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2021 NFL Draft

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Find Out What Zac Taylor, Frank Pollack and Jackson Carman Said After Round Two

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Head coach

Take us through the decision-making process in trading down in the second round, from pick No. 38 to 46?

"We felt like there would be some good options moving back eight spots. Then we get some good ammunition for later in the draft. In hindsight, we feel good about our decision. We got a guy we were really high on."

Was Carman the player you were coveting?

"We would have taken him at No. 38, and felt really great about that. We moved back, got the player we wanted, and got some picks later on."

He played in high-level games in college at Clemson. How much of a factor was that?

"He's got great experience. He'll come in and compete at guard for us. He's played a lot of tackle at Clemson. We feel good about the position flexibility there, but he'll come in and compete at guard right away."

Do you see him playing OT eventually?

"Absolutely. He's done it for a long time there at a very high level. He has great athleticism. He's shown he can do it against really good competition. You can turn on the tape and see him do it against a bunch of guys that went in the first round of the draft the last few years. He held his own, and we certainly feel like there's a lot of upside with Jackson."

Do you feel like you can take advantage of the draft's depth now?

"We're in a really good position here as the next couple of rounds unfold."

Your first two picks this year were college teammates with your first two picks from last year. How much does intel from guys in the locker room help when you're gathering information about these prospects?

"We take all the information we can get. It's not the deciding factor, but we weigh everything we can find. Having great conversations with Coach Dabo Sweeney down in Clemson, he's really helped us with Tee (Bengals WR Tee Higgins) and Jackson. I feel like we're in position to get some good players out of players at those programs, and it's paid off for us."

How challenging is it to parse through all these offensive line prospects in the mix?

"We've done a ton of work on these offensive linemen over the last couple of months, weeks, days, and hours. We're looking for guys that fit us, that we have a vision for, that fit things that we want to do, and that will come in and upgrade us at that position. You'll get a chance to hear from Frank Pollack sometime tonight, but we really felt like this was a guy that we have a great vision for that will come in, compete and give us a lot of flexibility."

Is his athleticism one of the selling points?

"Yes. I think he has tremendous athleticism. There's a lot of things we like about this guy. He can anchor, pass protect, and has great movement in the run game. He has high football intelligence. In talking to him over Zoom the last few weeks, its really impressive how quickly he'll walk in and understand the schemes. He's just a really impressive person when you talk to him."

He has had a few medical issues recently. Do you feel good about where he is medically?

"Yes we do."

What was your conversation like with him when you called him to tell him he was being drafted by his hometown team?

"I told him, 'Welcome home.' He made a comment that he'll be there quickly. I'm unclear if he's here in town or back in South Carolina, but he sounded like a guy who's very excited to come to Cincinnati. From our conversations over Zoom, primarily with Frank as I listened in, he sounded like he had a high regard for coming back home."

When you saw how many offensive linemen were on the board after last night, did you know trading back was the move? Or were you waiting for the right offer?

"Both. We weighed both of those, for sure. It's not just trading back to trade back. You have to get the right value. I thought we got great value moving back. When you trade back and you have a player you want, you are crossing your fingers there. Those seven minutes feel like seven hours as the seconds tick off, but we're very happy with how it turned out for us."

He did pre-draft training with former Bengals OT Willie Anderson and former Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander. Did you talk with either of them at all about him?

"We do our best to utilize every resource. As you evaluate over 400 prospects, you don't get a chance to talk to everybody they may be working with outside of the program. That's always the challenge; figuring out who those people are and who to talk to. I'm not going to pretend that we reached out to everyone he worked with."

He played mostly OT at Clemson. Why do you see him as a G with the Bengals?

"That's the question, because all the game tape is him playing tackle. From conversations with guys down there, they cross-train all guys down there, so he gets a lot of work at guard as they develop younger guys at tackle. He has plenty of work there. In conversations with him, he feels comfortable playing wherever you need him on the line to make sure we get our best players on the field. I know he's excited for the competition. We're ready to get him back in the fold."

Did you feel comfortable getting a guy you liked at 38?

"I think there's a lot of linemen in the mix. Then a smaller number we really targeted. Just because there's a lot of guys available doesn't mean they're targets for us. We're pleased how this played how with Jackson."

From a personality standpoint, are you looking for offensive linemen that have a little bit of an edge to them?

"This guy has good size. We like smart football players, too. That means something to us. With the addition of Riley (Bengals OT Riley Reiff) and with the addition of Jackson, we've done that. We've continued to add guys who have a great understanding and love for the game of football, on top of the guys we already have in the mix. We're starting to feel really good about that group and who we have in there to compete."

Do you like where the offensive line is as a whole right now?

"I do. I think we're moving in a great direction. I'm anxious for Frank to get on the field and work with these guys. Now we're at a part of the draft where players you have value on could slide, and you get opportunities to keep adding quality to your team. We'll see how the rest of the draft shakes out for us."

