Ryan Finley and Renell Wren News Conference
Brian Callahan, Offensive coordinator
Lou Anarumo, Defensive coordinator
Alex Van Pelt, Quarterbacks coach
Nick Eason, Defensive line coach
Initial comments ...
Callahan: “We took Ryan Finley after moving up in the fourth round. He’s a quarterback, and we’re really excited about his potential and his tape that he put on at N.C. State. I do want to make something very clear before we start, maybe eat some potential questions before we get going: Andy Dalton is our starting quarterback. That has not changed; that will not change. We think very highly of Andy and what he’s going to do in our offense, so we’ll get that out of the way to start. We do think competition is good. It’ll be good for our position. It’ll be good for the backup job for sure. For those guys to compete, it’s going to bring out the best in our quarterbacks for sure. We’re excited to get Ryan in here and get him started, and I’ll let Lou take over from here.”
Anarumo: “We’re very excited about our pick in Renell Wren from Arizona State. He’s just a big guy — 6-5, 318 pounds, ran well (at the combine) and he provides something that we don’t have right now inside, and that’s a guy with some size and some length. We’ve got shorter, stouter guys certainly — Geno (Atkins) is Geno; he’s in a different category — but what we’re playing with, this guy will get us a different look out there, which we’re excited about it.”
Eason: “Like Lou already mentioned, I’m excited to have a guy with some size and some length that we don’t have. (He gives us) a big body, obviously — I call him ‘Mt. Wren.’ I’m just excited to have him. He was really excited in talking to him on the phone. With him being an interior guy (on the defensive line), he has enough athletic ability to play multiple positions, so I’m looking forward to having him. We’re excited about the pick, and I think he’s going to be a great player. He has a huge NFL upside.”
It looks like with his ability to move, he could be an inside pass rusher as well ...
Eason: “Yes. He’s going to give you some pocket push. I’m going to coach him hard. He’s a smart kid. He’s been a team captain out at Arizona State University. His coaches (at Arizona State) like him and have a lot of good things to say about him. He’ll be great for the organization, great for the (defensive line) room. He’s a great character guy, and there’s no issues off the field. I’m excited to have him. He’s going to work hard and play hard.”
Alex, can you discuss Finley’s visit and his work on the coaches’ whiteboard?
Van Pelt: “He was exceptional. We put him through a process where we had him talk about protections and had about a half a dozen adjustments (on it), maybe more. He took a little break and came back in, Brian got him on the board, and he spit it out pretty much verbatim. We were impressed with his ability to learn and comprehend quickly.”
Is that highly unusual?
Van Pelt: “You would hope not for that position, but I’ve been in some (meetings) where they struggled, and he shined.”
He’s 25 years-old and played six years in college — it’s not like he doesn’t have a lot of game footage out there to evaluate, right? Was that a positive for you?
Van Pelt: “I love guys that throw a lot of balls in college. He had a good college career. He played a couple different places. On his tape at N.C. State, he was a guy that stood out to me from the beginning, with just his mechanics, his fundamentals, the accuracy — (he had a) 67 percent completion percentage — his ability to move within the pocket and make plays within the pocket, and his rhythm and his footwork. A lot of those things. He was a guy I kind of circled early on, and then watched the tape with Brian and said that this is a guy that at the right spot has a nice upside.”
The head coach, coordinator and position coach for Ryan have all played the same position — that’s almost unprecedented in today’s NFL ...
Callahan: “Philadelphia was like that two years ago. Indianapolis is like that a little bit right now, but not all the way through (the coaching staff) I don’t think. It’s probably becoming more common now than it has been. You can’t put me in the same level as Alex. You played for what, 15 years? But I do think there’s benefit when the offensive staff has a good enough quarterback experience. I think having someone, or at least one person, that’s played it always helps. The more people you have that know the position and what it takes to play it and to coach it, it only benefits the quarterback room. I think it’s a huge benefit to us.”
Finley was in two different systems at two different colleges in Boise State and N.C. State — is that a plus in your evaluation of him?
