Notes: Quick learner; No call on Whit

Posted Jan 20, 2014

This is how it happens in the NFL if you're on that where-it-stops-nobody-knows coaching carousel.

Matt Burke

MOBILE, Ala. — This is how it happens in the NFL if you're on that where-it-stops-nobody-knows coaching carousel.

New Bengals linebackers coach Matt Burke went from not having a job in Detroit on Thursday to asking his new boss in Cincinnati, Paul Guenther, for a ride to the Senior Bowl's first practice here on the Gulf Coast.

"We looked at a lot of their film this year because we played the division," said Burke, before catching himself. "I guess I should start saying, 'Our film.' "

Whomever's film it is, it sounds like there won't be much of a problem for Burke to learn the Bengals scheme because it was similar enough that the tactics against it looked similar. Aggressive. Downhill. Fast flow. Same as the Lions 4-3, which finished sixth against the rush. Burke has a heavier load in Cincinnati. His most productive linebackers, Stephen Tulloch (No. 8 in NFL tackles) and DeAndre Levy (the NFL's leading interceptor at linebacker), are a pair of 230-pounders. Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals Pro Bowl WILL linebacker, and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga each go about 245.

"They're heavy-handed. They like to hit you. They're fun to watch," Burke said. "We watched them because teams we were playing would try to attack like they tried to attack Cincinnati. A lot of times it's just learning language. How teams call things differently. How they communicate stuff. They probably do a little more than we did in Detroit. The front's a little different. We played a Wide 9 in Detroit and they have an over front. But there's a lot of crossover. I think the lineage of Marvin (Lewis) and Jim (Schwartz) is similar. It's a similar mentality with the attack style. They get to the ball. It's just the fits and alignments vary depending how the fronts line up."

The only difference seems to be that in the Wide 9 the defense is already playing the edges and the linebackers are flowing more inside while the Bengals backers get to the perimeter more. But it all sounds like it's up Burke's alley.

"I've already talked to Paul Guenther a few times," he said. "I like to coach up-tempo. I like to get after it. Have some energy. Have some fun. It sounds like that's the way they like to do it here."

Burke, 37, has got energy off the field, too. During the offseason on his time off, he's hiked all over the world. A native of suburban Boston in Hudson, Mass., he got a huge break when the Lions bye week coincided with Game 6 of the World Series and a buddy that used to work for the Red Sox got them tickets to see Boston win it all.

ALL OPTIONS OPEN: Like Burke, offensive line coach Paul Alexander attended Monday morning's weigh-in but he wasn't tipping his hand like they were tipping the scales. Alexander did say he's looking for what he's always looking for at these things: A big monster defensive lineman that he can convert. But the two guys he had his eyes on are spoken for defense.

He did say the Andrew Whitworth question won't be decided until the spring workouts, after free agency and the draft. The Bengals want to pursue impending free agent Anthony Collins after he played so well at left tackle the last month of the season when Whitworth went to left guard. The conventional wisdom is the Bengals are looking at drafting a cornerback in the first round, since Leon Hall is coming off his second torn Achilles in three years and Terence Newman and Adam Jones turn 36 and 31, respectively, the first month of the season.

But if the Bengals can't re-sign Collins, would a left tackle be in the offing in the first round? Tanner Hawkinson, last year's fifth-round pick, played both tackles once he arrived last spring, as well as some guard.

"We're going into the offseason with open eyes and making the best decisions there are. Whit can play left tackle and left guard at a high level," Alexander said. "Once the draft and free agency are over, we'll make that decision. A.C. showed how well he can play. Hawkinson showed real quickness and athleticism, but he needs to improve his strength. He still has some development."


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