OT Hakeem Adeniji was someone who seemed to have a good rookie season in 2020, and he probably would've been a higher pick if he were in this year's draft. How do you see him fitting in to the mix this year?

"I agree. Hakeem has a lot of potential. We're really excited about his future. We're really excited about the future of some of the younger linemen we have in the building here. We have some veterans, too, that are made of the right stuff that are here to compete. They're not just here to be a placeholder. These guys are competing and want to play as well. We really feel good about the depth of those positions we're creating. The overall football intelligence and character of that room is really trending in the right direction for us."

Could you see Carman being the opening day starter at LG?

"I don't want to make any predictions. We'll see how quickly they can adapt to life in the NFL. I certainly think he's going to compete for an opportunity to be a starting player for us."

How did things go with Ja'Marr Chase today, in his first day at Paul Brown Stadium?

"It looks like he's on cloud nine. He's really excited to be here. You can tell he's very genuine. His family is excited for him. They're great people that we had a chance to interact with. It was good to finally get a chance to meet him. I didn't get to go to his Pro Day, and had only been on Zooms and phone calls with him. It was good to finally meet him."


Offensive line coach

Can you evaluate Jackson Carman for us?

"He's a big, physical lineman that has big, nimble feet and gives us good position flex at both guard and tackle."

How do you feel he fits on the team right now? Do you see him competing for a starting spot?

"Absolutely. He's going to come in and compete for starting spot at guard and have the ability to swing out (to) tackle in the future, if and when needed."

What is the biggest challenge a guy who has played nothing but tackle in college has to make in transitioning to guard in the NFL?

"Well, the action is going to happen a lot faster when you go inside. He's going to have to take on guys sooner, a little quicker — he's not going to have the time and space he's used to working with. He's going to have to anchor a lot faster. He's going to be dealing with a little more powerful, stronger players inside. He's shown to have all the strengths to be able to make that transition."

How many pro days did you go to this year? Was it more than usual leading up to the draft?

"That's a good question. I don't know. Nine or 10 maybe? That's more than I have (attended) in the past, for sure."

What was your biggest takeaway from the pro day at Clemson?

"I did not make Clemson's pro day in person. He missed his first one with some of his medical conditions, but he had a second one I did not attend. He just did some of his measurable stuff."

What are a couple of things you like to look for in a potential offensive lineman?

"Feet, No. 1. Use of hands. Does this guy show a love of football, look to finish (and) play with some (nastiness)? Change of direction — can he bend? Does he sink his hips? Those are some of the top ones."

The game has changed and you're not holding the ball as long as you used to as a quarterback today. What's it like as an offensive line coach where you're looking for guys in the second round to play tackle and guard as opposed to at the top of the first?

"It's the ultimate team game. I'm not quite sure how to answer that, but the receiver we took at five is going to have just as much of an impact in the run game as anyone else because he's going to dictate coverage. That's a great thing. From a pass game perspective and protecting with the offensive line, the ball's going to come out, so there's a lot of guys that you can still take in the second, third (and) fourth round and develop into starters who are guys that might even have a faster development window in the second round, so I'm not at all concerned not being able to pick a guy at five, if that's what you were trying to ask me."

I was really just asking for you what it's been like to see the development of the game and philosophies shift regarding to what pass blocking and time of release are like today ...

"I'm not quite sure how to answer that. Everyone's going to have multiple drops — as far as QB drops and timing (are concerned) — or at least the smart teams do. You tend to want to get the ball off quick, on time and in phase, but my approach to coach the offensive line does not really lean on that timing as much. We've got to block for as long as it takes to win, as I say in my room, and I don't really concern myself with those type of issues as far as the offensive line (goes). But yeah, the game has evolved — a lot more passing, a lot more timing. I know what I watched from last year's season was a lot more empty sets. Our quarterback likes those, and knows where to go with the ball. That's always a plus from an offensive standpoint ... I would say it's offensive line friendly for sure, with him getting a good release and getting the ball out quickly."

Jackson may have been put into some precarious situations in terms of protections at Clemson, but when you're evaluating a player, you don't really look at what they do as much as you do the athlete and how his play will fit into your scheme, correct?

"Yeah, for the most part. I'm going to look a little bit at their scheme, whether that's maybe a plus or a minus to come to a decision on his developmental curve, if you will, (and) what's foreign to him and what he's got really good exposure to in college experience-wise, and some of the schematics and techniques that we teach here at this level. But for the most part, it's really evaluating the athlete and the offensive line from a fundamental standpoint, his ability to transfer that college tape to the NFL game."

You like to get your hands on these guys to evaluate them in person. Were you able to do that with Carman?

