Head Coach and
On the Bengals’ seventh-round draft picks ...
Lewis: “With the drafting of Logan Woodside, we really feel he’s a good young prospect. He has an opportunity to come in here and compete as one of the backups. We feel like he’s got a lot of upside in his ability to play quarterback. We’re excited to be able to add him to the football team.
“Rod Taylor’s a young player from Ole Miss, who’s a big, powerful man. He played offensive guard, and the offensive line coaches think he’s got a chance to come in here and compete, continue to develop and upgrade us there in the offensive line as well.
“The last player we took was Auden Tate, the wide receiver from Florida State. This guy’s big, got really great hands, was productive down (at Florida State) and is a big target. I know (Wide Receivers) Coach Bob Bicknell thought highly of him and felt like it was a good opportunity for us to add another guy to come in here and compete with the rest of the wide receivers.”
He has a lot of size for a wide receiver. Is he definitely a receiver, or is there a chance he could play tight end?
Lewis: “No, he’s a wide receiver.”
On Logan Woodside ...
Lazor: “With Logan Woodside, he’s been a very productive player in college. I had a chance to get to know him a little bit. Actually, when we went up to watch his pro day, Bruce Gradkowski, an old Bengal, was there with him. I think Logan’s broken some of Bruce’s records. He’s been a very productive player, he’s played in an all-star game and did well, so we’re really excited about him. He’s from not very far away from here, either — (Frankfort), Kentucky.”
On the team’s 2018 draft ...
Lewis: “To sum up the three days, I really feel like all the work that goes into the draft, we take our hats off to all the personnel people and the coaches for their involvement. Everybody involved — the doctors with the physicals, the video staff, and (people) coordinating travel and everything like that. It’s been a beneficial three days for the organization. We really acquired people with the football character that we’re looking for — the character to be great learners and come in here and compete. Even with the last three players and speaking with them on the phone, they all talked about taking advantage of the opportunity they’ve been given by being drafted and to come in here and compete for a roster spot. I’m really pleased with how things fell. We were able to go in and fill needs, and yet stay true to our grades and ability. We feel good about that, and that’s how you want to come out of this process.
“We’re in the process right now — there are (coaches) still upstairs — of working at signing some college free agents. We’ll sign approximately 12 college free agents that will be added to the squad. And we’ll have rookie camp and bring them in, not this upcoming weekend but the following weekend.”
When you guys had the run on defensive players, were you surprised that all these players would end up showing up in the defensive room?
Lewis: “We were going to address the defense. That was the plan that we had from the onset —literally on Friday, particularly, we were going to address the defense, and then today we were going to kind of let things fall the way they were. Today, we took the running back (Mark Walton from the University of Miami), and then from that point on we felt good about the defensive players we were able to pick. We wanted to address some needs in the secondary. We also addressed a guy with return ability, with Darius Phillips, the corner from (Western) Michigan. Those were the things we were looking for, that we could fit some guys like that in that would also give us some upside in other areas.”
Would you have liked to get another offensive lineman a little earlier if possible?
Lewis: “Well, we couldn’t create one (laughs).”
Were you hoping to have someone fall, so that you could get another one?
Lewis: “I think it showed you the void of how many there were. There were very few, just like when you looked up there at one point at defensive tackles — there were very few defensive tackles that had been taken. It’s interesting how the prospects, and where they were, (were taken). The draft has been more populated lately — or at least this particular year — with more of these ‘edge’ type of players. It’s just the way it is, and I think you’ve got to try to hold your weight. (Bengals director of player personnel) Duke (Tobin) does a good job of keeping the room on point and not trying to create something that’s not there.”
We’ve talked to you about being aggressive this offseason to fix the offensive line. The first move you made was important, with bringing in Frank Pollack to coach the offensive line. Does this put the ball in his court with the players you already had on the roster, since there weren’t many guys there this draft?
Lewis: “I don’t think we’re going to come in here — unless you had two or three first round picks — and fix an offensive line for a NFL season anyway. Obviously when you say things like that, people feel that’s unrealistic, unless you have three first-round picks to pick three first-round linemen. You’re not going to pick guys that are going to come in here and go, ‘Oh, those guys are better than anybody you’ve got.’ It’s up to the guys in the building, and it’s up to what we do schematically. It’s just not a one-person thing. We had a really good coach here in (former offensive line coach Paul Alexander); we’ve got another really good coach (Pollack), and we’re excited about that. It’s us, it’s the players, it’s our coaching, it’s what we do — that all fixes what we need to get done and be better at.”
Did you come out of the draft feeling like you took guys where they should have been taken, and didn’t ‘reach’ on any picks?
Lewis: “No. You spend the time leading up to the draft making sure you don’t do that, and making sure you feel good about things. It’s important that we try to stay (true) to that. We spend a lot of hours (working); once we’ve ranked the boards by position, (it’s time) to go across the board the board to make sure we’re looking at it horizontally and vertically.”
The draft at one point was 17 rounds, and many late-round players from that era turned out to be great for a franchises. And now there are fewer rounds but also a lot of college free agents that can become great players, right?