Callahan: “Any time you have guys that have played in one or multiple systems in different places, or any time that the guys go through that, you can tell they’re ready to handle the NFL load and NFL installation process. They’re always ready to handle the change that occurs at this level. So yeah, I think that’s a positive for him. Ultimately, what you see though in Ryan is a kid that makes really, really good decisions. He’s very accurate, he throws on time. Those are three things that we always value in the quarterback position: Decision-making, timing and accuracy. He displayed all three of those at a high level at N.C. State.”
You mentioned Renell Wren’s versatility, and that seems to be a theme. Is that a kind of statement that’s being made?
Callahan: “Yeah. When you look at what Zac (Taylor) has talked about since he took over, and us as a staff, we’re all trying to fall in line that way. As I think I mentioned to our guys yesterday, with Germaine (Pratt) and guys that make good decisions off the field... speaking of guys making good decisions on the field... these guys we’ve taken throughout the draft are those kinds of people. So we’re excited about it, both as players and good people.”
Wren’s got a lot of length and seems like the type of guy who can reach over the back of your shoulder. Is he that kind of guy? Is he that long?
Eason: “Absolutely. Any time in today’s game, you’re going to have your quarterbacks who can run, and you’re going to have your quarterbacks that can make pocket passes. He’s been doing a really good job of pushing the pocket, most definitely. He’s just got that natural size and length to do that. That’s something we don’t have. We’ve got some guys, some good players that are coming back, with Josh (Tupou) and (Ryan) Glasgow and Carl Lawson. Adding Wren to the puzzle, we’re going to have a really good defensive line.”
Coach (Eason), you’ve played in the division before. How does he fit in?
Eason: “You talk about character. When I played for a team I would not like to mention while sitting up here, it was on a very good defense. That defensive line, including myself, was composed of fourth- and fifth-rounders — guys who played hard and played for each other. That’s the culture we’re going to establish here — just get a good group of guys with good character that’s going to play hard and play for one another, and we’re going to win a lot of football games.”
Could Wren line up on the edge for you, or could he play outside as well?
Eason: “That’s to be determined right now. We’ve already talked about it, but he’s 6-5, 318. We don’t know right now. We’ve got to get him in and see how he fits, but the biggest thing is putting him in where he best fits.”
Is his pad-level good?
Eason: “I can get that lower with some work. He can bend. We’re excited to have him where he’s at. He’s going to add depth at that position, and we’re going to keep rolling.”
So he’s a good knee-bender?
Coach Van Pelt, what is a good weight for Finley? 245?
Van Pelt: “I think he was 213 at the combine. He’s got a slight frame right now, but he can probably hold 10 pounds max.”
Did you guys go home last night with this plan to trade up, or did that happen this morning?
Callahan: “We had had him targeted kind of all along as a quarterback that would fit for us at the right place. I don’t know if the plan was to trade up at the time that we left meetings last night, but we felt like he was there for the taking. Instead of trying to wait to see if he fell to us, we decided to go and get him.”
Are you aware of the Bill Parcells’ rules for drafting quarterbacks?
Callahan: “I’ve probably seen some version of it, but I don’t know if that’s exactly what I’ve got in my evaluation criteria. If I looked at my evaluation, I’m sure it would match pretty closely. He checked all the boxes for me.”
He was not the only quarterback that came up for a visit, but it was just the two of them?
Van Pelt: “It was him and a potential free agent from a smaller school. But this kid was our target.”
You only get so many of those visits. What was it about Ryan Finley that made you want to invite him here and really get to know him?
Callahan: “Any time you’re interested in a quarterback, you want to spend more time with him than what’s allotted at the combine. We just wanted to get him on the board. You want to drill down on the football knowledge, and then you want to get a feel for the person, just spending some time getting to know him. You don’t get that luxury at the combine, and you don’t get that luxury at the pro day either. To bring him in was important to make sure he was the type of player we coveted, and he checked the boxes in that regard. When you’re interested in quarterbacks, you have to spend a good amount more time with them than what’s allotted at the combine and pro day.”
