MARVIN LEWIS - Head coach
PAUL GUENTHER - Defensive coordinator
JACOB BURNEY - Defensive line coach
Initial comments ...
Lewis: "With this pick here in the third round, we really feel fortunate to be able to pick Jordan Willis. Obviously, through his career at Kansas State, he's been a big producer for them. I think he had an outstanding end-of-the-season bowl game, Senior Bowl, and then what he did in Indianapolis (at the NFL Combine) to confirm his physical tools. He's a guy who plays hard. He's played a lot of football. Those guys are playing almost 90 snaps per game there in that conference sometimes defensively. We're really looking forward to him being a guy who comes in and helps in the rotation of our players here, and he hopefully can make a positive contribution and take some snaps off some of the other guys."
Reading up on some of the experts, it sounds like he could make a transition to outside linebacker. Is that something you guys will look at?
Lewis: "I think more of the 3-4 front teams may have looked at him a little bit more that way because of how fast he ran and the things he did in Indianapolis. But in our defense, I think he'd probably be more of a right defensive end starting out, more than anything."
Did he play a lot on the left there at Kansas State?
Lewis: "Yes he did. I think predominantly probably there on the left, right Jacob?"
Burney: "That is correct. He played mostly on the left. He played up and down the line. He played inside. He's been on the right side. He's got some versatility there."
For a defensive lineman, what's the transition like if he's been predominantly on the left side? Is there a difference in technique?
Burney: "Just a matter of those technical things. This guy is such a student of the game. He'll work tremendously hard to work out any small bugs on the field. But like I said, he has been all across the front. Even as a junior he was inside, and you could see this year he was on the right side a bit, but most of his snaps were on the left."
Paul, what stands out to you about him?
Guenther: "His motor. He plays hard every snap. In that league, there's a lot of passing teams that have 80, 85, 90 snaps a game, and he never come off the field — he's always running to the ball. When you look at the guy — to start it off — we did extensive research on a lot of these guys across the board, the different measurements and sizes and all those things, and that's what really stood off the tape to watch with him is how hard he plays. You can see that there are some things that show up that are NFL traits right away — his body lean, his bend, and his relentlessness, obviously. I think he had, I don't know, 11-and-a-half sacks last year, nine-and-a-half the year before, and a lot of tackles for loss. It's a great guy to have on your team. Anytime you have a guy that plays as hard as he does, it gets to everybody."
Obviously, you like what you saw on tape. Did his time at the combine, from a guy that big, grab your attention?
Guenther: "No question. Typically when we go to the combine, I try to look at a lot of the guys that have gone through the combine before I go, even if it's a little snippet of it. But when I go there and there are three or four guys per position that catch your eye, that makes you come back here and throw the tape in and really study them, and that's what we did. We were glad he was there when we picked. I think we got a good one."
How important was it to add some depth on the defensive line, specifically at that position?
Guenther: "I think it's very big, because not only is he able to get in there — obviously, he's going to start from the back and work his way in just like all the guys that come in here — but I think even having an extra guy at defensive end, it takes some of the snaps off guys we already have, so it makes everybody fresh to play in those games. Like I said, he's not just a pass rusher. He can play all downs, all the time. It's a good guy to have in the arsenal."
Talk about the motor. Technically, what did you see in him with the hand fighting or footwork that you liked?
Burney: "He's a fundamentalist. He plays the run well. He plays with good hand placement, a flat back, nice (rear), good leverage, good knee bend, those hips — he's got good fundamentals about him. And, he can go rush as well. He knows how to rush. He's a student of the game and really studies the tackles. And he's relentless from that stand point. Tremendous upside with this guy."
Congratulations Jordan ...
Did you have a sense that the Bengals were interested in you?
"I had spoken with Coach (Jacob) Burney, the D-Line coach, a couple weeks ago and I spoke with Coach (Jim) Haslett at my pro day. But I never did anything special for them, they were just kind of at my pro day. And then I got a text from them about some film they wanted to watch."
How much did you play on the right side at Kansas State?
"My first two years I was a right defensive end. And in my last two years I was a left defensive end."
Do you feel like you can do either at this level?
