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Notes: Gilyard, receivers in draft puzzle after workouts

Updated: 9:25 p.m.


INDIANAPOLIS - Quick Sunday servings from the NFL scouting combine:

» University of Cincinnati wide receiver Mardy Gilyard ran the 40-yard dash people expected. National Football Post had him at 4.52 seconds and the NFL Network had him at 4.56 seconds, but he's not pleased with it and he'll run it again at his pro day in Clifton on March 10.

"I ran decent, but I got out of the blocks slow. It wasn't what I was looking for, but that's why you have a pro day," said Gilyard, preparing to fly to Bristol, Conn., for appearances Monday on ESPN's First and 10 and Sports Nation. "I'm not worried about it. I thought I caught the ball extremely well. The ones I didn't catch were because of the throws. I actually think I raised my (stock) because of my ball skills."

Gilyard said he got good feedback from some of the teams after his workout and he was especially pleased that Bengals wide receivers coach Mike Sheppard noticed.

"When I told Coach Sheppard I was leaving he told me, 'Mardy, you impressed me today and I'm proud of you,' " Gilyard recounted. "That made me feel good because that's one of the teams I was trying to impress."

He said other teams also appeared quite interested, such as the Patriots, Steelers and Raiders, teams that most likely are going to find their way to Nippert Stadium in 10 days. Gilyard will not only do the 40 again, but he'll also redo his short shuttle and L-cone drill.

Gilyard got mixed reviews on the media report filed by Ian Rappaport of *The Boston Herald *that said he dropped at least three balls, usually when he lost his rhythm or was knocked off-step.

"But Gilyard did appear athletic, accelerating well and not slowing down when catching the ball. He wasn't perfect on his route-running, but he may have run the best looking post-corner of the group," Rappaport said.

When it comes to the 40, Gilyard on Sunday did what he had to do and avoided the 4.6. The 4.5 won't impact his current status, which looks to be middle-to-late second round, But the NFL Network people, former NFL personnel man Mike Lombardi and former NFL safety Mike Mayock though he'd run faster and Mayock said, "I think it hurts him."

But he also said that Gilyard is "a little bit of a puzzle right now. The first couple of days at the Senior Bowl he dropped everything, but then he had a great game. People started to get carried away that he may be a first-round pick. But you put on the tape and he's quick more than fast, he gets in and out of his routes very well. ... He still is what I thought he was, which is a solid second-round pick."

But Lombardi doesn't see Gilyard as a starting player "right now."

"I think he'll have to show in private workouts that he can do things in the routes that people want to run," Lombardi said.

If Gilyard is a puzzle, so is the ranking of receivers after Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant. Maybe the Bengals might have to start thinking about a tight end or defensive lineman at No. 21 because it is starting to look like they could get the same kind of receiver in the second round.

"After Dez Bryant there's a lot of questions what that wide receiver order is going to be," Mayock said. "Once you get past Dez Bryant, you get into a group of guys and it will probably be two or three of them going in the first round, and then when you drop into the second round, who's left?"

Some of the names to watch for Mayock at that point are LSU's Brandon LaFell, Minnesota's Eric Decker ("a steal for somebody"), USC's Damian Williams ("not many people are talking about him"), and Ohio's Taylor Price, a 6-0, 200-pounder that ripped off a pair of 4.43 seconds in the 40 Sunday. Muddying the waters even more are the broken foot of Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas and the suspect route running of Illinois' Arrelious Benn.

One guy who has been talking about USC's Williams is the Bengals No. 3 quarterback, Jordan Palmer, his workout partner in Irvine, Calif. Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer filed a media pool report was that said Williams was "one of the few receivers in the gauntlet drill to go 7 for 7. On his first go-around he dropped two passes. The route running wasn't bad and he had a few passes that were overthrown. He also did not do a good job adjusting on the post corner route. He was able to adjust and catch a couple passes but other than the gauntlet drill, there was nothing else that stood out."

"I've got a bunch of guys with late two and early to mid third-round grades that are really good players and will be productive players. I think it's deep there," Mayock said.

Another reason the Bengals may get similar receivers later is because of this draft's defensive talent and glut of tight ends. Mayock thinks teams can get a tight end or running back in the fourth or fifth round that in years past couldn't have got past the third round.

"Typically seven to eight (defensive tackles) go in the first three rounds. I've got 14 that I've given first-, second- or third-round grades," he said. "Are they good enough to push some of the offensive guys down? Or does it even out like it usually does in the draft and some of those (tackles) that have third-round grades get forced into the fourth and fifth round?

