Bengals Notebook: CB Priority; O-Line Recap; UC's Beavers Comes Home; Ja'Marr By Far

D'Ante Smith now a tackle.
D'Ante Smith now a tackle.

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo didn't bat an eye Tuesday when asked if he thinks adding to cornerback depth is a priority in next week's NFL Draft.

"In my mind," Anarumo said. "I think you always need to add quality depth at each position. That position for sure. The good news is I don't think we have to reach and say, 'We have to have this.'"

There were only two cornerbacks in Tuesday morning's brief, brisk Local Day workout on the Paul Brown Stadium field featuring various prospects from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State, Miami and other college players who went to high school within 50 miles of PBS.

Miami's Cedric Boswell and Ohio State's Demario McCall held it down as the NFL begins to wind up the four-month draft process that ends with the April 28-30 event in Las Vegas.

With one experienced backup on the roster in Tre Flowers, cornerback figures to be a position of interest in next Thursday night's first round. With their latest first-round pick in 33 years, the Bengals' selection at No. 31 should come at about midnight.

Anarumo, a well-respected secondary coach in the league for seven years before becoming the Bengals coordinator, has yet to be with a team that drafted a cornerback in the first round. But he knows what he wants. And it's not so much height or scheme specific.

"Flat-out long speed and being able to change directions quickly and ball skills. I think those are the qualities everybody has always looked for," Anarumo said. "You really just look at their movement. How do they get in and out of breaks? How do they catch the ball? Are they letting a lot of guys catch the ball in front of them? What kind of mover is he?"

FREE-AGENT ASSIST: Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan agrees that the signing of three starters on the offensive line has opened up the draft enough at No. 31 that an O-lineman isn't required right away.

"It definitely doesn't make you feel as pressing that we have to have a guy at a certain spot or else we'll fall off if we don't get a guy in the first 50 picks as far as what is available to you," Callahan said. "It doesn't feel the same as it's felt in years past.

"I think that's where we've done a nice job the past three years in supplementing our team in free agency, whether on the defensive side of the ball or the offensive side of the ball this year. Going out there a little more aggressively signing free agents, that allows the draft to fall to you a little bit. You can make determinations more based on what the best players are for your team and less about position of need. I don't think we have the glaring positions of need on offense that we've had in years past."

O-LINEUP: Callahan firmed up a couple of back-up positions on the offensive line for a couple of players they've picked up in the last two drafts. He sees last year's fourth-rounder D'Ante Smith as a tackle after playing both tackle and guard last season and 2020 sixth-rounder Hakeem Adeniji staying at guard after he played some tackle as a rookie.

"We'll try to keep him developing on track that way," Callahan said of Adeniji. "If he needs to swing out (to tackle), he has the ability to do that, but he doesn't need to do that because we've got guys in that spot."

Smith, who started last year's finale in Cleveland at left tackle and held his own against Myles Garrett, is one of the swing tackles. So is Isaiah Prince backing up new right tackle La'el Collins after Prince started the last two months of the season at right tackle.

They're also big on the versatility of backup guard-center Trey Hill. They're not ruling out Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum at No. 31 because he's only played center, but if a lineman is drafted in the later rounds such as Smith, Adeniji and Hill, Callahan says it's virtually a must to be versatile.

Callahan is intrigued with the competition up front and it's already tight since they rarely keep more than nine offensive linemen. With 2021 second-rounder Jackson Carman getting first dibs at left guard, that leaves Smith, Prince, Hill and Adeniji as the four backups even before the draft. The only Opening Day starter on the roster is left tackle Jonah Williams.

OLD SCHOOL LINEBACKER: Anarumo says the position in the league that has changed the most since he came out of college in 2012 is the decreasing size of linebackers and how there are a lot more big safety-ish guys in the 225-230-pound range.

But an old school guy showed up at Local Day in the person of Cincinnati linebacker Darrian Beavers, a 6-for-4, 255-pound homegrown SAM and middle linebacker from nearby Colerain High School, where he did play safety.

Beavers, who was Connecticut's leading sacker in 2018 before transferring to UC for his final three seasons, has made all the right moves. After coming home, he played on a Final Four team, was a Butkus Award finalist for the top linebacker in the nation and he's ticketed for the fourth round by the mocks.

"It's a blessing. What a year for us and the Bengals," said Beavers, who wore No. 56 during the workout.

Beavers said he came to PBS for a few games as a youth. He never really had a favorite Bengal, but for all his stops the past four months he wanted to make sure he made this one.

"I'd never been on the field or in the locker room in this stadium," Beavers said. "I wanted to make sure I got that done and it was fun."

Beavers may be big, but he's not going to take himself off the field on third down and just call himself an inside guy.

"You could say I'm an everything type of guy, if that makes sense," Beavers said. "I feel like I can be successful inside, outside, wherever you put me I think I can be successful."

JA'MARR BY FAR: The Bengals are also thought to be looking for some young wide receivers and Callahan, who has scouted the last decade of drafts for several teams, was asked who is the best college prospect he's seen on tape and he didn't have to go back very far.

The Bengals' first pick last year and the fifth overall. Ja'Marr Chase, who had the greatest season a rookie receiver ever had.

"I would have to argue that Ja'Marr would be up there," Callahan said. "He really would. For a guy who in college produced at a high level and then came into the NFL and produced at really the same type of level, that's a pretty remarkable impact player. We all felt it would be like that. He probably even exceeded most of those expectations. Ja'Marr is one of the best on tape football players from college that translated to being a pretty hellacious pro."

One of Callahan's gauges to position Chase in the top tier of receivers is the defense's reaction.

"The cool thing about Ja'Marr," Callahan said, "is they didn't quite know. I felt like a lot of the defensive backs he played, after they played against him, they all realized he really is that dude. He's that good. And I think he's even gained a lot of people's respect on the other side of the ball because he's so strong and he's so fast and sometimes it doesn't look like it because you watch him play (and) it's so easy for him. But he's earned respect across the league because a lot of people feel like he's in that conversation and will be for a long time."

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