BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals safety Cory Hall couldn't believe it.
Kevin Coyle, his fiery, intense defensive coordinator at Fresno State, had just been named the Bengals cornerbacks coach.
"Oh my goodness, that's good news," said Hall Thursday night. "He won't put up with much, that's for sure. He's into discipline.
"He'll be dealing with grown men and he might have to change a little bit," Hall said. "We had some knuckleheads at Fresno, but we've got good guys here.
"Coach Coyle knows football and I think this will help us," Hall said. "He walked into a free-lancing secondary at Fresno and turned it into a scheme."
But Hall also hoped that current secondary coach Ray Horton, now in charge of safeties, wasn't taking the fall for a tough year the Bengals gave up the fourth most touchdown passes in the NFL with 26.
"Ray could only do so much," Hall said. "He got us into position to make plays. That wasn't the problem. If you watch on TV, you can see that.
"If the receiver goes up between two guys and makes a play, how can you blame the coach?" Hall asked. "I just don't understand that. Like you're a puppet."
Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau relied on defensive coordinator Mark Duffner to make the move that splits the coaching duties.
Duffner noted at least eight NFL teams have two secondary coaches. LeBeau said he has the utmost confidence in Horton and that the move should be seen as the best way to use Coyle's ample abilities.
Horton couldn't be reached for comment. But players like Hall and the Bengals' two potential starting cornerbacks in rookies Robert Bean and Mark Roman welcomed a second secondary coach, as well as supporting Horton.
"They always say two is better than one," Roman said. "I don't think this is going to hurt us. I thought Coach Horton did a good job. He was a player and he's been around."
Hall is looking forward to working closely with Horton, as well as being reunited with Coyle's vigor. He knew where Coyle got it after spending a few minutes with Duffner, one of Coyle's mentors.
"A little midget Duff," Hall said. "Real intense. Knows his stuff. We watched a lot of NFL film with him. You're talking about (Steelers cornerback) Chad Scott's college coach, (Jacksonville safety) Donovin Darius' coach."
Hall played his junior and senior season for Coyle at Fresno and came away impressed how he created schemes that once produced six interceptions in six games for one of Hall's teammates.
"That's good having two coaches," said Bean, a fifth-round pick who emerged as the club's most dependable corner in starting four of the last six games.
"Everybody's an athlete, but Ray is good with technique," Bean said. "I would think more individual attention should help all of us."
As for Coyle, he and Duffner know they'll have to investigate how the other NFL teams do it with two DB coaches.
"There are quality coaches on this staff and all I'm trying to do is help as much and as fast as I can," Coyle said.
JACKSON TALKS AGAIN:** Contract talks with the Bengals and left tackle John Jackson are on again. But Jackson, who turned 36 Thursday, doesn't have a present yet.
Agent Richard Katz said Thursday recent talks have been productive and the sides are "relatively close," yet he emphasized there is more than one issue to resolve and a deal isn't imminent.
The issues are most likely money and length of the deal. Jackson appears to head into the 2001 season as the starter. When he was healthy, he started five of the last 10 games and is a huge favorite of LeBeau's.