Quarterback, North Carolina State University
Did you know you were the only quarterback the Bengals brought in for an individual visit?
“Yes I did.”
Did that give you an idea of the Bengals’ serious interest in you?
“I was really excited to have that visit. It was a really good visit. It’s exciting.”
What happened during the visit?
“The first night we went to Ruth’s Chris near the stadium with Coach Callahan (Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan) and Van Pelt (Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt). Then the next day I had meetings and sat down with Coach Taylor (Bengals head coach Zac Taylor). It was a really good day. I got to talk some ball with the coaches.”
There are rumors that you discussed protections, and you spit them back on the whiteboard without error ...
“I’m not sure if it was without error, but I did my best to recall everything. Protections are a big part of the next level, so that’s something I’m committed to learning. It was fun to be in the room with Coach Van Pelt and start talking ball. It was a good introduction into how hopefully the next few years will be.”
How similar and different were the things they discussed to N.C. State?
“It’s more complex. A lot of the base rules and understanding of fronts and coverages are the same. But it’s more complex. There’s more different looks to be ready for (in the NFL).”
Have you heard any pro comparisons to Andy Dalton?
“I don’t think so. I try not to pay attention to that stuff too much.”
Were there any that you did hear?
“I’ve heard the Jared Goff comparisons because of the frame. A few other guys, but that’s the one I remember.”
What do you do best as a quarterback?
“I’m a good decision-maker. I’m extremely accurate. I throw with anticipation. I know situational football and will always have our team in a good position to be successful.”
After the visit, did you think there was a chance the Bengals would pick you in this spot?
“Anything can happen in the NFL draft. I thought the visit went well. I remember thinking to myself how fortunate I’d be if I got to a place like the Bengals because of all the quarterbacks they have in the building. Coach Taylor, Callahan, Van Pelt all coached quarterbacks for a long time. I wanted to be around all those quarterback minds.”
The Bengals took your college teammate Germaine Pratt the round before you. Have you talked to him yet?
“No I haven’t. My phone has been blowing up. You guys are the first people I’ve talked to. I’ll reach out to him soon. It’s awesome. He’s been a professional for a long time the way he goes about his business. It was a phenomenal pick, and I’m excited to keep being his teammate.”
He was just saying earlier how shocked he was you were still available ...
Tell us about your athletic background ...
“I didn’t start playing football until my freshman year in ninth grade. As a kid, my main sports were hockey and basketball. I’m thankful for my parents for getting me involved in different sports at a young age. I grew up playing a ton of sports and still love playing a ton of sports. It’s definitely helped me become the athlete I am today. It helped develop that competitive nature. Basketball was a big love of mine in high school with football. But hockey was my first sport growing up.”
What did you like about hockey?
“I’m not sure. My dad grew up in Minnesota and played hockey. He’s been playing in men’s hockey leagues for 20 years now. It was something we could do together. When I got a little bit older, I kind of played on the same teams as my dad. I don’t know, my dad just kind of introduced it to me at a young age. He had grown up around the game, so that was kind of why.”
Did you make any other visits to anybody?
“Yes, I had two other visits.”
Where were those?
“I visited the Redskins and the Lions.”
The assumption here is that Bengals QB Andy Dalton is the starter, and you’ll come in and learn under him for at least a year. Are you comfortable with that role?
“Yeah. I’m ready to compete and ready to learn. I’m excited for the learning curve of the NFL. Obviously I’ve been in college for a long time, so I’m excited for that next step and next challenge. Whatever I need to do to help the team as soon as I can, I’m going to do that.”
Is there a quarterback or two that you admire and try to pattern your game after? Is there anyone you watch on tape regularly?
“Not really. I’ve watched so many of the great ones in the league. There’s different things you can learn from so many different guys. That’s one of the cool things about the NFL right now, which is just how many guys are being successful right now with unique ways of playing the game. There’s something you can learn from everybody.”
Are you excited about what you perceive to be the offense the Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and the coaches were talking to you about as you made your visit?
“Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a perfect fit for me.”
