Updated: 7:15 p.m.
After taking offensive players in the first round of the last three drafts, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis sounded on Tuesday as if he'd like to at least start with defense when the Bengals have two picks in Thursday night's first round.
Asked at his draft news conference at Paul Brown Stadium if this draft is tilted to offense or defense, Lewis opted for defense because, "Maybe we have more needs defensively." After taking Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap in the second round in 2010 he said, "We've kind of neglected defense over the last couple of years."
The Bengals took Alabama right tackle Andre Smith, Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham, and Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green No. 1 the past three drafts and last year the Bengals went offense in three of the first four rounds with Green, TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, and Georgia right guard Clint Boling.
So if there is a tossup at No. 17 or 21, that could mean defense because Lewis says the tiebreaker is need. He talked about the necessity of having a lot of cornerbacks, but the Bengals could also use depth at outside linebacker and defensive tackle.
"There are certain areas Mike and I feel we need to address," Lewis said of Bengals president Mike Brown. "That's the question. If we get there and there are two players we feel are pretty close to ability and we can fill that need that is going to be a need beyond this season and going into the next two or three years, yeah we're going to fill that need, no question about that."
90 AND COUNTING: With word the NFL has expanded the training camp rosters to 90 players as the league did last year in wake of the lockout, underdogs everywhere are loving it. It doesn't make a huge difference with the numbers. Instead of not counting unsigned draft picks (nine) and tendered players (franchise player Mike Nugent), everyone counts.
What it does mean is an undrafted player doesn't have to get cut when a drafted player signs and he'll get a shot to go through training camp. Which means it gives guys like wide receiver Andrew Hawkins a second chance.
Hawkins, a CFL import cut by the Rams after one practice, surfaced only in last year's Bengals training camp because of the expanded roster. And the Bengals ended up getting a great find in the 5-7 speedster wiith exhaustive cover work on special teams and a knack for making third-down catches in the slot as the team's fourth receiver. Just ask Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu. As a rookie, Hawkins pitched in with five special teams tackles and 23 catches for 263 yards and five runs for 25 yards. Now he is seen as one of the club's more solid role players.
"Had the numbers not been where they were last year, Andrew Hawkins probably would have not have got the shot to show," said Lewis of the 90. "We had the flexibility to bring him in after he was released and keep him around and nurse him through an injury to get him out there to show what he can do and he benefited from that number. It provides some opportunity to guys that aren't drafted to come in and make a team. You look up two or three years later and they become the nuts and bolts of your team because they remember how they got here. So they don't take anything for granted."
DALTON LIVE: Andy Dalton appeared on ESPN's SportsCenter Tuesday and admitted he wouldn't mind another receiver via the draft but he also said he could see the Bengals taking a cornerback. In what amounted to a promo for the season opener Monday night game on ESPN in Baltimore, Dalton says he feels established this year and is ready to take more of a leadership role after getting to know his teammates next year.
SIMPSON REPORT: Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson signed a one-year deal with the Vikings on Tuesday, the same day he was suspended for three games under the NFL's substance abuse policy, according to reports. Simpson, who recently served 15 days in jail, had an up-and-down season in his first year as a starter last year with 50 catches for 725 yards and four TDs. The ultimate Simpson stat? He had 152 yards receiving against the Ravens Nov. 20 and then had 163 in the final six games.