"Yes, I'm in a position now where I'm a professional, so adjusting was the key to my success. I think I can do either one. They have not told me what I'm going to be doing. I don't even know what defensive scheme they run. If they put me at right defensive end, I think I can obviously get back to what I was in my first two years in college."
What's the biggest difference technique wise?
"Obviously I would be putting down my left hand on the ground if I played on the right, so it's different from hand dominance. Technique wise, there's not a lot of change, except if for whatever you feel comfortable with what's changed than what's on the ground."
Did you have any expectations for where you were going to be picked in the draft? Were you surprised you lasted until the third round?
"I am a little. My agent and I kept an open mind for what could happen. He gave me a range between 19th and 45th. I don't know exactly why I got to the point where I'm at. I don't know why teams passed on me. With some of the players that did go ahead of me, it did shock me that they would pick some of those guys ahead of me. I did all these workouts for all these teams. I did 11 workouts, and none of those were for the Cincinnati Bengals. I don't know exactly what the deal was. I had spoken to guys who were drafted that never dealt with teams until they drafted them, so I don't know exactly what went down."
Water under the bridge or will you play with a chip on your shoulder?
"I have lived in the world with a chip on my shoulder. I've been there since Kansas State and in high school. I've done this my whole life, and it's not any different. Now I'm in this situation where I feel like I don't need to prove anything. They are bringing me in obviously just to get after the passer, so that's what I need to focus on."
Why did you have a chip at Kansas State? Were they the only ones who offered you?
"That was the only offer I had coming out of high school. I'm in the same position as I was there. Like one of my pre-senior seasons, nobody was talking about me, I wasn't on anybody's awards for defensive player of the year or anything like that. And then I show up at the end of the year, I'm Defensive Player of the Year. And same thing with this year — no one was talking about me, I wasn't in any conversations on TV networks. Same thing at the combine. No one talked about me, even though I gave the overall best performance at the combine. It's been like that my whole entire career. I've never been in the conversation, but I always find a way to get in the conversation."
What kind of draft party did you have? Do you have a lot of family around?
"I've been sitting in my room for the last few days, just waiting for the phone call. My agent was texting me. I didn't even watch the draft. My agent was texting me, letting me know what was going on. And then my trainer was also texting me, letting me know what was going on."
So you're in your room at school?
"I'm at my house in Kansas City."
The Bengals coaches and Coach Lewis all talked about your motor. Is that what you think about as your distinguishing trait?
"I guess that's one thing you see on film when I play — that I do run to the ball a lot. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there that people have of me and my game. All I have is the future to show what I'm capable of doing. I will say people ... I'm not playing my best football, and I do think I'm underrated. That's sometimes the hand you're dealt. There's a lot of guys dealt this hand. You can't change it. You have to work from there. But then again, I've been there at Kansas State. I'm used to hard work. That's what I think I bring to the table. That's what comes out of my game. And I'm still polishing up my game. Some guys are polished up when they go to the NFL, and other guys aren't. I'm still polishing up my game every day to be the absolute best that I can be. But then again, everybody is different in how they look when they play the game as well."
The defensive line coach talked about you studying tackles and being a big technician. Do you enjoy that part of the game?
"Yes I love that. My biggest thing is I really like the process. That's what Coach (Bill) Snyder taught us at Kansas State, is to really enjoy the day-to-day process. He said a quote the other day, I don't know the quote word for word, but Bill Snyder was like, "I don't like those game day guys. I like the guys that are going to come in Monday and put in the work in, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday." Because then, when you do that, you're part of a team at that point. You're building together as a team. That's kind of like my attitude — come in everyday with the thought process of improving and getting better in everything that I do."
What do you know about Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins?
"I know a lot about Geno, just from watching him. I know that he's really good at what he does. I don't know a whole lot about Dunlap. I've seen him on film before. I don't know a lot of about him personally. I know a bit more personal about Geno because I've heard his name a lot. But I know they're two pretty good guys."
4.53 seconds at the combine? Is that correct?
Were you surprised by that, or did you expect to run a time that well?
"In my practice on the electronic, I ran a faster time than that, so that's kind of what we were expecting to run at the combine, somewhere in that range."
What's your personal best?
"My personal best was on my trainer's electronic system, and it was a 4.51."
At 6'4," 260?