Updated: 8:30 p.m.
His first NFL Scouting Combine as the Bengals offensive coordinator gave Jay Gruden the trigger man for his West Coast offense in TCU quarterback
Now the second combine seems to have given him a tray full of potential complementary wares to expand his vision, such as a rotational running back and a long-haul guard.
"It's kind of nice not having to travel cross country and work out every quarterback in America," Gruden said Monday, back in the office and now prepping for free agency and the draft prospects' pro days. "Now we're trying to put some more pieces together to build this team. We have a pretty good idea of what we need and it's good for us because the positions of need are the strongest positions in the draft and we don't have to reach and get them."
Knowing full well the Bengals could go defense at No. 17 or 21 or both in the first round, on Monday, Gruden prioritized the offense's needs with a running back and a guard leading a list that has wide receiver running at third.
"I think the back class is very, very good this year and I wouldn't be surprised if we walk out of here with a pretty darn good back," Gruden said. "I'm very excited about the guard prospects. There are about four or five of them that are very, very good.
"I'd be very surprised if we don't come out of here with a decent player up front."
Since it's a guy that would theoretically split carries, a 205-pounder like Virginia Tech's David Wilson, a 215-pounder like Boise State's Doug Martin, and a 200-pounder like Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead would be big enough to team with 200-pound
"It's not a bad way to go. Keep guys fresh. They play longer, they're involved," Gruden said of the committee concept. "If something happens to one, you know you've got a guy that can come in there and be productive. Where you're not relying heavily on one guy and if something happens to him, you’re like, 'Oh God, this guy doesn't have many reps.' I think it's important to have guys touch the ball, I believe, as a committee, but if you do get a big-time guy like Trent (Richardson) then I'm not opposed to giving him the ball 30 times."
Alabama's Richardson figures to be the only running back taken in the first round, but would the Bengals take him given their need at cornerback and what could be there at linebacker and guard?
Besides, Gruden is having a good time looking at these other guys.
The Bengals get another look at Pead during Friday's Pro Day in Clifton. After watching him pop a punt return at the Senior Bowl last month and catch the ball this past Sunday at the combine while ripping off 4.47 seconds in the 40, the Bengala are starting to think he's an all-purpose guy.
"I like his versatility, no question. Guys that can catch and run," Gruden said. "He didn't have the luxury of having an offense like others from the true 'I' standpoint with a lot of powers and downhill runs. It was more shotgun-type, an inside zone, outside zone-type guy where he really didn't get a chance to go downhill a lot and run between the tackles, but he's a very good player."
After watching Martin and Robert Turbin of Utah State each bench press 225 pounds a total of 28 times this past weekend, Gruden says this is a good year to need a back.
"When you have that type of power, strength, you have the ability to be a bell cow type of guy," Gruden said. "And there are a lot of great backs in the draft. Pead again had a great showing.
"The Virginia Tech running back is a hell of a talent. He ran fast. There are some good back prospects not only in the early rounds but the late ones too. There is a back that can really help us."
Gruden walked out of Indianapolis extremely impressed with the draft's top two guards, Stanford's David DeCastro and Georgia's Cordy Glenn. He says DeCastro, a product of Jim Harbaugh's West Coast scheme, could pick up the offense with the snap of his fingers and he says the 345-pound Glenn is in fighting shape.
"He's a big, good looking kid. He really helped his stock," Gruden said. "It's hard to see them move and run a 40. You really have to double back and see them move on tape and picking up stunts, point of attack and all that. Getting to meet the guys and see what kind of attention span and brain they have is important."
The Bengals have picked three centers in the first round (Bob Johnson in 1968, Blair Bush in 1978, Dave Rimington in 1983) but no guards. Eric Steinbach, the first pick in the 2003 second round, is as close as they've come. But Gruden wouldn't mind welcoming the first.
"Good guards aren't that easy to find," he said. "Good linemen in general aren't easy to find and if you want to get one, sometimes you're going to have to bite the bullet a little bit and take the unpopular choice and take a guy that can start for a lot of years.
"The left guard, the right guard are free agents. (Backup Mike) McGlynn is a free agent. So it's important for us to get a young, talented guy at guard. I know it's not the most popular thing to do all the time to draft a guard. 'Oh gee, a guard.' But if it’s a guy that can start here for a long time and play every offensive snap, it's important."
What is also important is the Bengals don't reach for a wide receiver, and the slow 40 times, particularly the 4.6 corked off by Baylor's Kendall Wright, has them reevaluating the spot.
Particularly since it is looking like there could be outside linebackers and defensive tackles worthy at both spots.
And then there's always the possibility of trading back from No. 21 and getting that receiver. Like the Colts did with a guy named Reggie Wayne a few years ago at No. 31.
"Somebody like that is very eye-opening because you expect him to run very, very fast and the way he plays on tape is a hell of a lot faster than he ran," Gruden said of Wright, RG3's go-to guy.
"But the proof's in the pudding. He gets another crack at his pro day. Maybe he just had a bad day. But it had an impact on him being at the top echelon. It might knock him down just a hair. That the kind of guy you look at on tape and he kind of disappoints at the combine, you have to go back and watch him again and check him out at his pro day and see if he can run a little faster."
Wright had company with LSU's Reuben Randle (4.55) and Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu (4.67). Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill (4.36) may have poked himself into the first round, but NFL Network's Mike Mayock sees him as a Demaryius Thomas-type unknown because of Tech's un-NFL offense. But then, Thomas went No. 22 and is starting to come on for Denver.
One receiver who stayed put with a solid 40 time (4.47), Note Dame's Michael Floyd, could be in the Bengals wheelhouse (Mayock said he won't fall out of the top 21), but there is a long way to go.
"There is some merit to guys that didn't run quite as well that have great body control and great hands and are very physical," Gruden said. "There are some guys in the draft that fit that mold. We still have a lot of work to do as far as watching their tape and their pro days."