"No, I did not see him in person. I had multiple Zoom calls with him. Typically, from where I've been (in the past), it's been the (NFL) Combine from the stands watching a guy, and then you make your decision on tape, and then you visit with him maybe 15 or 20 minutes at the Combine, and that's about it. I've had more interaction with this guy than (others) I've had all my other years normally, so I'm not concerned with not going to see him in person, per se. I've had enough Zoom meetings and evaluated enough tape."

Could you see him competing for a starting role this year?

"Yeah absolutely. Absolutely. He's going to come in and compete for a starting job this year, no question."


Offensive tackle, Clemson

Describe the feeling when you got the call from your hometown team ...

"As soon as I saw the 513 (area code) pop up on my phone, everything instantly hit me at once. It was an amazing feeling. Knowing that I was going to be able to be home, it's indescribable."

Were you a Bengals fan growing up?

"I was born in Cincinnati, but I never had a favorite NFL team growing up. I always had a favorite player, to be honest about that. My favorite football player of all time has always been Anthony Munoz. Just being able to watch his greatness, just everything he was able to do and just knowing that I'm going to be able to be a part of an organization that brings a pedigree like that as an offensive lineman. And being close to guys like Willie Anderson and Andrew Whitworth and knowing everything about the history of what the Bengals have to offer, it's just amazing. I've always rooted for the Bengals whenever they were playing because they are my hometown team. So, for me to be in this position to stay home, be with my family and (offer) support back into some communities is awesome. So, I'm super excited."

When you think about the draft process, did you think there was a chance the Bengals would draft you, or did you have an inclination that maybe someone else had their eye on you?

"Definitely. I knew there was a high possibility for the Bengals to draft me, and others as well. I'm just super excited it worked out the way it did."

With your position versatility, any problems with playing the guard position versus tackle?

"No problems at all. I'm definitely the type of guy who's a team player. Whatever the team needs me to do for the team to win, I'm going to do it. If that means being able to play guard, it's something I'm going to do at the highest level. I'm excited for my opportunity, wherever it's going to be."

How many snaps at guard have you taken?

"In a game? Never. But in practice, especially my freshman year (at Clemson), I would run in when guys went down, and things like that."

What does it say about you as a player that both Zac Taylor and Frank Pollack both said out of the gate that you're going to come in and compete for a starting spot right away? What does that say about you as a player?

"That's always been my mentality from the get-go. At the next level, there will just be that higher level of competition. So, I'm excited for the opportunity to be able to come in, and I'm honestly just honored and grateful that they think of me in that light. I'm just excited and ready to get to work."

What do you think you need to improve on?

"I think just every part of my game. (I'm a) young guy with a lot of room to improve. But specifically, just overall — my consistency and my technique, and just continue to improve my body and my football IQ, and just getting ready for the next level."

Tee Higgins tweeting some excitement after you got picked. Have you thought about the idea of reuniting with Tee?

"That's one of the first things I thought about. He's probably one of my favorite college receivers of all time. Being able to watch him do what he does, and just his strength at the point of attack on the ball, is remarkable. So knowing I will be able to play with one of my favorite players of all time and one of my good friends is awesome."

Heading into the draft, were you physically preparing to play tackle or guard, or now do you make some adjusting now that you may be playing some more guard in Cincinnati?

"Yeah, I'm definitely prepared physically to play any position. Physically, I was training to play tackle and also took some three-point guard reps as well. I've been just trying to be well-rounded."

When you were playing at Fairfield High School four years ago, could you even picture or dream of a better scenario?

"I could not picture a better scenario. It's crazy thinking about when the journey with football began in life, and bringing me back to my family and my home. It's something I'm proud of and excited for."

Have you ever been to a game here at Paul Brown Stadium?

"I've never been to an actual football game at Paul Brown Stadium. I think I went to a preseason game when you guys played the Giants, but I've never been to an actual (regular season game). I've actually never be to an NFL (regular-season game) for any team."

What did you learn from Willie Anderson? How has he helped you?

"Willie Anderson is literally the definition of the G.O.A.T., and I definitely think he should have a gold jacket around him sometime soon. Just being able to learn technique, philosophy and mindset from him, and just being able to watch someone who's been there and done it at the highest level is really special. And just for him to be part of my journey, I could not have been blessed more."

Are you with Fairfield High School Head Football Coach Jason Krause right now, and who else is with you tonight?

"My high school coaches, my family, some of my old teammates. We have a pretty good crew here."

You were asked what you need to work on. What's the strength of your game? When you look at yourself as a football player, what do you think you do best?

"I definitely think I'm a very smart, intelligent, instinctive football player who has a good mind for the game. I think I'm a great athlete. I have great natural balance and athleticism. I think I play with great effort and intensity and really try to finish people. I'm always looking for ways to get better."

There's a lot of chatter around Cincinnati about being able to protect Joe Burrow and keep him upright. What's that like for you to come in and make sure No. 9's jersey stays clean?

