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Austin scouting report as he begins to scout

Posted Mar 2, 2018

Cornerback Darqueze Dennard, the only Bengal with multiple interceptions last season, massively changed field position with both picks, like this one in Tennesssee.

INDIANAPOLIS - During a week reserved for scouting NFL prospects, Teryl Austin showed enough of his hand to allow a cliff notes scouting report on the Bengals’ new defensive coordinator.

Old school. An AFC North guy. Covets size. Cultivates turnovers. Caters to continuity. Culture wins, whether it’s emphasizing turnovers on the field or on the roster.

Just look at Austin taking a meeting with nine-year safety Kurt Coleman on Thursday before he drove up here from Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals already have two starting safeties with three years left on their deals. But none with a career 116 games and 21 career interceptions lures for a defense looking to transform last season’s franchise-worst 14 turnovers.

“No connection,” Austin said of Coleman, “Whenever there's a veteran guy that comes free, at this time of year you're always looking to see if those guys can help improve your team. I don't know what's going on with it. There's other guys. We'll look and if they can help better our team, that's what we're going to look at it.”

But Austin isn’t looking to tear up the whole thing. In his second tour as an NFL defensive coordinator after a four-year stint in Detroit, he’s got his own playbook. But he also knows the Bengals defense has had talent and success during the last decade. Still, while Austin may not be re-writing the Mike Zimmer-Paul Guenther version of the 4-3, he’ll be offering an editor’s collection that bears his stamp.

“It doesn't need to be thrown out and all new put in. It's easier for me to learn some terminology and some things like that. We'll try to make it as seamless of a transition as possible,” Austin said. “But there's going to be changes. There has to be changes. There will be some things that they're going to have to learn, maybe some new ways we do different things, new ways we call it. But it's not going to be a complete overhaul. It's not like you're coming in, brand new staff and you're throwing out everything that's been done and putting in your new system. I'm going to be incorporating a lot of what I do into what's already here and what's been good here. Because they've been good on defense.”

But as of late, they haven’t been good generating turnovers. Only one player, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, had more than one interception last season. In the last two years they’ve recovered just six fumbles while establishing the league’s longest drought without getting one. In the last four seasons they’ve averaged forcing 22 turnovers per year. In the four years before that it was 27.

“One thing I want to look at it with any defensive guy is can he turn the ball over for us,” Austin said. “When we're looking at secondary guys, we want to see if they can intercept it and see if they can cause fumbles. If we're looking at linebackers, same thing. Defensive linemen, we're looking at guys that can change the game by sacking the quarterback, stripping the ball out. So we're looking at guys who can make impact plays. Getting guys in y our system that can turn the ball over. And then you emphasize it. And then you get it.”

That’s what happened last season. The Lions generated 32 turnovers, 19 off fumble recoveries. The year before, they did what the Bengals did and had just 14.

“I don't think its luck. Everybody talks about luck, but a lot of times it's not luck when you're in the position you're supposed to be,” he said. I don't attribute it to luck. It's something guys practice and work out.”

If you think Austin sounds a bit like head coach Marvin Lewis, he does. It will be recalled when Lewis arrived in 2003 from stints in Pittsburgh and Baltimore he drenched the culture with turnover stats. Austin also served an AFC North apprenticeship as the Ravens secondary coach during the three years before he became the Lions DC and he agrees that style fits the division. Yes, the NFL defenses play nickel as much as 70 percent of the time, but Austin is looking at size this week because he has his priorities.

“I want to stop the run first. To me, that’s how you set the tempo of the game. I think you set the tempo of the game up front,” Austin said. “Some teams have done it with smaller lines, faster linebackers, but that hasn’t been my philosophy. I like to have guys that can run, but they’re big and physical and that’s what I’d be more in tune with than a smaller, faster group.”

That’s the Austin scouting report. Now he’s looking for players to fit it.

 

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