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Two-minute drill

Posted May 2, 2012

 

A two-minute drill in the teeth of the immediate fallout of the NFL Draft just passed:

1:57: Some are saying the Bengals had the best draft in the league and the best pick was Wisconsin right guard Kevin Zeitler with their second first-round pick at No. 27.

Wrong.

But it was their best move of the draft, trading down six spots to get a highly-regarded starting player for the next dozen years that they were going to take at No. 21 anyway while getting an extra third-round pick that turned out to be a premium position in defensive tackle Brandon Thompson.

(The Bengals never said where they had Zeitler rated on their board, but there were teams that had him rated higher than Stanford's David DeCastro.)

No, the best pure pick was the first third-rounder, Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. Durable, reliable, versatile, good hands, smart, crafty, and no diva traits. His M.O. fits the classic NFL No. 2 receiver job description.

The Bengals think he's a slightly bigger and a little faster than T.J. Houshmandzadeh. If Sanu can do for A.J. Green what Houshmandzadeh did for Chad Johnson, the Bengals have a Pro Bowl-type guy that catches 80 to 90 balls a year in and out of the slot.

1:42: One nagging concern expressed in some quarters about this draft offensively is that the Bengals didn't get any game-changing speed that can help them right away. Don't they still have the same problem they had in Houston in the playoff game when quarterback Andy Dalton was gunning for Green in triple coverage and getting picked? Sanu is nice and needed, but where is the Chris Henry guy?

But Sanu is faster than Houshmandzadeh and Houshmandzadeh got behind people when it counted with his brains and routes. Dalton says you can stretch reliability down the field.

"I'm not so worried about that," Dalton says of speed guys. "If the guys we've got come in and work and push to get to the right depth and things like that on their routes ... you don't necessarily have to be a burner. Jerome (Simpson) last year was kind of that guy. Long strides and things like that where he can get down the field quick.

"But with the guys we've got, it's going to help they're going to be working on all the little things that are going to make us better. Everybody says the guys we got are quarterback-friendly. I think everybody in this locker room is quarterback-friendly. You know where they're going to be at all times."

Compare that to the last time the Bengals took a No. 2 receiver high when they went with a small-school project in Simpson in 2008 in the second round. They never knew where he was going to be, but Sanu is a much more polished receiver from a more established program.

1:28: Just wondering about all these numbers on the depth chart at wide receiver and cornerback. It makes one think the Bengals are going to study long and hard about bringing cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles) and slot receiver Jordan Shipley (ACL) to training camp. If they don't practice in training camp, Hall and Shipley are eligible for the physically unable to perform list (PUP), which means they also can't practice for the first six weeks of the season.

That decision is a long way off and both seem to be progressing, but there is something to be said about not rushing guys. Sanu and Andrew Hawkins can play the slot. Terence Newman has started all of his nine seasons at corner, Dre Kirkpatrick is a No. 1 pick and guys like Jason Allen and Adam Jones are No. 1 picks themselves. It probably won't happen, but it shows how much depth the Bengals have that they don't have to pound their rehabbing guys.

1:13: Speaking of first-round picks, they usually start Opening Day for head coach Marvin Lewis, although the trend didn't start until his fifth draft with Hall in 2007. Before that, incumbents, injuries and holdouts kept Carson Palmer, Chris Perry, David Pollack and Johnathan Joseph in a reserve role for at least a few weeks. But since then Hall, Green, outside linebacker Keith Rivers and tight end Jermaine Gresham got on the field right away. Right tackle Andre Smith was bitten by both holdout and injury and didn't make his first start until late in his rookie year back in '09.

This year, Zeitler is ticketed to start and Kirkpatrick looks to be in Joseph's shoes right now, which would be the third corner. But the Bengals don't have to rush him even doing that.

1:02: Don't underestimate the one speed receiver the Bengals did draft in the fifth round in Cal's Marv Jones. How he slipped there with his size (6-1) and speed (4.46) is a mystery, but the word is there wasn't much tape to go on because the quarterbacking wasn't great out there.

Draft guru Rob Rang of CBSSports.com was on this guy early and often. A few days before the draft he picked out Jones as a guy for the Bengals if they went running back early and chose to get the receiver later.

Rang compared Jones's Senior Bowl to the one Chad Johnson had in 2001. A West Coast guy that came out of nowhere to fly up the draft board. Rang said no receiver since Johnson in '01 had such a coming-out party as Jones in Mobile and that's where Bengals receivers coach James Urban first saw the scouting reports come to life and was immediately impressed.