"The defensive side of my board is heavy ... wide receiver is not top heavy, but there is good depth. Outside of quarterback and interior offensive linemen, this is a very good draft."

» With Dhani Jones heading into the last year of his deal, SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga figures to be the Bengals middle backer of the future. But defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, disappointed in Maualuga's recent DUI, is hesitant to make the switch any time soon.

"If you don't know what a guy is going to do off the field, that makes it tough," Zimmer said. "If he's going to get suspended, how can you make him your centerpiece? How can you do that?"

» Yes, the Bengals are looking for safeties. Yes, the first trait they're looking for is coverage skills. But secondary coach Kevin Coyle threw out this little reminder: The Bengals led the NFL in allowing the fewest runs of 15 yards or more. It was just three heading into the regular-season finale, where the Jets' Brad Smith blew them up in the first half with two runs for 89 yards.

"Overall, that means you're getting some good play from your safeties," Coyle said. "Certainly, for the most part, against the run."

Certainly Zimmer was happy with the run defense.

"You go through our cutups and we're beautiful in the running game," said Zimmer, world famous for being brutally honest and quite demanding. "We might get out-blocked out or outmanned or something, but we very rarely make a mistake. We went through a whole season in the running game. In nickel we weren't as good, but in regular defense there was hardly anything to complain about. For me, even."

» It was a year ago at this time that Zimmer revealed his offseason project was emphasizing pass rush by talking to other NFL coaches and setting aside time in the spring with players on the field to concentrate on the fundamentals of pass rush. And the Bengals doubled their '08 sack total last season to 34.

On Sunday, Zimmer said this offseason's projects are "affecting the quarterback," and getting more turnovers. A total of 18 teams had more turnovers when the Bengals finished with 25 and Zimmer thinks it's because he didn't emphasize it.

"Affecting the quarterback means sacking him, hitting him, making him throw the ball where he's not anticipating, give him different looks," he said.

With the Bengals going from No. 12 to No. 4 in NFL defense, Zimmer is noticing that other coaches are watching their tapes by the questions he's getting asked. But he's surprised that more coaches don't pick the brains of their peers.

"A lot of guys think you're stepping on their toes," Zimmer said. "I do it. I'm not afraid."

» More puzzling receivers stuff: Two guys who did help themselves with their 40 times Sunday, Notre Dame's Goden Tate (low 4.4s) and Clemson's Jacoby Ford (high 4.2s), may have warranted a second look from the Bengals at No. 21. Those numbers could take them out of the late first round and into the middle. Tate more than Ford. The 5-8 Ford is a track guy, but Tate is 5-10, 195 pounds.

Here is the media pool report of ESPN's John Clayton on Tate's workout:

"What might have been the most impressive part of his Sunday was his competitiveness. On an overthrown post-corner route toward the end of the pass-catching drills, Tate dove to the turf and slid forward. Though he didn't come up with the ball, he probably picked up a few scrapes, which didn't seem to bother him.

"When Tate catches the ball, he has a pronounced way of carrying, showing he is trying to be a big-time run-after-the-catch receiver who doesn't want to fumble. After a catch, he takes his left hand and grabs with the ball with a vice grip across his body to the right shoulder. His style is almost like a running back. He'll catch the ball and even if the play is over, he'll set up as if he were going to run the ball to the end zone to complete the play.

"Normally, Tate catches the ball cleanly with his hands, but he did get out of sync in his first run through a gauntlet drill in which he has to make snap catches from six quarterbacks going across the field. He dropped three of his first five throws in his first gauntlet drill, but he ran the drill better the second time. One of the throws at the end of the second drill was a little off. Tate was caught a little off balanced and fell to the ground.

"Though he might not have had a perfect day, Tate showed how hard he willing to complete. At Notre Dame, he was known for being willing to outleap defenders for high passes to bail out his quarter. Tate is only (5-10), but there is a Steve Smith-Hines Ward intensity to the way he is willing to play the position."

» Even though safety Roy Williams has played just seven games in the last two seasons because of the forearm he has fractured each year, Zimmer is convinced "he'll be a factor" if he plays in 17-18 games. Zimmer is still shaking his head over the fact that Williams wasn't wearing a pad he was supposed to wear on the day he took a shot in the arm.

"He wasn't very smart," Zimmer said. "He could have played in the last game or two if he wasn't on (injured reserve). ... He's a good player for us."

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