Updated: 5:30 p.m.
After putting together the bulk of his 53-man roster, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said Sunday it is going to be better than the 2010 edition. He seemed to be waving goodbye to a dysfunctional unit that fragmented in a 10-game losing streak.
"I know we'll be a better team than the 4-12 team," Lewis said when asked at a Paul Brown Stadium news conference if this is a better team. "There's not the star power on paper that maybe we possessed last year. But when it comes down to it, as our guys are calling it 'we'll be all in together' and that's the best statement we can make heading into the regular season."
Before the Bengals announced their three waiver claims of Patriots wide receiver Brandon Tate, Eagles center-guard Mike McGlynn, and Dolphins tight end Mickey Shuler, Lewis had this to say:
» Lewis indicated that running back Cedric Benson, released from jail Saturday, is on track to continue to work as the No. 1 back heading into next week's opener in Cleveland.
» Lewis says the offense needs to get back to "chunk plays," and be more explosive with the ball while cutting down on the 10 turnovers that littered the preseason.
» He's pleased with the work of the front seven, particularly with how it has stopped the run, while praising tackle Pat Sims for maturing as a player. With Sims looking good in his debut Thursday against the Colts, Lewis said, "I feel better about it than I did Wednesday."
» Lewis also praised the contract extensions of left tackle Andrew Whitworth, cornerback Leon Hall, and center Kyle Cook that were struck in the past few days. He also said more are on the way.
"A huge statement by the organization and we're not done," Lewis said. "We'll continue to retain our young starting players that have bright futures in the NFL, not just here but across the board. Those three players are kind of pillars. We've got more on defense that will continue to come up and get done and there are guys possibly on offense. It's good for the players in house to see the rewards to guys that have gone about it the right way and busted their tails. That's a good message to them as well."
» Lewis knows the Browns are under a new coach in Pat Shurmur, but it's not like the opener is going to be a surprise party.
"They're changing again (new coaches and schemes), so I don't know if we're familiar with them. We're familiar with a lot of the players, though," Lewis said. "We know they have outstanding skill guys. What Peyton Hillis has done since becoming a Cleveland Brown, and Massaquoi, and their two tight ends – they're very effective players. And Colt McCoy, getting to play last season, and with his opening game against the Steelers and just how he went through his rookie year. So we're familiar with those guys.
"Defensively, they're making the transition back to the 4-3 but there will be some familiar faces. (Scott) Fujita, who I think is a fine, fine football player, and guys like that over there. Joe Haden had a fine rookie year in the back end. So they have some good players on defense. I thought their secondary played very well last season and was probably the bright spot of their year. They have a young draft pick, the kid from Baylor (DL Phil Taylor) who is a fine inside player. He was great prospect, a big strong man and a really good prospect coming out this last draft."