Frank Pollack isn't going to anoint his nine players just yet. But he is letting it be known that he wants them to have a nasty streak as long as, well, the Bengals offensive line.
"You can't go out there and be soft," Pollack said last week as he ended his first month as the Bengals offensive line coach.
"The D-lineman is going to rip your throat out. You better rip theirs out before they rip yours out. He's got to have a little nasty streak in him. No question. It's football. It's not for everyone."
In his first video interview on Bengals.com with Voice of the Bengals Dan Hoard, Pollack talks about the first impressions of his players off the video and what he's looking for in the draft.
While it's too early to get a read on how the Bengals are going to line up in the spring, he is intrigued by the athleticism of the incumbent tackles, Cedric Ogbuehi on the left and Jake Fisher on the right. Although Tyron Smith, Pollack's Pro Bowl left tackle in Dallas, is about 15 pounds heavier than Ogbuehi, it's going to be interesting to see if Pollack uses the same attacking style with Ogbuehi that he used with Smith.
If there's one word that keeps coming up with Pollack, an eight-year veteran of the NFL in the 1990s, it is "aggressive." It's also, "smart." And he's got eight Pro Bowl selections and All-Pro berths from the last three seasons in Dallas as proof when he was leading the Cowboys offensive line to back-to-back No. 2 run rankings in the NFL.
"You have to be smart enough to learn. You have to be a smart enough guy to adjust," Pollack told Hoard. "You have to be a smart enough guy (when) he's on the field by himself to figure out some things and adjustments on his own without me being next to him all the time. It's hard playing this game. You have to have some nasty to you, some toughness. Mental toughness more than physical toughness.
"I've told guys I've coached I'm not looking for five drunk frat guys to go out there and get in a bar fight out there. Those are a dime dozen. I look for guys to execute play in and play out and have the mental and physical toughness to do that and when the picture changes they don't bat an eye and execute the next play. It's hard to do. That's why they get paid the big bucks and it's why only a smidgeon of the world's population can do it."
For Pollack, it seems to get back to toughness. Psychological or physical. Maybe that's why center Russell Bodine has caught Pollack's eye on film. Bodine, a four-year starter since the Bengals traded up to get him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, heads into free agency after an up-and-down season like the rest of the line. But Pollack likes his nasty streak, as well as his interview of Bodine at the scouting combine the year he was drafted.
He also noticed the aggressive mind-sets of Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman, guards in their second NFL seasons that played well in the final two games during their most extensive action as pros.
"They're fun to watch," said Pollack after the video interview. "They play with that young, energetic buzz on the field. They've got a lot of stuff to clean up technically, but they've got some nasty in them. I enjoyed watching that."
Pollack also noted how left guard Clint Boling moved out to left tackle to replace the injured Ogbuehi in the last two games. It doesn't sound like they'll move Boling permanently, but his first two NFL starts out there showed the leadership of the most senior man on their line. The Bengals would like to re-sign right tackle Andre Smith, but before they do Boling's eight seasons lead the group.
"He obviously put it on tape that he can play it," Pollack said. "I don't know if that's long term his best position, but he's a guy that's smart and has the ability to kind of move around the line where you need him, which is impressive."