Lewis leaves speed bumps on draft

4-27-03, 9:20 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals' depth chart just got a little tighter in the later rounds as Marvin Lewis first draft as head coach wound down Sunday night at Paul Brown Stadium.

The addition of speedy outside linebacker and special teams ace Khalid Abdullah at the top of the fifth round throws new light on a position where there has been little turnover recently. The offensive line, already in transition with the second-round pick of Iowa guard Eric Steinbach, got more crowded when seventh-round selection Scott Kooistra of North Carolina State emerged as a backup guard-tackle candidate.

Young, athletic bodies also got thrown into the mix on the defensive line with the addition of South Carolina's Langston Moore at tackle in the sixth round and Central Florida's Elton Patterson at end in the seventh round as Lewis drove home his best-athlete-on-the-board philosophy

Lewis' effort "to cycle," youth through the roster began in earnest as the Bengals try to finally make hay on the second day of the draft. The only starters drafted on the second day since 2000 are kicker Neil Rackers and safety Marquand Manuel, and Lewis believes there has to be more.

Lewis prides himself on some of the late-round picks in Baltimore, where a pair of sixth-round picks in linebacker Cornell Brown in 1997 and defensive end Adalius Thomas in 2000 have become key parts of playoff teams.

" "That's what I keep trying to press," Lewis said. "I don't want to hear about a guy being drafted to be a backup player. A guy has to have something special about him, something that makes him excel. We're looking for a guy we draft late to be a starter in his second or third year."

Which makes it tough on guys who have secured spots here before in the past, but might not pass the athletic muster under new management. Lewis left the stamp on his first draft with the speed and athleticism he promised to cultivate. His handiwork was present even in linemen.

"We took Langston because he's been telling us since the day we got here that he wants guys who stay on their feet and finish plays and those are things Langston does," said defensive line coach Jay Hayes of the 6-0, 295-pound Moore. "He's a guy that can run well and he's a smooth athlete that we want on our defense. We want guys that can move and these two guys can move."

Over the weekend, Lewis also unveiled his belief that coaches have to a take a big role in minimizing what are the risks seen in taking second-day prospects who might not have

have the perfect motors or work ethics. He knows the Bengals are in a position where they have to take risks and maybe have to take a less-than-perfect player.

'We're looking for special ability guys right now. Guys that can run," Lewis said. "And if they do have something in their background where people question this about him, as long as they're not a criminal, I think we can deal with it. We have to do a little more (than coaching on the field). Before they walk in this door we have to know and they have to know that we know and that's where we're going to start is important to me. We've identified those issues and are we going to accept that risk and work to overcome that risk right away?

"If we want to make up some ground, this is the way we're going to have to make up some ground," Lewis said. "We're going to have to challenge ourselves to do that."

Lewis has track record here. The knock on Thomas was that he was an underachiever, yet Lewis knew he was a two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. The joke is that Lewis seems to attract guys like that, maybe because he eventually gets them to play every snap.

He already had a semi-showdown of sorts with Oregon State cornerback Dennis Weathersby two months ago at the NFL scouting combine. Lewis challenged him on his reputation for not playing hard every snap, yet he had no problem drafting him Sunday at the top of the fourth round.

The kid knows now.

Those inside the draft room thought it was remarkable how true Lewis stayed to hjs desire to take the best athlete on the board. With Kooistra sitting there just before the seventh round began and the Bengals knowing they would take him, offensive line coach Paul Alexander's cell phone rang and it was a line coach from another team saying, 'You know you guys are nuts if you don't take Kooistra now."

iThe 6-5, 315-pound Kooistra ran 5.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash, did a 320-pound power clean, and had a 27-inch vertical jump as well as a nine-foot broad jump. He's still putting on weight (he's put on 40 pounds since his freshman year), but the attraction is he's an athlete.

"Scott is a big guy with very athletic numbers. He is similar in a lot of ways to Eric Steinbach," Alexander said. " He isn't the same type of athlete as Steinbach, but he's a guy who has good upside athletically.

"He's lifted weights and grown some," Alexander said. "He's a good lifter. He takes care of his body. He has about 10% body fat or something ridiculous like that. He and (Bengals left guard Matt) O'Dwyer are going to be fighting over the mirror."

Lewis is also looking for smart guys, so Kooistra shouldn't be a problem. Both his parents are doctors.

"You can see Marvin's influence with the speed of the guys we've got," said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. "He did a great job keeping us in line with not reaching for a guy who didn't have a grade n that round. He kept us in the round and made sure we were taking the best grade in that round and I don't think it could have panned out much better. Especially early in the draft. That's when we were looking for just the best players. Later in the draft, you think a little about need, but it was still the best athlete."

Like in the fifth round with Abdullah, the brother of former Browns linebacker Rahim The Bengals have all sorts of backup outside backers like Riall Johnson and Adrian Ross, But Abdullah was picked largely to quicken special teams with a 4.6 40-yard dash time and Ourlads' Scouting Services projects that, "he could eventually become a starter."

The guy just flies down field on special teams. He plays with something special," said linebackers coach Ricky Hunley. "He knows you have to hit low. He knows how much the ankles mean."

Hayes, a former special teams coach with the Steelers and Vikings, was looking at a couple of linemen in the fifth. P> "But at that point," Hayes said, "I knew what was best for the team."

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