Initial comments ...
"We just drafted Marquis Flowers, linebacker from Arizona. He's a former safety, kind of an athlete, 6-2 and a half, 230-plus pounds and ran 4.5 (seconds in the 40-yard dash) at his pro day. I spent a lot of time with him. He wasn't a combine guy, so I was out in Arizona at his pro day. We brought him here on a visit as well. So I really got to know the kid pretty well throughout the process, and we're excited to have him on the team."
What stands out about him?
"Just his athleticism. He's a tall, long kid, he ran a 4.5 and had a 37.5-inch vertical (leap) at his pro day. With the way the game is going these days and spreading out, he's more of an athletic-type of linebacker. He started at safety his first couple of years, and then he's played two years at linebacker. So I think there's some growth potential, since he's only been a two-year player at the position. Really, he's just a long, fast kid that can run and move in space. That carries some special teams value for us as we move forward with him. We're playing two-thirds of our snaps in nickel situations, and he's more of a space athlete than he is a 'take-on' guy. He's played some SAM for them. He's played over the tight end. He's done a lot. He's a pretty versatile athlete, and we see the same in him here."
How much does the athleticism as a safety help with what his transition will be to his role here?
"You guys see the same thing that I see, with the way the game is going these days. From the college game transition into the NFL, with the spread offenses, the linebacker position is starting to change slightly. This guy fits that mold of that. We used to call them 'undersized' linebackers, but this guy is 6-2 and a half, 230 pounds and can run. That sort of fits in with the game we're playing these days. Whether you like it or not, that's how things are."
He sounds pretty similar to current Bengals LB Emmanuel Lamur. Would you agree?
"Very similar. E-Man (Lamur) played some safety. E-Man is a little bit taller and longer than Marquis is. But there's a very similar kind of feel to that — a former safety transitioning to linebacker and may have gotten lost in the shuffle a little bit because of it. So I'm excited to have him."
You said he played SAM linebacker a little bit?
"Yeah. They (Arizona) played more of a 3-3-5 (alignment) college defense, so when they had some two-back stuff — which again, you don't see a lot in college — he played over the tight end on some of that stuff. He's played in space. He's walked down in cover-down like we see when offenses go three- and four-wide (receivers). He's been cover-down out in space there. He's played over the tight end. He's played stacked in the box. He's played some safety. So there's a lot to his game, and he's seen a lot of different stuff from a lot of different positions."
Is he a sixth-rounder because of his size and because he's a little bit of a tweener?
"Probably. Again, he's only played two years at the position, so not a lot of exposure there, he wasn't a combine guy, like I said, so there's those elements. I went to his Pro Day and there was only one other position coach there. He ran a 4.5 flat and some guys had him at 4.4 on their clocks out there. He jumped 37.5 inches. It was an impressive presentation at his Pro Day and there weren't a lot of people to see it there in person so that definitely kind of elevated my view of him. For an undersized guy he put 24 up on the bench. He's definitely got a lot of tools. He's an athletic kid, unheralded but that's good for us it worked out."
The Bengals are probably the poster children for linebackers not having to be first-round picks. Is there any reason for that?
"Just Paul (Guenther) before me, we try to do a good job of identifying those positions and evaluating. If you want to talk big picture, it's not necessarily an impact position in the draft. A lot of times teams value corners or rushers on defense specifically, so it kind of gets lost in the shuffle a little bit, and sometimes those guys get pushed down the board a little bit, because teams would rather take corners and rushers because you can't get enough of those guys. If you do a good job evaluating, I think we've done good work finding some late round guys and some free agents that are good prospects that hit on some things that we look for in a linebacker if you do your homework on those guys. We've got half the linebacker roster that are free agents for us that are playing right now. Honestly, I think it helps moving forward that we have the reputation that free agents or undrafted guys kind of look and say 'I can get a shot there.' Coach Lewis has always given those guys opportunities to play in those spots, and making the roster, and it kind of builds on itself to that we're an attractive place for players to want to come because they know they're going to get a chance to do that. Hopefully I keep that in the mix here. It's my first one, so we'll see."
Did you take your advice on trying not to get too worked up during the draft?
"You know what? You go in with that game plan, and it's definitely hard to follow it. Just seeing all the other players — seeing all the players you trained with and worked out with, even the ones you played — seeing where they go gets you wondering where you're going to go. I kept it pretty mellow, you know. I didn't get frustrated too much. When Coach Lewis called me and the Cincinnati Bengals called me, it was just one of the best feelings. I was just filled with joy."
Were you watching the draft on TV?
"I was watching it at home with my family. I have a lot of family members over. It was a great feeling to share with them, and also with my son. So it just came at the right time."
How old is your son?
"He turns two in August."
What's his name?
The Bengals brought you in for a visit. What's your reaction to winding up here?
"It was a great visit. They brought me in, they told me they really liked me. Obviously, we know, I was a late-round pick just because I was raw at linebacker. I talked with Coach Burke. He was looking forward to really working with me. He told me he really, really liked me. He was straight forward. That's what I really liked about him. He told me what I needed to work on. He told me what he would make me work on if I went out there. I'm just glad they pulled the trigger on me."
So you shifted from safety to linebacker after a couple years at Arizona. What was the timetable there?
"Yeah, it was after a couple years. I went in there my freshman year as a (Mike) Stoops recruit at safety. I played more at nickel safety my first year. In my second year, I was moved to strong safety after our other safety Adam Hall tore his ACL. So I was the back-end, deep-high safety. Then after that, coach Rich (Rodriguez) came in and moved me to linebacker before my junior year. It's just been a good transition. And obviously, I'm learning every day. I'm competitive and looking forward to learning from some of the best linebackers in Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga."
The Bengals have shown, for linebackers, it doesn't matter if you're a low-round pick or go undrafted ...
"Obviously not. Vontaze was undrafted, which is still crazy. Look what he's done; look what he's doing. He's a great player. He has fire. There are going to be a lot of guys that go undrafted. I'm just happy that my name was called in the sixth round. I've still got a lot of work to do. I've got a lot to prove. But I'm happy with the situation. I thank God and I'm ready to go to work."
As a former safety, do you think you have good cover skills for the linebacker position?
"Absolutely. It's just something I'm comfortable with. Obviously, it's different talent — a different level of competition — that I'm going to be trying to cover, but I'm confident in my skills. When I moved from safety, that's definitely one thing that stuck with me. I'm very comfortable in a passing situation."
You had quite a few team visits, didn't you?
"Yes sir, I went to Miami. I went to Tampa Bay. I went to Tennessee. Watching the draft, anytime one of those teams came up, you're heart stops a little bit. I would look at your phone and wait for a call. I was waiting for a while, let's just say that."
After visiting here, did you look at the Bengals roster and see what kind of opportunities they had at linebacker? "Definitely not. I know what the Bengals do. I know what the defensive coordinator does. He gets great players. I know the great players on the Bengals. I know Vontaze, I know that. I knew they wanted me. I had a real good vibe. It wasn't just a team that called me and said, 'If you slip out of everyone's hands, we'll get you.' This was a team that was persistent. Ever since my pro day, they were right there. It was definitely a team that I could feel that was going to take a chance on me. They took a shot, and I'm glad they did