Is it similar to what you did at N.C. State? Are there similarities, or are you going to have to learn and re-learn?
“Yeah, I think it’s similar, it’s just a lot more. It’s some of the same words, but it’s more complicated. I have a really good start with west-coast (offense) verbiage and calling plays in my college career, dating back to Boise State and my offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz, with what he brought to N.C. State. I’m really fortunate for the offense I was able to play in college, and that’ll definitely help my transition to the Bengals.”
How have you been following the draft? Did you have any sort of family gathering or anything like that?
“I had a little deal last night with 10 people, which is what it is. I knew it was the NFL draft and anything could happen. I had a couple of friends over last night, but it wasn’t too big of a deal. Then this morning, I’ve just got some close family over.”
Were you anticipating about this point in the draft? Were you thinking earlier? What were you thinking? Were you just saying that you didn’t want to be disappointed or surprised, and just let it unfold that way? What was your mindset?
“I think my mindset was just to not have too many expectations. That was kind of the advice I had gotten, but it’s hard not to just hope you go earlier. For the most part, I wanted a really good fit. I think this is a great fit for me, and so I was really excited to get that call from Coach Taylor. I had been in the building and had been around everyone and just knew if I was there, that was a place I would feel really good about going. It was more about fit. A lot of people close to me made sure they kept echoing that message to me.”
Since you had such a good visit, when they picked in the third round, did you perk up a little bit and pay closer attention?
“Yeah I think so. It’s mostly common knowledge what teams are thinking about going with a quarterback. Definitely since I had visited them, I kind of perked up for sure. But I was also pretty happy when they took Germaine Pratt.”
Your N.C. State bio says that you’re going to earn two master’s degrees. Do you already have those?
“Just one master’s degree, and then a graduate certificate. But a lot of people would just rope those into two master’s degrees. That would be pretty impressive. The second one is just a certificate.”
Give us a scouting report on Pratt from a quarterback’s eyes. I know you didn’t play against him, but in practice every day, seeing what he’s capable of, what do you think about him as a linebacker in the NFL?
“One thing people don’t know about Pratt is that he’s extremely intelligent. He watches more film than any player I’ve ever been around, and it’s not even close. It’s really not even close. It’d be so frustrating in practice because he’d be calling out our plays before we even ran them. He already knew what was coming. He’s very intelligent, athletic, fast, and he’s just aggressive. In my opinion, he’s exactly what you’d want in a linebacker. On top of that, he’s very smart.”
He was singing your praises in the cafeteria as well. He said, ‘Man, I can’t believe he’s not off the board yet. I hope he comes here.’ Then boom, two minutes later, that trade happens. It’s crazy ...
Defensive tackle, Arizona State University
What did you think of Bengals defensive line coach Nick Eason, with him having played in the league and having tremendous success? What’s your thought on having him as your coach?
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior for the opportunity to play at the next level. The other thing is that I’m just ready to get to work. From me playing in the all-star game in January, to the combine and all of this pre-draft stuff, it’s been a minute away from football. Once it’s time to step on the field at minicamp, it’s time to go at it.”
What do you think you do best?
“What I think I do best is my physicality — my explosiveness off the line and my first step. Being selected at the next level now and just working more ... everything is going to come together. I’m just ready.”
How would you describe your style of play if somebody asked?
“My style of play is a lot of power. I’ve been watching Chris Jones from the Chiefs and Fletcher Cox from the Eagles a lot — being a big body in the middle, collapsing the pocket and being a disrupted force. That’s my style of play — being powerful and a bull in the middle.”
They were excited about getting your length and your wingspan. They don’t have that inside with their defensive linemen. They have a different structure and different stature. Is that something you find to be a big edge for you in catching up?
“Correct, most definitely.”
What’s your big advantage in that? How do you use that to your advantage?
“When I played at Arizona State this previous season, they lined me up over the center a lot at nose. Just being able to be right next to the ball and having that feeling that, when the ball is snapped, I’m using the God-given ability I have, which is my strength, to lock my arms out and create disruption up the middle. Also, being able to play the run on first and second down. I was worried about doing pass rush on third down. The big thing is to just get after it every play and be competitive.”
