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Bengals gear up data base; QB-OC bond still strong


Geno Atkins, a Pro Bowl captain, personally wrecked the Rams this season.

As the Bengals usher in the next phase of their season, which is introducing the coaches to the 2016 college prospects, the buzzword of the moment that has caught everyone's fancy is "analytics." But Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin says it's not going to overtake the way the Bengals conduct the draft. In fact, he says scouting is an art that has always relied on what is now being called analytics.

"It's been around for a while," Tobin says. "There's no analytic that can replace experience. It's the efficiencies that are evolving. Not the base of whether he can make the jump to the NFL or how well he can make the jump to the NFL. Those don't change at all."

When the Bengals personnel elite sat down in the draft room to rank the seniors in early December, it drew on experience and comparison of past drafts. While the coaches worked on the field with a team that closed in on the AFC North title, Bengals president Mike Brown chaired a meeting of the scouts that ranked this year's prospects for the first time.

They'll set the board two more times in concert with input from their coaches, once after the NFL scouting combine in late February that includes the juniors and the last time in mid-April that takes into consideration visits from prospects, campus workouts and final medical grades.

The coaches, including the new ones hired last week, get their first look at the prospects at next week's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

At all times, Tobin says the key to scouting is comparison, which is its own analytic. He points to how scouts self-scout scouts.

"We do go back and see how we do," Tobin says. " 'I missed on this guy. Why did I miss? He's playing so much better than I thought. What element did I miss on him?"

"You look at the next guy that is comparable to him.  Now you have grown as a scout and now have a bigger data base. Your data base is built every year. Part of that data base being built is awareness how that guy has done. Not where he was drafted. That's irrelevant when analyzing if you were right or wrong."

Take Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, named one of the four captains for next week's Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Atkins, a four-time Pro Bowler, joins Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.

Now locked in the Bengals data base and elsewhere is how they drafted Atkins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. He lasted that long because, at 6-1, he's short. But they know now that his quickness off the ball and sheer strength overrides all that. The production of Atkins is a big reason the 6-1 Donald went in the first round in 2014.

"Every year a scout gets better because he has a whole year of guys in his data base," Tobin says. "And he has an entire year to evaluate the guys he graded that are now playing in the NFL and determining whether he had it right or wrong and why. That's the work of any good scout,  to go back and critically review himself based how a guy has actually played. I don't know if that's termed analytics. I think that's thoroughness."

That's not to say the Bengals close the door on any new data that comes their way. As Tobin says, the amount of information that new technology has created is constantly putting facts in front of them. Still, the experience is the overriding factor that goes into the data base.

"The basis of scouting hasn't changed. It's a talent to project players from one level to the next," Tobin says.   "The longer you've doing it, the better chance you have of being right."

QB-OC BOND: It may be the dog-eat-dog world of the NFL where the hand that feeds also often gets bitten. But not on Friday in the AFC North.

New Browns head coach Hue Jackson, the old Pacific quarterback, called a play from 31 years ago and hired his college offensive coordinator to coach the Cleveland tight ends.

When he signed Greg Seamon, it not only reflected how deep a player-coach bond can run, but it also showed that Jackson is playing for keeps. For the past 12 seasons Seamon has been the Bengals' East Coast scout in their personnel department that has caught the NFL by storm.

Not only that, but on Friday Jackson plucked running back Terrell Watson from the Bengals. The 6-1, 242-pound Watson intrigued the Bengals in last year's training camp, where he was a rookie free agent out of Azusa.

He apparently also intrigued Jackson. Instead of signing back with the Bengals after he spent the year on the practice squad, Watson followed Jackson to Cleveland.

"The Brown family and the Bengals have been amazing to me and this is not an easy thing to do,' said Seamon Friday. "There are colleagues and friends there. And we've had some success and built something pretty good. But coaching is what I've always wanted to do."

In 1985 Seamon, a native of southern Indiana, got his first offensive coordinator job after coaching positions on both sides of the ball at Purdue and Army. His quarterback at Pacific was a tough, competitive kid from South Central Los Angeles who ran the option offense with a chip on his throwing shoulder.

Hue Jackson.

"Hue was a special player because of his leadership. He had talent but what set him apart was his will," Seamon said. "His will to be successful and his will to win. He brought along the other players in that regard and I think that's reflected in his coaching career. Everywhere he's been that place has been better for it. There aren't many guys you can say that about and he's one of them."

Seamon is well known in local circles as a former coordinator at the University of Cincinnati and Miami of Ohio and Bengals President Mike Brown made sure that he would a keep a door open for Seamon to get back into coaching.

While scouting college and pro players in Cincinnati, Seamon also sat in on the offense's installation meetings and was on the practice field during camps. When Jackson became the offensive coordinator, he put Seamon on the field this past training camp to help with the tight ends.  

"Greg has always been a coach in my eyes," Jackson said in a press release from the Browns. "He was my college coach. He has been in Cincinnati with me in two stints. He did a lot of other off-the-field things for us. Last year in training camp, he became more and more involved in the offense. I know what kind of coach he is. He is very bright. He is very smart. Very meticulous. Very detailed."

Which is why the Bengals are going to miss him in the scouting end of it.

"He has a unique blend of scouting and coaching experience," said Duke Tobin, the Bengals director of player personnel. "He was very knowledgeable in both areas. His input will be dearly missed and we'll have our work cut out for us filling in. We enjoyed working with him and he offered a lot to our process and I'm sure he'll offer a lot to the Browns' process."

Although most NFL scouts aren't available until after the draft, Tobin said he doesn't have a timetable to hire Seamon's replacement.

"We will have one eventually, but we'll take time to find a guy that fits us and what we do," Tobin said.

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