"That's just been what I do. I blocked for the No.1 pick this year (Jaguars QB Trever Lawrence) and so, I'll be blocking for another No. 1 pick. It's the same thing, just going in and doing my job at the highest level. It's a blessing to be able to protect Joe Burrow. It's even crazier knowing that I was just playing against him two years ago (in the National Championship). It's really an amazing full-circle experience."

You're from a football area — Cincinnati. Greater Cincinnati is known for football. Talk about how that benefitted you going into college and really getting you ready to go into the program ...

"Southwest Ohio football is tough. It's definitely extremely physical. For me going into college, I just tried to play hard and put my head down and go to work. With southwest Ohio football, we have cold weather, intense games and student sections. I'm really grateful that I was able to play at Fairfield and go against the competition I went against. Even guys on my team, like Malik Vann, helped prepare me for the next level. So, I'm really blessed to have been able to play here."

Does one high school game stand out?

"I played in 51 high school games, so there were a bunch of crazy games. Probably one of the most energetic games I was a part of was my sophomore year when we played Elder at 'The Pit' in the first round of the playoffs. It was incredible."

Why Clemson coming out of high school?

"I just thought that Clemson was a great program. I really made good friends with the different recruits in my class like Trever (Lawrence), David Thomas, K.J. (Henry) and just tons of guys who I thought were really good people. I knew I was going to be having great competition coming in a freshman, going against guys like Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence — I knew I was going to be playing against the highest level every day. I just thought it was a great fit for me."

What was tonight like for you not knowing when you would be picked? Second, third round. How was it before, leading up to the great moment when you got the phone call?

"It was magical. No matter where I got picked or when I got picked, just for me to have all of the people who I love around me, it's just really special. And so, for me to be with my family, especially since I've been all over the country, where I was training in Dallas, going to school in Clemson, it's been difficult for me to be able to see them. But having everyone in one place, no matter what happened, I was going to be happy having my people around me."

You mentioned that game against Elder. What was it that made that game stick out to you? What do you remember about that game?

"I don't know if you've ever been to 'The Pit,' but it's literally the definition of the name. It's literally just a pit in the ground, and all of the sound comes right onto the field. So, that student section had their shirts off. It's an all-boys school. They are screaming and you can't hear anything. It's definitely one of the most intense playoff environments for a high school anywhere in the country."

How much do you know about the AFC North? Defensive lines and defensive coordinators who get sophisticated with their schemes. Are you excited to compete in the AFC North?

"Yeah, I'm super excited. The level of talent, the guys who are professionals. Just being able to prove myself and to be able to challenge myself and go against some great players. I'm super excited for it."

How many people do you have over at the house?

"I couldn't tell you the number, but we have a pretty good crew that showed up."

You mentioned your respect and reverence for Anthony Munoz. Have you spent time with Anthony?

"I have not spent personal, one-on-one time with Anthony yet. But in high school, I was nominated for the Anthony Munoz Award for high school, so I was able to meet him there and that was a really good experience."

Did Willie Anderson give you any advice about the draft?

"Just to keep my head down and be patient, and to just be grateful for whatever happens. That's been my mindset the whole time. Honestly, I couldn't imagine it working out better."

How different were the techniques when you were working with Willie Anderson and then you worked with Paul Alexander? How different were the techniques you were taught?

"Well, they were hand-in-hand. Both of their techniques balanced and worked off of each other, and a lot of the same things because they did some great things in their time together. So, really both of their coaching styles complement each other."

What's going to be the toughest challenge at guard?

"I don't think there's a significant challenge. I think just getting used to it and getting reps. I think it's going to be fine. I think it's going to be great."

Did you ever own a Bengals jersey, shirt or hat growing up?

"I have some Bengals t-shirts. Most definitely."

If there's one thing that Willie Anderson taught you among many things, what was the one thing that you really took away and said, 'Man, I just really never knew about this position in the NFL'?

"I love the way he ques himself up, meaning by that like the different mental things you think about to help prepare your body for the rep or the play or whatever, going against whether it's your mind or engaging your core, just like activating different muscles and points. He was very in tune with his body and his mind when he was playing. Definitely great things to be able to learn."

Did you have a back thing you were dealing with? Were you concerned about how teams might view that coming into the draft?

"It was a little bit of a concern. I played the last five games of the season with a herniated disk, and I had surgery on the 19th of January. I really was able to have a great recovery, and I'm glad I got it taken care of early to heal well and recover well. I'm really blessed that it was identified. Obviously, I knew it could have been a concern with the draft, but I think that all the NFL teams knew about it, and it was very obvious that my health was progressing well."

How does this compare to winning a National Championship?

"It's right up there. It's one of the best moments of my life. It's surreal and just amazing. Those moments are really just indescribable. It's just great to be in the moment and experience it."

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