So you played a lot of nose, 1-technique, 3-technique? Did you ever kick outside?
“I have. I have not kicked outside and played end, but I did play a little bit at the Reese’s Bowl this past January.”
How’d that go?
“It went well. I haven’t played defensive end since my freshman year in college. Ever since they put me in the interior my sophomore year, I stayed there.”
It took you a while to get some time on the field at Arizona State as a starter. What kept you off the field initially?
“The biggest thing was consistency. That’s been improved I think. I had all of the upside, physicality and knowledge of the game. That all gotten way better for me. Now it’s putting those things together and doing it all of the time. That’s what I’m here to prove.”
Do you think there’s still some upside to you?
“I feel like I’ve reached my full stride, but there’s more to come with it. I’ve been proving since the All-Star game that I can convince coaches I can provide a lot to the team. For the Bengals to put that trust in me is great. The sky is the limit.”
So it’s about doing it on a snap-by-snap basis?
Brian Callahan, Offensive coordinator
Jim Turner, Offensive line coach
Initial comments ...
Callahan: We moved up and took Michael Jordan, a center/guard from Ohio State. We love his position versatility. He can play all of the interior spots. He’s big and has size and athleticism. He checks all of the boxes for us. It’s fun to get another local kid in here as well. He’s a really good player and has everything we’re looking for on the interior of the offensive line.”
It seems versatility is a point of emphasis for this offensive line ...
Turner: “Going into every game, you end up bringing seven linemen. Unlike in college where they compete for positions, here they have to play two or three spots. With our first pick, we got a guy (Jonah Williams) we feel could play any position. And with this guy, we think he could play guard or center. In a pinch, he has the length to get you out of a game at tackle. Those are all critical factors for us. I’m in love with this pick. Character-wise, he’s A-plus. He’s got the video to prove that he rates well too.”
Is the sheer size of the players the Bengals have taken on both sides of the line of scrimmage a common denominator?
Turner: “I’ll speak for the offensive line. Those inside players, when they’re big, it helps. He (Jordan) has that width. One thing I love in players on the line is width. They have the body type to be a big mass inside. He’s got that. The other big thing for him is intelligence. He’s a smart player. He started his freshman and sophomore year at guard. When Billy Price got drafted here last year, there was a hole in the middle (at OSU). They took him going into his junior year and made him the center. They don’t do that often. They obviously respected his intelligence.”
Now you have multiple guys that are capable calls, seeing the same thing ...
Turner: “That’s a huge plus for us here. We have a player that we invested in with Billy (Price) that felt had all of the things necessary to rate a first round pick. And to have a guy like that in the building that can give Michael a character reference is great. He’s been there with him in those battles. It’s very helpful to us.”
It looks like you’re trying to build something specific with this offensive line?
Callahan: “Any time you build an offensive line, the guys that play well together are usually the better lines. You have to have talent, no question. But when you look at the best ones around the league, they have chemistry, they communicate together, they see the same things. When you build with a bunch of guys that are intelligent, they start making calls together. It almost becomes unspoken. That’s the goal; to get that type of chemistry among the group. We’ve added guys that we feel will end up in that sort of mode. We want guys that love playing football, that can play a bunch of positions, and who want to compete. They want to get after people. Those things are important. The character of that group is important. We’re trying to build a group that wants to attack people.”
Are some of these traits particular to the scheme that was missing from last year?
Turner: “Speaking about the two we’ve drafted, the major traits that both have are athletic ability and running. As you’ve seen from the scheme, if you’re a tackle, you have to be able to cut off on the backside. If you’re a guard, you have to be able to run and get outside. They both have that. The size of Mike, he’s close to 6-6, 310 pounds. He’s a massive human being, but he has a 32’ vertical jump. Athletically, they’re explosive and can run. They can move big bodies. Those are critical pieces to our line. When you combine all of those things, they also have to be smart. You have to be smart to play and succeed in this offense.”
