Running backs coach
Initial comments ...
Lewis: “The last pick, running back Mark Walton, missed half of last season with an ankle injury. Before the injury, he did a great job being a fine open-field runner. He’s a real complete player, running and catching. He’s been a big contributor for them on special teams. The coaches (at Miami) spoke very highly of him — his character as a person and how he fit on their football team, along with what he meant to their team, day-in and day-out. We feel blessed, as he was our target in this round. We were able to pick him, so we feel really good about that.”
What did he bring to Miami special teams-wise?
Lewis: “He’s played both on the kickoff team and the punt team. He’s been a productive player. He makes (Bengals special teams coordinator) Darrin Simmons very happy, since we added someone who can come here and compete for a spot on our football team. In college, he was a productive guy playing special teams. As we know, many of these guys aren’t involved in that way — it’s just certain programs who will use guys in that fashion.”
Was he a returner or a personal protector?
Lewis: “He’s been a coverage person.”
Looking at size, is Mark Walton like Bengals running back Giovani Bernard? What did you see when you looked at him?
Lazor: “When you think about your third running back, there are a bunch of different ways to do it. The first thing we have to evaluate is the fact that this is the NFL. There are times when your first back or second back has to miss a game, so you want the very best next runner to be available to play. This was the case last year with (Bengals running back) Brian Hill, when he came in and made plays on offense. It’s interesting. You go through the whole year and the whole process of evaluating players, watching them on film and going to visit them. But I can go back to last year, when I went to the University of Miami to evaluate the quarterback. As we watched the tape, he couldn’t say enough good things about No. 1, the running back. I got to see that on film and also happened to be on the field to watch the end of their spring practice before the quarterbacks worked out. When his name came back up, I was able say how I remembered him from last year when he was a sophomore. He may have been the best player on their team. Coach Simmons can watch him. There aren’t a lot of really good running backs in college football who you can watch cover a kickoff, cover a punt, make tackles and show off their versatility by changing directions. He’s a guy that makes a ton of plays with the ball in his hands. We’re excited to have him.”
Coming into this draft, were you looking specifically for a special teams guy or a third running back, or was he just a player you really liked? What was the draw specifically?
Lazor: “Coming into the draft, we weren’t that specific on this pick. However, as we approached today and we looked at the best players on our board, we felt like he popped out. As coach Lewis said, he became a target this morning.”
Could you talk about a little bit about what you saw and what you expect when he walks in this summer?
Caskey: “If you go back to 2016 and even 2017 before he got hurt, he’s an elusive guy when he gets in space and is a real threat. He can still do all of the other normal running plays you want, but he falls into a Giovani Bernard type of category, if you want to look at it that way. He’s very elusive in space and has enough speed to make breakaway runs happen. Like we’ve said, he’s a tough kid. He plays a lot bigger than what he weighs in at. He will come in immediately and add to the current room we have.”
Are you looking at depth here with today’s pick, generally speaking?
Lazor: “It would be hard to predict that you are getting a starting player on the third day of the draft. This morning, we had a chance to reevaluate with (Bengals Director of Player Personnel) Duke Tobin and all of the personnel guys — who was left on the board and (how we ranked) them. When a guy like this stands out with talent and proven production, at a place that’s proven to put good players out who compete at the highest level, that’s what stands out. There’s still some consideration of what our roster is. When you see players’ talent and potential (stand out), that starts speaking a lot toward where we should go. I think we still have a handful of picks. (Bengals offensive line coach) Frank Pollack was trying to get down here again, but (wasn’t able to) this time (laughs).”
Halfback, Miami (Fla.)
What have the last few days been like for you? Is this where you thought you might end up being drafted round-wise and team-wise?
“The last couple of days have been kind of frustrating for me, seeing (other) names getting called and my name not getting called. Like I told my family, I don’t care what round or place I go in. I’m in a great situation for me, and I’m just going to go in and work.
“The round doesn’t make anybody; you’re going to make the most of (what you can) when you’re on that field. I’m looking forward to getting out there and going to work with my new teammates.”
How much do you look at the history of running backs taken in the middle rounds of the draft who have gone on to have great, Hall of Fame careers? Is that why you say the round you’re picked in doesn’t matter?
“(The University of) Miami has a great running back tradition. It runs deep and I’m just trying to continue that cycle. Now it’s available to me in Cincinnati, so I’m just ready to go to work, man. That’s all I’m ready to do.”
Who is your favorite running back in the league currently?
“(Who is) my favorite back in the league? It’s going to be a Hurricane in Frank Gore.”
What kind of role did you have on special teams at Miami, and how much did teams talk about that with you leading up to the draft?
“My special teams play speaks for itself ... I don’t really care about just running the football. I’m a team player ... Any coach on that sideline at Miami that talks about my special teams game, they’ll tell you I don’t quit and I’m going to do whatever (I can) to make the team win ... I just went all-out, and the same way I go out and the run the ball, it’s the same thing with special teams. Teams talked to me about that, and they know what I can do on special teams.”
How’s your ankle?
“I’m back to feeling (like) my normal self. I’ll be ready for minicamp.”
I think you only had 63 touches last season. Did you think about staying in college? What drove your decision to leave the University of Miami and turn pro?
“No, it was back and forth — staying-and-going, staying-and-going — being my family’s provider, (or) helping the coaches, (Head coach Mark) Richt and (running backs) coach Thomas Brown from the University of Miami ... (When) you look to make your decision — should I stay or should I leave? is it going to be a great fit for me to leave? — and today showed it. I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made.”
What do you know about the Bengals and their running back situation?
“I know they’ve already got great backs over there from last year. I’m just going to be there in the room with those guys, learn from them and just go on. We’re family now — I’m just going to be ready to go to work.”