Running backs coach
Initial comments ...
Lewis: "Jeremy Hill is a very, very talented young runner. He had an outstanding career at LSU. As the coaches here, and myself, the scouts and everybody did their due diligence, he came out as one of the most versatile runners, both big and strong with the ability to make people miss and the ability to catch the football. He was used in an offense at LSU that will mirror a lot of things that are done in the NFL. We really feel like he comes here with a skill set and the knowledge of the offensive game that will enable him to be productive early in his career here. We're really excited about him. He's a guy that's almost 230 pounds — a big man that can run and catch. He is a strong runner that we wanted to add to our offensive team."
Were you surprised at all that a running back wasn't selected until this late? The latest ever in a draft ...
Lewis: "I guess we had 54 and 55 (running back selections) this year. A little of it speaks to the game of college football right now. There's an emphasis on guys playing wideout. There aren't tight ends, there's wide receivers. Secondly, there's the quarterback in the open offenses with the different option-type offenses. It's reflective of that I believe. It's kind of taken a second fiddle, and I think it's put a premium in the NFL on offensive linemen, because in their schemes you're getting to see those guys pass protect, have to block people in space, so you're really able to evaluate athleticism by these offensive linemen, and it's been reflected over the last few drafts now."
Last night you said you liked where you guys sat at 24. Did you feel at all tonight you had to move at all to get what you wanted?
Lewis: "No actually I didn't. We really didn't feel like we had to move anywhere. We felt pretty good about where we had people evaluated. As we were sitting here five picks away, three picks away, the guys we knew we would be choosing from, we felt good about."
How much is a pick like this about setting the attitude of being physical and wanting to run the football a lot?
Lewis: "That's not changed. The attitude has always been the same. We did a good job of that and we've had that kind of attitude. That's not changed. You've got to keep putting pieces in place in order to do the things you feel you need to do to play winning football."
They said on the telecast about how this kid sent a letter to all 32 teams vouching for his character. Is this something you saw?
Lewis: "It probably went above me (Laughs). I never saw it. We have a lot of confidence in people we know inside the LSU program. From Steve Kragthorpe to head coach Les Miles, to running back coach Frank Wilson, to Cam Cameron. There's a bunch of people in the LSU program that many of us in the building have very strong relationships with."
When you look at him, he split some carries, so he hasn't really taken a beating. The guy is a talent but he's got a lot of rubber on the tires, doesn't he?
Lewis: "Yeah, as you know they rotate people a lot down at LSU. They do that coming in the door. He did not have the beating that some guys end up getting in college football."
What is his most major attribute? When you look at him what jumps off the tape the most about him?
Jackson: "He knows how to run the power play. He knows how to run downhill. He's a physical runner. We're adding another really quality football player to that running back room which I think is really good right now. I don't think you can ever have too many of them. At the end of the day, the way our board was stacked, he was in line. You can't turn away from good football players, so we're adding another player who I think has a fine future in the National Football League to an already very talented room.'
What did Hill have that separated him from the other available running backs?
Jackson: "You know, it was very close. But through our evaluation of the things that he did, he was a three-down back. He can play on first down, second down, and third down. I think you have to have a skill to not just be able to run, you've got be able to pass protect for the quarterback. And then you also have to be able to, at the end of the day, make huge plays. And he's done it; the guy rushed for 1,400 yards this past year. So you're talking about the SEC, which is one of the best conferences in college football, and a guy who rushed for 1,400 yards sharing time. He averaged over six yards per carry at 233 pounds, so I think the sky's the limit for this young man."
It seems like he plays well the bigger the game. His demo tape is against Auburn ...
Jackson: "He shows up, he likes to play. Like Marvin said, there was a lot of discussion from people down there who I really trust. And at the end of the day, when you do your homework and you do your studying, along with myself and Coach Caskey, the guy had exactly what we're looking for. He's a fine football player."
Is he good with catching the football?
Jackson: "He can catch the ball. He really demonstrated that at his pro day. They split him out and let him run routes on the outside, and he looked as comfortable as some receivers. He's not Giovani Bernard, we're not going to asking him to be that. But at the end of the day, he has the ability to catch the ball, and that's what I meant being a three-down player. He does have that ability to catch the ball if the ball's being thrown to him."
Is there room on this roster for both Hill and BenJarvus Green-Ellis?
Jackson: "Right now there is. Right now that's not my concern. My biggest thing is, again, whoever we put on this team, my job is to coach. So at the end of the day, we have some very competitive guys in our room, and I know nobody's going to shy away from anybody. And that's what you like. At the end of the day, we have to line up and we're going to play the best players. That's the name of this business. It's a very good room; it's a very close room. We're adding another player just like we did a year ago into the room, into the mix. We expect him to help our football team. How it unfolds, it will unfold."
You had a lot of options with your second-round pick. Does that make you feel any better about the third round?
Jackson: "Absolutely. At the end of the day, I think we're off to a good start. Obviously we've only had two picks, those are the only two picks we've had. I think we feel real good about where we are and where we're headed. Again, this just proves again we're continuing, year in and year out, to add good, quality players to our football team, which gives us a chance to keep moving towards our goal."
What was the defining separation between Hill versus Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde?
Caskey: "The way he played in his offense at LSU, and the pro-style offense they had and what they asked him to do. He stepped up and was going against a tough SEC, downhill, the stuff that we like to do. And when it came to pass protection, he actually stepped in there. He was coached to do that and he looked really tough, not that the others guys didn't. He really just stepped above that when it came to being a complete player and the type of runner we're looking for as well, and playing against the competition he played against."
Does LSU run the inside zone a lot?
Jackson: "They run a lot of things, it's not just the inside zone. They're a multiple running football team and they do a lot of different things. I think Kyle said it best, 'At the end, our grades were better.' At the end, this guy (was) a better fit for what we're looking to do as we continue to move forward as a football team. So don't get me wrong; Carlos Hyde's a heck of a football player. Somebody's going to get a very good football player here very shortly in my opinion. But this was the best fit for the Bengals today, and that's where we are."
Hyde benefitted from playing with a great run-blocking offensive line to where he didn't have to make a lot of people miss. Does Hill have the ability to make defenders miss more than Hyde?
Caskey: "You hit it on the head; it's the type of offense you see at different schools where you get these spread-out, zone-read option teams, and you do get six-feet-wide holes to run through. Jeremy Hill wasn't getting that all the time because of the type of offense they run. He was able to find creases and you saw that on film. With the other guys, it wasn't always evident whether they could do that kind of downhill running. But he showed it on film, and it was there and it was hard evidence."