Funny game, isn't it? Jones came to the Bengals via the 166th pick, one of the two they got from New England in exchange for Johnson/Ochocinco.

00:57: And Jones won't be the only rookie receiver that can run. According to published reports the Bengals signed as an undrafted free agent Kashif Moore of Connecticut, a 5-9, 180-pound burner that blew through the NFL Scouting Combine with a 4.37 40-yard dash.

00:49: The free agent signing of undrafted Arizona State middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict has the angst meter at alarm levels on the good streets of Bengaldom. He's got all sorts of issues on and off the field, but one gets the sense it's not like six, seven years ago when kids like Burfict walked into the Bengals locker room unchallenged and the vets didn't do much about it.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, one of the de facto captains, can't even begin to compare this locker room to his first one in 2006. He thinks this locker room can help Burfict and bring him along rather than let him do his own thing.

"The character is different; the priorities are different," Whitworth said. "We're just not blowing smoke saying we want to be a good football team. A lot of guys actually work that way, prepare that way, have priorities that way and have the character to live that way. It's just different. I think this locker room has proven time and time again it's a strong one. It's a different deal now."

The Bengals seemed to have reached close to the Patriots mantra that, "Their locker room is strong enough to handle it."

00:32: The Georgia guys are raving about their old teammate, fourth-round pick Orson Charles, the tight end. Green and defensive tackle Geno Atkins played with Charles and they say he's a serious, hard-working guy, which describes them. And those are two Pro Bowl guys.

Robert Geathers, a Georgia guy back in the day of the early 2000s, got a report from his younger brother who played with Charles. Geathers actually met him about a year ago and was very impressed with how he was put together. "When I first saw him, I wondered who he was because he looked like he played in the league, that's how developed he was even then," Geathers said.

Geathers and Charles have something in common. Both came out early and young. Geathers didn't turn 21 until the middle of his first training camp. Charles is now the youngest on the roster after just turning 21 in January. It worked out well for Geathers, going into his ninth season at just 28 years of age. They certainly make them NFL ready in Athens.

00:21: People are looking for reasons why the Bengals are supposedly drafting better even though they have virtually the same scouts and coaches since Lewis arrived in 2003 and the same consensus format Mike Brown took from Paul Brown. One thing that has changed from the '05-'06 draft is that the Bengals, like every team in the league, are more aware of character issues. For instance it didn't appear that North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins was anywhere near their radar, no matter the round.  

00:16: The classiest move of the draft came when Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis brought Jim Lippincott into the media room Saturday afternoon for his draft wrap news conference. It was the last roundup after 21 drafts for Lippincott, the retiring Bengals director of football operations.

Lewis came out of the Pittsburgh and Baltimore organizations that also like their coaches involved in scouting, so he's well-grounded in the personnel side of it and knows how grueling a scout's job can be. Lewis is a grinder himself, working his way up from that lowest species of coaching known as gradus assistantus, and so he can appreciate all the mileage and reports Lippincott logged through the years.

One of Lippincott's more high-profile roles was as the guy that told players they were cut, reaching near cult status in HBO's Hard Knocks. It looks like "The Grim Reaper" now is going to be scout Greg Seamon.

A key guy in the wake of Lippincott's departure has been director of player personnel Duke Tobin, a 14-year veteran of the club now organizing the department with the addition of two young scouts.   

00:07: Lippincott's Midwest scouting region was well represented with Zeitler and sixth-round pick Dan Herron, the Ohio State running back.

Lippincott's first draft was more than eventful in 1992. A mere 48 hours after head coach Dave Shula said the Bengals were taking defense with the fifth pick, they grabbed Houston quarterback David Klingler after trading back one spot with Washington to also get the 28th pick in the first round. Ironically, that's the last time before Thursday night Cincinnati's top two picks came via trade. (The Bengals took Miami safety Darryl Williams at No. 28.)

00:00: One gets the sense these guys are just so plain worn out by national perception that they've completely tuned it out and almost are laughing at it. Whitworth referred to some of the stuff on NFL Network during the draft.

"I'm tired of it," Whitworth said. "It's nice but 'Let's throw love at Cincinnati because they never get any,' we don't need all that crap. We're a good team. We've been to the playoffs twice in the last three years in the toughest division in the league and eventually we're going to be at the top of it. This locker room believes. We don't listen to people who put us down. We don't listen to, 'We're old Cincinnati.' We have an ultimate goal."

 

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