guy has football in him," Alexander said. "You find out what kind of guy he is. Do you have any chemistry with the person? Can you work together?"

Alexander disdains how the prospects are coached now so delicately by their agents to handle the interviews and try to reveal as little as possible. But he believes they can't fake their football knowledge, which is why he loved The Whitworth Interview.

"I didn't belong to a big agency. I didn't get coached up," Whitworth said.  "I just figured I'd go in there and be myself and show them how much football I knew."

About 10 years ago the NFL decided to clean up come of the combine madness by organizing the interviews. Until then teams literally fought for players in the hallways with runners and stalkers. Now each team selects 60 prospects for 15-minute sessions at scheduled times. In 2006, Whitworth had one with the Bengals.

"It's tough because the only guy you really know is the head coach," Whitworth said. "You're trying to figure out if the other guys are coaches or scouts. They put me on the board with a marker and asked me what I looked for preparing for a game. We talked about everything football. I showed them how I broke down my opponent when I broke down film and how I attacked certain plays."

And Alexander is/was listening.

"They confuse you on film. Then when I interviewed them, they confused me in the interview," Alexander said of this week's haul. "I think that kind of answers it. The guy's got issues. On film, you don't know why he did this or that. Then you interview him and you don't know why he said what he did. Well, that's what he is."

But he must have been suitably impressed by Whitworth. After hearing so much about how he wasn't athletic enough to play NFL tackle at 6-7, 340 pounds, Whitworth took great pride when "this little guy I didn't even know named Paul Alexander came up to me, pointed in my chest, and said, 'You're a first-rounder.' It's my favorite combine moment," he said.

Then Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said it was the best interview he had seen with three NFL teams in 15 seasons. Whitworth, taken in the second round with the 55th pick, thinks he knows what Alexander seeks.

"It's not the bench press or running the 40 or any of the drills. It's how much they care about being good," Whitworth said. "It's like I say about (Andy) Dalton: he tells you what he did wrong before he's asked. Being coachable means applying what you coach them to do. Not that you keep telling them what to do. They do it after you tell them the first time."

With DeCastro thought to be by some the best guard prospect in more than a decade, the 6-5, 346-pound Glenn may be the only one left at 17 or 21. He played left tackle this past season, where some said he slipped. But he projects to be a powerful interior player that could be the answer at left guard right now.

Rob Rang of CBS Sports likes the fit of Glenn in Cincinnati because of Alexander's history and the power of position coaches in the Bengals draft room.

"Knowing the kind of big, powerful guys Paul likes, Glenn looks to be his kind of guy," Rang said. "He got beat by speed at tackle when he first made the move, but he got better as the season went and he's a very powerful guy."

Rang's not sure of the personality test.

"One question about Glenn is if he has a mean streak; is he nasty enough?" Rang asked.

Alexander won't say what he thinks of Glenn, but he wants his O-linemen versatile. After the Bengals took Glenn's former linemate, right guard Clint Boling, in the fourth round last year, Alexander had Boling play some center in the preseason for the first time in his life.

"That's always good," Alexander said. "You always like a guard that can play tackle or a guard that can play center."

Boling began the season as the starter at right guard, but went back to the bench when Bobbie Williams returned from a four-game NFL suspension. With Williams, 35, recovering from surgery for a broken ankle, Boling looks to be the heir apparent as the Bengals look to bulk him up and try to get him to play lower.


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