Lewis: “With the compensatory picks, we essentially have an eighth round, and I think that was part of the reduction of the draft — to put those picks in place that basically make up another 32 picks sprinkled from the third round on. And you’re right — I think (Bengals.com editor) Geoff Hobson mentioned it — (former Bengals WR T.J.) Houshmandzadeh was a seventh round draft pick, so we know there’s a lot of fine players that get picked in the seventh round or come here as college free agents. As we tell all the players, ‘It’s not how you get here, it’s what you do once you are here in this building. Keep doing things that keep you in this building.’ That’s really important.”
Defensively, how do you think you added to the team?
Lewis: “We’ve added a young safety (Jessie Bates) who has a great opportunity, and who’s done a great job in understanding how to play the game. When you evaluate Jessie on tape, you see things that we ask him to do within our own defense and on an NFL field in the scheme that he played there at Wake Forest. Sam Hubbard comes in here right away and has an opportunity to work into our rotation. With his skill set — his length and ability to play so doggone hard all the time, and he’s got great technique, a great ability to lock out on blocks — (he can) come in here and compete right away. And with Malik Jefferson, you’ve got another linebacker that can really run, is really physical, and he’s 230 pounds already. These last couple (linebackers), when they got here, they were 228, and he’s already 230-something. So you’re talking about guys that are going to be NFL-size guys very quickly. We liked that about him. Our corner we drafted (Davontae Harris), he’s a cover guy with great hands and great feet. So they translate well to the National Football League. Those were the things we were looking to do at defensive tackle too, with explosiveness. Again, (DT Andrew Brown) gives us another chance to have a vertical guy to compete in there and knock it around to see if he can make things happen.”
You’ve talked before about how difficult it is to add 11 draft picks to a 53-player roster. Were you trying to package any of those picks to move up and grab a player you liked?
Lewis: “The move Duke made yesterday, with moving back eight spots and then moving up 20, was advantageous to us, because when you looked at where we would have been at pick 100, we liked the picks that we had after picking the player (C Billy Price) that we picked earlier. So that worked out great for us. We would not have been as happy with the players left on the board or the players that went there after we picked. Sitting at 100 and getting the player we wanted, that wouldn’t have occurred yesterday. So we really feel that was an advantageous move. And I feel good about the guys we picked there at the end, because there was talk of moving up to make sure we got the quarterback (Logan Woodside). (Bengals president) Mike Brown has that crystal ball, so we stayed right there and still picked him, and then we were able to pick off the offensive lineman (Taylor) and the receiver (Tate), so that was good. That worked out well.”
Was that the story of the draft — staying and waiting?
Lewis: “We made a move yesterday that really helped us — and you guys thought it was just to get you guys out of the building earlier (laughs). But it really helped us. We talked about going back up earlier (in the fourth round) when I left you. We discussed going back up into the round, but the player we were coveting left, and that was good. And there were some questions about him, so we ended up staying put.”
Is that when you walked out of yesterday’s press conference quickly?
Lewis: “Yes (laughs). You guys looked like you wanted to go to sleep.”
On Rod Taylor ...
Lazor: “One thing on Taylor if I could — he was a very successful tackle in the SEC at Ole Miss, but we think he has flexibility to play both (guard and offensive tackle).”
Do you think he could be that swing guy?
Lazor: “He could be, yes.”
Was there any thought of taking a quarterback on day two of the draft?
Lewis: “We discussed it.”
Is that potentially why the Steelers moved up over you?
Lewis: “I don’t know. They must have our room bugged (laughs). But I feel great about the guys we have in this building. We went out and signed a quarterback (Matt Barkley) this offseason that we had a lot of regard for when he came out in the draft. Once he was in the league, we had a lot of regard for him, and we had him in here last fall. We had regard for him, and Bill has coached him before. We have regard for Jeff Driskel, and unfortunately he broke his hand last year and didn’t get a chance right at the point where you would have hoped he could be in a different spot right now. So, basically he had to take a redshirt, and unfortunately he gets hurt again. I feel good about adding Logan to the room because it brings in another good, young guy that can go in there and compete, and let’s see what happens at the end of the mix.”
In an ideal world, would you have the space to carry three quarterbacks on the roster?
Lewis: “No, not in my ideal world (laughs).”
Is having three quarterbacks something you can’t figure out until the end of training camp?
Lewis: “Right. And that’s what happened literally a couple years ago when we did have three, when we acquired Jeff. You’re going to base the football team on the 53 best guys we can put on the football team. If one of these guys would warrant keeping three, then you’re going to keep three quarterbacks. It’s not a foregone conclusion — you’re going to keep the best players. Last year, we had seven wideouts. The 53-man roster always has to stay flexible. We’ve had eight offensive linemen, nine offensive linemen, nine defensive linemen, 10 defensive linemen, nine defensive backs, 11 defensive backs. So that’s the thing — you get a chance to pair down to the 53-best players. Everybody gets an opportunity, and we sell that. We sell that with these guys now coming here as college free agents. If you come here, you’re going to get an opportunity. If you learn what to do, you’re going to get an opportunity to show people you can stay in the National Football League. And it’s been proven. We’ve had guys that have made the football team, or they have gone elsewhere and they’re still playing. That’s a good opportunity.”
