Don't forget tale of tape

Posted: 6 a.m.

(In the weeks leading up to the April 28-29 NFL Draft, Bengals.com periodically checks in with secondary coach Kevin Coyle.)

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Coyle

INDIANAPOLIS — The interviews began Wednesday night.

The weigh-ins start Thursday at dawn.

The prospects first meet the media some time Thursday afternoon. The parade of on-field drills begins Friday.

The numbing detail of the NFL scouting combine has begun in the RCA Dome and its environs, and Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle is going to be as immersed as any of the owners, league and team officials, agents, or doctors who have a huge stake here.

But not that immersed.

"To see them on film do certain things, like accelerate when the ball is in the air and turn the hips and run is not always indicated by a fast 40 or a great shuttle run," Coyle said of game tape earlier this week. "Those are things that usually separate guys in the draft."

This week's drills are important, of course. But not more important as the week Coyle spent last month shivering at Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala., with the rest of the Bengals staff. Not more important than the 15 minutes the teams spend in interviews with 60 of the 330 prospects this weekend. Not more important than the tapes of this weekend that will be shipped to the team offices for viewing as soon as next week.

"It's all part of piecing together the whole picture of a guy," Coyle said.

And really, how important is that 15-minute interview? It will be heavily stressed this week outside the Bengals interview room because the club has put some pressure on themselves internally to emphasize character and intelligence after a disastrous 14 months off the field.

But cornerback Johnathan Joseph, the club's first-round pick and arguably the team's Rookie of the Year, wasn't one of the 60 Cincinnati interviewed last year at the combine. Joseph is the last of nine players arrested when he was picked up for marijuana possession last month, but he didn't have a history of it before the draft and the club considers it a one-time blip.

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Joseph

"If you're really going to get serious about drafting a guy, you're going to need to spend more than 15 minutes with a guy," Coyle said. "I probably spent three hours with Johnathan just watching film in the South Carolina (football) offices getting to know him. Just watching tape with him, asking him questions about what was going on, getting to know him as both a person and a player. Just me and him, and hopefully you get them to open up a little more."

That is all post-combine work, beginning next month and lasting into early April when the coaches head to a handful of campuses for the individual workouts that have dwarfed the combine in the last decade. They follow up the work done by the personnel staff the previous spring and fall.

Coyle tries to fly into a workout the night before so he can take the prospect to dinner and spend time with him in the film room. He remembers driving across Oklahoma two years ago to meet with late Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams at an Applebee's and how an impressionable lunch changed Coyle's outlook on a kid who had some off-field baggage. It's a determination that the Broncos concurred with when they selected Williams in the second round.

But Coyle says the combine interviews aren't a waste, either. It was a major reason the Bengals selected LSU left tackle Andrew Whitworth last season in the second round.

The interviews are attended by the personnel staff, head coach Marvin Lewis, special teams coach Darrin Simmons, the offensive and defensive coordinators, the position coach, and any other coach that wants to sit in. Usually at the end of the interview, Coyle gets to ask a question or two about what he has seen on film or at the Senior Bowl.

Was the coverage blown on a particular play? What is usually your responsibility in that defense? Why did you come out the snap before?

"You see how a guy reacts in a group situation; it's basically an icebreaker," Coyle said. "Is he bright-eyed? Can he speak intelligently? Can he communicate or does he struggle in group settings. What is his demeanor? Does he look you in the eye?

"But the combine is such a structured deal," he said. "You're sitting in a room with 10 people. You may be talking to a guy who is on his 12th or 15th team doing an interview and they've been coached by agents what to say."

And, there is always that game tape.

"You want to see how they run, sure," Coyle said. "But you've got to go back and watch them play."

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