INDIANAPOLIS - It's a big defensive end draft and even though the Bengals have two good young ones from the last two drafts in Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, they would talk at No. 4 about Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers and maybe California's Cameron Jordan, a guy they coached at last month's Senior Bowl.
Even if they don't get one of those guys, the Bengals are still staring at a numbers crunch and are headed to a youth vs. experience (and financial) roster showdown. Behind Dunlap and Johnson are the club's two most expensive defensive players, Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom. They also have Frostee Rucker, who also plays tackle. So does Jon Fanene, a free agent that may be hard to keep at a backup price because of a good measure of versatility and athleticism.
(Fanene's agent said he met with Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin here this week but they apparently didn't get a deal.)
Former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton, working the combine for his media empire, doesn't think it's a clear-cut call. He played with Geathers and Odom and, like head coach Marvin Lewis says, the Bengals need to get a better read on the kids before cutting the vets.
And Thornton thinks the lockout is going to hurt the Bengals when it comes to making a call because they won't get a gauge on how Odom has recovered from his series of injuries. The second year off a torn Achilles is supposed to be the real test, but there may be no such things as spring workouts.
"It's a tough one," Thornton said. "Robert can play all over the place. And with Odom, if he comes back from his injuries, they're going to ask you why did you get rid of a good, versatile player who is your best inside rusher? But you may not see them in March and April."
And Thornton thinks the Bengals can't pass on Bowers.
"Are you sure about Michael Johnson? And like I Mike," Thornton said. "But you also had him at SAM linebacker before everybody got hurt."
The 6-4, 275-pound Bowers, who had 15.5 sacks last season, said that Bengals right tackle Andre Smith was one of the toughest linemen he faced in his career back when he was a freshman.
AJ SIGHTING:The Bengals have only taken one wide receiver as high as No. 4 (Peter Warrick, 2000), and Georgia's A.J. Green has them thinking about it again as they seek a guy that can be a No. 1 receiver.
At 6-4, 205 pounds, he's supposed to be Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, the two Pro Bowlers from which he says he has patterned his game. And he came off un-diva-like in his news conference here. His response to getting suspended for four games in a ticket case: "Growing up I didn't have any adversity like that, that really humbled me and tightened my circle down to the people I need to be around and people who I need to distance myself from."
He certainly doesn't lack for confidence.
"Turn on the practice film and the way I prepare week in and week out, just the way I approach practice just like a game," he said of how you know he can't miss.
The problem for the Bengals is there aren't many complete receivers after the first round. Remember the second round in '08? Jerome Simpson may indeed be a No. 1, but after three years of trying to master the jump from Division II he's just now emerging. And that's why he was in the second round. The small-school competition countered the first-round measurables.
But, the two leading Bengals receivers of all time were taken at No. 36 (The Ocho) and No. 31 (Carl Pickens) in the second round. Two guys that could be a possibility at No. 36 this season are Indiana's Tandon Doss and Maryland's Torrey Smith. Rob Rang, senior analyst for nfldraftscout.com, thinks they fit the Bengals because of the club's penchant for taking receivers that had productive college careers. Doss caught 154 balls for the Hoosiers and Smith, a 6-0 burner, averaged nearly 16 yards per catch last year and had 12 touchdowns.
Strength guru Clif Marshall, who works occasionally in the Bengals weight room with Chip Morton and Jeff Friday, is hoping one of his combine pupils can get into the second round with a scorching 40-yard dash.
Marshal has become a leading trainer when it comes to getting players ready for the combine. In 2008 University of Cincinnati defensive end Connor Barwin used a dominating workout to get into the second round and last year Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash to come out of the woodwork and into the late first round.
This time Marshal has Abilene Christian wide receiver Edmund Gates, the cousin of Bengals running back Bernard Scott. During a stint in the weight room last season, Scott mentioned to Marshall that he thought he could help Gates, and Marshall signed him up.
Sunday's 40-yard dash is huge for the 5-11, 189-pound Gates. He reinjured a hamstring in the first Senior Bowl practice and was shelved, unable to show off his track speed that chewed Division II for 19.8 yards per catch. Since then, Marshall has geared him for Sunday's two runs on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf.
He's got some help. Former ACU receiver Johnny Knox, a fifth-round pick of the Bears in 2009 who became a Pro Bowl kick returner, dug into storage and gave him the shoes he ran a streak at his combine.
LAPHAM CALL:Boston College right tackle Richard Lapham, nephew of Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, didn't work out with the line Saturday as he rehabs from surgery on the patella tendon in his knee. So on Friday he got the obligatory dissection by the combine medical people.
"A lot of people got their hands on my knee but it was OK," Lapham said. "They weren't cranking on it or making it hurt. I was fine with it, but a lot of people were taking their looks and looking at the X-rays and MRIs … probably somewhere around 50."
There's also a Bengals tie to that knee. Lapham's surgeon was Lonnie Paulos, the man that operated on quarterback Carson Palmer's torn ACL in January 2006.
Dave Lapham has a reputation around Bengals scribes as a legendary storyteller and The Cincinnati Enquirer's Kevin Goheen asked his nephew if he's as good.
"I'd like to think so," Richard Lapham said. "He's got a way with his words and he's been doing it for a very long time."