Plus, your new tight end, Drew Sample, appears to be part of the blocking package ...
Turner: “That’s right.”
How much did you drop in on the tight end evaluation?
Turner: “We’ve got a lot of coaches on this staff that are well-versed in tight ends. I’m probably the least of them. I left that to them. I did evaluate him, and he’s a perfect fit for what we’re doing.”
It clearly shows you’re intent on running the ball more this year ...
Callahan: “You’re going to have to be able to run the ball in the league. This best teams at the end of the year do that well. It sets up everything. I believe the offense runs through the offensive line. The offensive line takes you as far as you want to go. If they’re moving people off the ball, that helps us mix in the play actions, the screens to attack defenses. Without making any proclamations, we’re going to want to run the ball and run it well. These picks have all lent themselves to that.”
Controlling the game on that side helps the defense too ...
Callahan: “It makes everything better. Certainly the defense appreciates it. You possess the ball and win time of possession, and that factors into winning football games.”
Turner: “Plus offensive linemen don’t want to play on teams that throw the ball 70 times a game. Linemen want to run block. Wearing that body down is all part of that. That’s part of the philosophy as well.”
Callahan: “I want to add that there’s a benefit to the pass-blocking game too. Their size and athleticism helps that. Any quarterback you talk to wants the middle of the pocket to be firm. You can deal with edge rushers. But when the middle of the pocket is firm, the quarterback feels comfortable stepping up and sitting in there. I don’t want that part to get missed; pass protection is also a critical part of this. These guys fit what we’re looking for.”
It seems there will be lot of motion run blocking ...
Callahan: “We like to have things that start out looking the same, but play out different.”
Guard, Ohio State University
Have you heard from Billy Price yet?
“I have not heard from Billy Price yet, but I expect to hear from him.”
With a name like Michael Jordan, born on kickoff for Super Bowl XXIII in Fairfield, Ohio. Now you’re a Cincinnati Bengal. What’s your life like right now?
“I’m really excited right now. I can’t wait to get down to Cincinnati. It’s been a huge dream of mine to play for the Bengals since I was a kid.”
You were part of chain at Ohio State of players moving from guard to center. What is the advantage in doing that? How much do you think that helps you at the next level?
“I think it helps me with the mental aspect of the game. It helped me get a lot smarter and understand football more. Now I don’t have to think as much, and I can just react. I think it helped me in that way.”
Making all the calls, recognizing the fronts — that sort of thing?
Who are some of your favorite Bengals growing up?
“My favorite Bengals were Rudi Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Johnson, Carson Palmer. I liked those guys when I was a kid.”
Who was your favorite offensive lineman?
“My favorite lineman to play for the Bengals? It’d have to be Anthony Munoz. I had a chance to meet him when I was a kid.”
What was that like?
“It was amazing. It was a unique experience, and he gave me something to look up to, something to go chase after.”
What do you think of Bengals’ offensive line coach, Jim Turner? Have you had much interaction?
"Yes, I talked to him. He’s a great coach, and a perfect coach for me.”
Have you been told if you’re going to play guard or center, or will you just compete inside and see where it takes you?
"I’ll play wherever Coach Turner tells me to play.”
Did you get down here to Cincinnati much to see games?
“No, I did not.”
What do you think your best attribute is? What’s the biggest thing you bring to the table?
“I feel like my best attribute is that I’m a competitor. I love to win. That’s what you need in a football player, so I think that’s going to help me on my journey with the Bengals.”
Playing at Ohio State, in that program and in the Big 10, do you feel like that was really a big factor in grooming you to be ready for the National Football League?
"Yes. I feel like Ohio State has prepared me to play in the National Football League, and I can’t wait to show the world what Ohio State produces.”
How have you spent today?
“I’ve just been with my family members at my house, just really trying to enjoy every single moment of it because it only happens once.”
Have you been following the Bengals’ draft? Have you seen the other guys on a round-by-round basis, or any of your future teammates in the draft?
“The only guy I remember is the tackle out of Alabama (Jonah Williams).”