Bengals tweak pundits with high grades

4-28-03, 7:55 a.m.

Updated: 4-28-03, 3:30 p.m. UpdatedL
4-28-03, 11:55 p.m.


The final national grades are in and they're saying the same thing that the early grades did. Marvin Lewis' new staff did its homework preparing for the NFL Draft.

Lewis and the Bengals' expanded personnel department matched wits with the war room of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, where Lewis refined his evaluation skills.

The Bengals and the Ravens were the only teams to get an A in CBS's NFL Drat report card. Len Pasquarelli of gave As out to only the Bengals, Ravens, and Patriots. The Bengals and the Ravens, along with the Cowboys, were the only teams to get five stars in the grades handed out by "USA Today." gave its Day One blue ribbons to the Bengals, Cowboys and Eagles.

Clark Judge of gave Cincinnati a B-plus, but also wrote, "I think we're going to have to call a statute of limitations on all those Bengals' jokes. These guys act as if they know what they're doing."

Pete Prisco of CBS said, "These aren't the same old Bengals. An A grade on draft day is proof of that."

When is the last time any team came out of the first four rounds with four potential first-round picks? True, third-rounder Kelley Washington, a wide receiver out of Tennessee, has a neck question, and fourth-rounder Dennis Weathersby, a cornerback from Oregon State, is recovering from a gun-shot wound.

But the grades don't lie. In his pre-draft publication, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., had Weathersby going in the first round, and had Palmer, second-round pick Eric Steinbach, Washington, and Weathersby rated in his top 55. Ourlads' Scouting Services had Palmer rated No. 2, Steinbach No. 14, Washington No. 16 , and Weathersby No. 60, but projected to go in the second round to Pittsburgh.


GERMAINE RELEASED:** Never has a Bengal stirred so much controversy without ever taking a snap. No. 3 quarterback Joe Germaine became the immediate casualty of the No. 1 selection of Carson Palmer when the Bengals released him Monday. The presence of Germaine, signed in October to the practice squad and then later to the active roster for the last three games of the year, caused a stir among the quarterbacks.

But their concerns were unfounded when the former Ohio State quarterback never played a down as Jon Kitna finished out the season. Head coach Marvin Lewis isn't saying how he is ordering his two remaining quarterbacks behind the starter Kitna in Palmer and Akili Smith. Kennard McGuire, Smith's agent, said he plans to speak with Lewis and club management

"It's important for us to keep the lines of communication open with Marvin and everybody there so we can get a handle on what they expect from Akili," McGuire said Monday. "We want to do that as quickly as possible and would like to do it in the next couple of days."

Lewis said before the draft that all the quarterbacks would rotate through at this weekend's minicamp. He has indicated that Smith, as well as everyone else, is going through an audition, but the release of Germaine doesn't necessarily mean more snaps for Smith and Palmer this weekend. The Bengals figure to sign a college free-agent quarterback so they can take the minimum four to training camp in three months.


MORE WEATHERSBY:** Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, who practiced against new cornerback Dennis Weathersby at Oregon State for a season, raved about the pick Sunday. He says the 6-1, 204-pounder is a natural pro.

"It's a steal. A super steal," Johnson said. "I'm not saying he's going to start, but he's going to come in and play. He's tall and he's got those long arms. He gets his hands on you on the line, and it's all over. You can't get physical with him, or you'll lose."

The drafting of the 6-3, 220-pound Washington in the third round is an example of why the Bengals are now going with big corners in the mold of their free-agent pickup, 6-2 Tory James. They have to cover bigger receivers and it's a trend Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle noticed as the

draft's first day unfolded.

Coyle watched as guys like 6-1, 200-pound Rashean Mathis of Bethune-Cookman, 6-1, 200-pound Charles Tillman of Louisiana-Lafayette, and 6-2, 210-pound Nnamdi Asomugha of California all went in the first three rounds.

"All great athletes," Coyle said. "But are they safeties, corners, what are they really? What they are is they can run fast, and they have great stature. With a guy like Dennis Weathersby you know he can play corner on the outside and he did it in a scheme that accentuated his ability to press cover."

Weathersby says his best attribute is playing man-to-man and using his body to fend off receivers. So he's a fit with the philosophy new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is bringing to the Bengals secondary. Frazier is looking to press all over the field, particularly in the red zone, and "that's tough to do with the littler guys."

DRAFT BOARD NOTES: The Titans didn't take a center in the draft and are expected to re-sign Gennaro DiNapoli, indicating the Bengals have decided to fill their center need in house, and there are plenty of options. The drafting of Iowa offensive lineman Eric Steinbach gives the Bengals the ability to put him at center, or Brock Guttierez or Thatcher Szalay at center, or move over right guard Mike Goff to center and put Steinbach at a guard, where he as an All-American last year. Just to name a few. And with the right of first refusal on center Rich Braham's contract, it's not out of the realm he could be back to do some mentoring while backing up at guard and center. . .

The Bengals may have lost a big, athletic fullback when Nicolas Luchey went to the Packers via free agency, but they think they got another

one when they picked up Western Kentucky's Jeremi Johnson with their second pick in the fourth round. At 5-11, 285 pounds, Johnson helped the Hilltoppers to the Division I-AA national championship by averaging 6.2 yards per his 102 carries, but Bengals running backs coach Jim Anderson wants him down to 255 pounds: "We don't want him to get Fatosis."

Johnson, a Louisville, Ky., native, says he's already down to 266, and he knows his primary role is going to be as a blocker. He can catch out of the backfield (he caught three balls for 90 yards in the national championship game) and is said to have the agility of a running back. But he knows who the running back is here.

"He's the best running back in the NFL," said Johnson when asked what he knows about Corey Dillon.

But Johnson's favorite Bengal is Super Bowl running back Ickey Woods.

After playing three years at Indiana, Johnson transferred to WKU when the fullback role fell out of favor in Bloomington. . .

The Bengals got an interesting guy in the fifth round in Mars Hill linebacker Khalid Abdullah, the brother of former Clemson All-American and Browns linebacker Rahim Abdullah. After transferring from Clemson to Bethune-Cookman, Khalid found a home in four years at Mars Hill, where he had 359 tackles (216 solos) with a school career-record 49 stops for losses, 28 sacks, nine forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 21 pass deflections, and five interceptions for three touchdowns.

The Bengals think his speed and intensity can help right now on special teams. They see him as an outside linebacker and he compares himself to NFL backers like Derrick Rodgers and John Mobley because of their ability to pursue. . .

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