Coleman visit points to emphasis on turnovers

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New Bengals DC Teryl Austin met with former Panthers safety Kurt Coleman Thursday.

INDIANAPOLIS - The Bengals appeared to be mulling a major change at safety Thursday night when they met with former Panther Kurt Coleman and his agent here at the NFL scouting combine.

Coleman, who turns 30 before training camp, made the drive from Paul Brown Stadium after undergoing a physical and meeting with new Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Reports also had Coleman meeting with the Saints in Indy.

According to Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer, Coleman had a salary cap number of $5.15 million for 2018 after signing a three-year extension following Carolina's Super Bowl season of 2015. The Panthers cut him earlier this week after Coleman missed four games last season with a sprained knee and finished without an interception.

But it is Coleman's 11 interceptions that were the most in the NFC over the 2015 and 2016 seasons that have apparently caught the Bengals' eye. Since the Bengals extended starting safeties George Iloka and Shawn Williams after Pro Bowler Reggie Nelson left after his eight-pick season in 2015, they've combined for a total of eight interceptions with four each. They had one each last season as the Bengals logged 11 interceptions, their fewest in the 15 seasons under head coach Marvin Lewis.

Generating more turnovers has been a theme since Austin arrived in January. He came from coordinating a Lions defense that had the NFL's third most turnovers last year and the visit with Coleman may indicate a change in philosophy. Iloka and Williams have been interchangeable at free and strong safety, but at 5-11, 195 pounds Coleman is built more like the traditional center-fielder at free safety.

Coleman is Lewis' kind of guy, a veteran leader who started 42 games over his three seasons with Carolina and had a rep as a good locker room guy.  He's also an Ohio guy who grew up in Clayton, a 75-minute drive to Cincinnati, and a Buckeye that wen t to Ohio State out of Northmont High School. He's looking for his fourth team after the Eagles took him in the seventh round in the 2010 draft and is trying to add to his career total of 21 interceptions, tied for 19th on the active list.

"Kurt came in and brought leadership and direction to our young secondary. He helped us establish what our identity is," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said when they released him.

On Wednesday in his media availability at the combine Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin also touched on the lack of turnovers last season. The Bengals generated just 14 in 2017, their fewest ever.

"You can scout the traits. Some of it is fortune. You can have years that are off years in that regard like we did this year. We'll bounce back," Tobin said. "But it's about tackling the football, making that a point of emphasis and being a little bit more anticipatory in coverage. Jumping things maybe a little more aggressively and a lot of that revolves around the pass rush. As our pass rush increases with these guys coming into their second year, I think that will spark the turnovers a little bit, too."

 

This gallery features photos of current Bengals players at past NFL Combines (AP Photos)

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