Setting the tempo


With Marvin Lewis set to greet his team for the first time Thursday night as head coach of the Bengals, he sat down Wednesday with Geoff Hobson of to discuss this weekend's minicamp:

GH:** What do you want to see out of your players this weekend?

ML: Good tempo and finish.

GH: How do you establish it?

ML: We have to raise the standard. We have to expect every time we take a snap, it's as though we're lining up to play the Denver Broncos. Every snap we take. Whether it's taking the snap from center by ourselves, whatever we do, we have to take it with that kind of meaning. We're preparing to play the Denver Broncos.

GH: What kind of practices are you going to have? Are they going to be short, or is this weekend going to be different because it's a camp? What do you mean by tempo?

ML: We're going to go out and practice like you play in the regular season. We're going to take 142 snaps in team preparation, roughly, plus some installation, and some move-the-ball and some unscripted snaps. Probably by the end of it we'll get 180 snaps. Roughly three games.

GH: What do you mean by unscripted?

ML: Some situational things that won't be scripted. There are 142 scripted and we've got between 40 and 50 unscripted. That's roughly three games of football, one fifth of our season.

GH: So it has to be quick? The speed of practice here has been criticized at times.

ML: Everything you do has to be quick because that s what the game is built on. It's built on quickness and speed and playing fast, so we have to reduce the gray area.

GH: Are players going to be sitting in golf carts if they can't practice or sitting on water coolers if they have a break? That was something else that has been criticized.

ML: No, I don't think you ever want to have players sitting down, unless they're resting. I don't know why we need a golf cart out there. Unless Mike (Brown) is in it. I don't know. That's not going to be part of our atmosphere

GH: You've got two practices each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In the past, they've had more meetings and had just four practices. It looks like you're trading meeting time for field time.

ML: I don't know what happened before. Getting on the field is what it's about. It's football.

GH: What are you trying to accomplish this weekend?

ML: No. 1 is the opportunity to kind of raise our standards of meetings, tempo, how do we learn. No. 2, it gives us the time to teach the fundamentals of our offense, defense, and special teams. It gives coaches the chance to evaluate guys on a real fundamental basis. And lastly, to give them the idea of how you practice and how you finish.

GH: How important is this weekend for evaluating players?

ML: It's one step in the process. It enables you to know where we need to spend the time during this offseason to maybe get a guy up to speed in a certain area where he has deficiencies and now you're able to know where you go spend your individual coaching time.

GH: How will your meetings be?

ML: Meetings have to be organized. You have limited time. The attention span for people is very limited. You have to grab their attention. You have to get in and out. You have to learn how to take notes, how and what we highlight. What's important to me. Then we get a chance to evaluate it on tape.

GH: Will you mostly be in the defensive meetings, or will you split time between groups?

ML: I don't know. I would hope it would be split.

GH: Is this defense mainly what (defensive coordinator) Leslie Frazier brought over from Philly, or is it what you have run in Baltimore and Washington?

ML: A combination.

GH: How would you describe it?

ML: We want to dictate. We want to be aggressive, we want to be sound.

GH: Are you a disciplinarian?

ML: I don't know what that means. I've got to be sure I'm myself. We're going to be demanding and that's what it takes to be good.

GH: When you line up Friday, could this be the way you line up Opening Day?

ML: I don't know because where we are in depth isn't really reflective where we can be Opening Day. We've got 25 jobs basically up for grabs. Thirty jobs up for grabs. Nobody has a spot. The whole thing is open to competition. We have to line up with a first group on offense, and a first group on defense, and a first group on special teams. But just because there out there Friday, that doesn't necessarily mean they roll out first at any point next fall.

GH: There are more than 22 spots open?

ML: You're looking for a second tight end, a third receiver, a third corner, a punt returner, things like that. The best football teams are made up of guys who fit into a role and embrace that role and they're able to expand their play time through that role because they do it so doggone well.

GH: You've got some spots that look to be filled. Such as center.

ML: I think we've got guys that we're real confident can step up and be productive and fine starting offensive linemen here who have not had an opportunity yet. Brock (Gutierrez). (Thatcher) Szalay. We've got some guys we're confident can do that.

GH: It looks like a free-for-all at both safeties.

ML: We've got a lot of draft picks spent there, so it's time to step up there and produce with some football plays. We'll see. The draft and free agency are still areas where we can add players. We're trying to find the best 53 and put them together regardless of position.

GH: Who can you project at free and strong safeties?

ML: Safeties are interchangeable. There is no such thing as a strong safety in productive NFL defenses any more. The guys are interchangeable. If both are free, then fine. The best guys are going to play.

GH: Are your draft meetings going to be coach-driven or personnel-driven? That has been a topic of interest for years around here and there seems to be some movement to reduce the coaches' role and rely on scouts more.

ML: We're not looking to reduce the coaches' role. They didn't scout as much, but they still watched a lot of tape. It's going to be a combination. It's important. That's the most important thing we've got going on next week. That's the next step in our process.

GH: How important are the position coaches in that process?

ML: They're very important in the process, as well as the personnel people. It's got to be grouped together because we have to go out and we have to see things the same way. We have to learn to see things the same way and get on the same page.

GH: Traditionally in the draft meetings leading up to the final selections, everyone has been in the room. Will it be like that now?

ML: It's not very productive for the defensive line coach to be in there when we're discussing the offense.

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