Thoughts and beliefs

With apologies (again) to Cincinnati talk show master Lance McAlister and Sports Illustrated's Peter King, here are some things I think I believe I know after the NFL Draft.

I think I believe I know that Marvin Lewis is confident he is going to enlist running back Corey Dillon in the cause for the long haul.

After all the talk about drafting a running back to send a message to Dillon, they might not even sign a college free agent at that spot, never mind taking one at the top of the second round. Here's the message. Lewis doesn't plan on having a problem with Dillon and the same goes for Dillon with Lewis. Heck, Dillon has already invited Lewis to next month's inaugural Corey Dillon Celebrity Golf Classic.

I think I believe I know Mike Brown has found his football guy. Which is just another name for a head coach.

No, Marvin Lewis didn't bound and gag Bengals President Mike Brown and throw him in the trunk of his Lumina for the duration of the draft. People don't want to hear that, now that the Bengals are riding 'A' work from every draftnick with a stopwatch.

But from what the insiders say, Brown maintained his role of running the draft and serving as the moderator for discussions, and for the final say on close calls. Lewis reportedly exerted his considerable influence by relying more on the expanded personnel department, and insiders suggest that this gave the draft room more information than has been available.

Plus, you already figured with the energetic Lewis' personality that he would serve as the bridge between coaches, scouts and Brown, that there would be no gray areas when he spoke, and that he acted as a synthesizer of issues.

And there's no question Lewis has started populating the roster with the people he wants. (Note:

Big, stiff guys who can't bend their knees and think a fast 40 is driving in a school zone will no longer be bellying up to this breakfast bar.)

No doubt Lewis is going to continue shifting the emphasis to personnel and that he'll do things a little differently when he has a full season under his belt.

But the draft is a good metaphor for what has happened since Lewis was hired. It's not a question of replacing B with A, but of B teaming with A. Brown hasn't massively changed the way he does things, and the draft, except for subtleties, wasn't all that different mechanically.

But the biggest change has been who he's got doing it. Brown brought in his top guy from outside the club who has been with successful organizations, and that perspective means everything to a team that has been inbred. Yes, it turns out that Brown went out and got a football guy. Except, he gave Lewis the title, "head football coach," and not "general manager."

Brown has proven this offseason what Ozzie Newsome did three years ago. Titles mean nothing. People do. **

I think I believe I know that it still comes down to coaching no matter who comes out of the draft room.**

Remember coach Bill Parcells' first draft with the Jets in 1997? He wheeled and dealed to get an extra pick in rounds four through seven. In the first round, he took linebacker James Farrior, in the second, defensive tackle Rick Terry, and in the third, wide receiver Dedric Ward. The only second-day player of note was seventh-rounder Jason Ferguson. That might not even be a 'C' draft. And yet, with virtually nothing from that draft class, Parcells steered a 1-15 team in '96 to 9-7 in '97 because he can coach. Lewis has the potential to be the next Parcells. Even if this class isn't ready, he'll have to get something from somebody, and his track record says he does. **

I believe I think I know that Lewis has put heat on the offensive line, cornerbacks, and wide receivers.**

One thing Lewis seemed to show in the draft is the type of player he prefers. He likes his offensive linemen big, but he likes them more if they have some movement skills rather than blowing up people. He likes his corners tall, rangy, and fast. Come to think of it, maybe that's because that's how he likes his receivers.

Those three spots have picked up new players with all those attributes. So the incumbent linemen, receivers, and corners better plan on showing up this weekend. **

I think I believe I know that Carson Palmer is in a much better situation than David Klingler and Akili Smith.**

No holdouts, holdovers, or hangers-on.

Klingler and Smith missed a combined seven weeks of training camp because of contract negotiations. Palmer won't miss a snap of those first 10 days of camp that Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowki calls the most important because that accounts for close to 30 meetings.

With the departure of Bruce Coslet's West Coast offense three years ago, and quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson a few months ago, Palmer won't have reminders of the past staring him in the face. Everyone associated with the passing game, Bratkowski, quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, receivers coach Alex Wood, and tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes were all in other time zones when the previous quarterback transitions took place.

Palmer shouldn't have the blind-side rushers hanging on him like Klingler and Smith did. For once, they've teamed a top 10 quarterback with a top 10 left tackle in Levi Jones. When Klingler started the 1993 season, someone named Tom Scott became the left tackle when Kevin Sargent got hurt on the season's first play, and 40 sacks later the season was over at 3-13. When Smith started the 2000 season, Rod Jones played like he was hurt at left tackle after failing to rehab his scoped knee over the offseason, and 36 sacks and 12 starts later, Smith was benched.

Now when Palmer lines up, he'll do it behind one of the league's best tackle tandems with Jones on the left and Willie Anderson on the right.

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