Do you approach your college free agent board the same way you address your draft board?
Lewis: “Each coach works with one of the scouts and the personnel people, and they try and go about that. They can work vertically to (narrow) down who’s not picked. It was a little bit tougher task this year when you have three picks in the seventh round, because they know you have the opportunity (to take them) — ‘If you want me, you can pick me.’ We got a couple of them, and that was good. We’re going to fill out the roster.”
So you do it based on need, and not necessarily the best player available? Or both?
Lewis: “Mike (Brown) has done it every day since we’ve finished the season (laughs). It’s changed 12 times today, with what positions and how many based on what we draft. The numbers are floating numbers. He and I, we put numbers together for what we want by position for training camp.”
Initial comments ...
“It’s been a long time coming. I have driven past Paul Brown Stadium 350 times on my way back to Toledo. I always dreamed of playing in that stadium, and got the chance to do so as a sophomore.”
You had a good game against UC, but Bearcats QB Gunner Kiel was a little better that night ...
“Yes he was, but he also didn’t drop a touchdown.”
Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt met with you. Can you talk about that?
“We kind of built our relationship at the combine, and I fell in love with him as a person and what he was bringing. I know he came from Green Bay, and was with a lot of great guys. It’s a great opportunity to be with (quarterback) Andy (Dalton) and (offensive coordinator Bill) Lazor, and learn under those guys.”
What is your relationship with former Bengals and Toledo quarterback Bruce Gradkowski?
“He is a big brother to me. I have known him for six years now, and he has been calling me throughout the day. He was drafted in the sixth round too. It’s really not about where you get drafted. I am so, so excited that the Bengals have given me the opportunity to come in and compete.”
What are your hopes and aspirations in coming to Cincinnati?
“I think, ultimately, my plan is to be a starter in the NFL; whether that is tomorrow or three years from now. I understand that Andy in the starter (there), and I think I can be the best backup in the NFL for him. (I will) do nothing but be a great resource for him, and someone that he can trust and do everything I can (to help him) be successful and the team be successful.”
What is your biggest attribute?
“I think it’s my leadership in the locker room. I have a work ethic that is NFL ready, and I think my accuracy and the ability to rally guys around me (helps me) to make first downs and just make plays. That is what I have hung my hat on for a long time and what has been successful.”
Does this rank as one of the highlights of your life being drafted by an NFL team?
“Sure is. It’s a dream come true.”
You’ve played some tackle as well as guard. Which are you most comfortable at?
“I’m really comfortable at both because I’m used to them.”
Have you met Frank Pollack, the Bengals offensive line coach?
“Over the phone I have.”
You played at both tackle spots and guard and are comfortable with either, but what did you hear in the draft process about how NFL teams projected you?
“My height had a little bit to do with it. I was a little bit short, and most teams probably (weren’t) still looking at me at tackle because of my height, so I knew I was going to be a guard because of my size and my height.”
Looks like you’ve got long arms and big wingspan. Is that something that has helped you?
In what ways?
You played in the SCC. It doesn’t get any better than that for offensive and defensive linemen. Do you feel that’s helped you get ready for the NFL?
“Yes sir, because I feel that’s the next closest thing to the NFL — the SCC — because you go against a lot of guys with great talent, and everybody’s chasing the dream. I feel like the SCC is the next closest thing to the NFL.”
What have you been doing today getting ready for the call?
“Relaxing, drinking some water, and praying to the Lord.”
The dream came true ...
“The dream came true, baby. Thank you Lord.”
Wide receiver, Florida State
What was it like to see your name scroll across that TV screen?
“It was everything, to be honest, you know. Being picked has always been my dream, so to see it happen was great.”
You’re a big target. Is that your game — to try and match up and use your size to your advantage, boxing people out?
“Using my size, I play to my size and play to my strength. That’s something I definitely do.”
Looks like you were a big red zone target at Florida State. Was that the case?
“Yes. The red zone usually came to me. Yeah, I’m pretty good in that area.”
What were you told in your meetings with teams, or even at the combine, about how they felt about your speed, size and where you might fit in this league?
“Most of them weren’t really worried about my speed because they knew I wasn’t a burner. They were just kind of worried about my injury from college. Once that cleared up, most of them (just liked me as) a big receiver who could make a catch over the middle, over coverage and all that.”
Bengals wide receiver coach Bob Bicknell was in your corner big time. Have you met him?
“I had a meeting with him — a pre-draft meeting.”
And what did he tell you?
“We went over film, just some of my one-on-ones, how I moved, and stuff like that. He liked me a lot. I felt we made a good connection, especially from the little time we were together. I’m happy to have him as my wide receivers coach.”
Do you know much about the Bengals and what they have at wide receiver?
“Oh, yeah. A.J. Green. I look up to him a lot. I’m from South Carolina too, and I looked up to him a lot when he was in high school.”
Is there anybody in the NFL that you would compare yourself to in terms of your style of play?
“There’s multiple (players). Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffries — those types of receivers.”