Duke Tobin: "Dalton is the guy."
INDIANAPOLIS - Duke Tobin wouldn't make a grand pronouncement Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine like ruling out taking a quarterback with the 12th pick in the April 26 first round of the NFL draft.
But Tobin, the Bengals director of player personnel, made it clear Andy Dalton is the club's unquestioned quarterback and that all options to replace Andy Dalton as Dalton's backup are on the table.
"We feel very good about Andy as our starting quarterback. We've seen him play at the top of the league. We've got to support him better," Tobin said to a gaggle of local reporters after addressing the national media. "He's got to do some things better. He knows that. But you don't have to look very far around the league to see teams that don't have a guy and what that does to them… He's in the prime of his career and we feel good about him."
And no, Tobin said, the Bengals never thought about playing McCarron ahead of Dalton. But McCarron's anticipated departure leaves the Bengals with Dalton as the only QB on the roster who has thrown an NFL pass. They've groomed Jeff Driskel for the role and like what they've seen so far. But Tobin's not sure when his broken non-throwing arm is going to allow him to return. So they're looking at everything from veteran unrestricted free agents to draft prospects in a rookie class Tobin characterizes as deep.
Tobin also said:
_He wouldn't rule out helping build the offensive line with an unrestricted free agent, a practice the Bengals have avoided lately so they can cash in on the compensatory draft picks they gain after losing players to free agency.
"There's got to be the right guy to go after. Whether that exists in unrestricted free agency or not, whether there is a true upgrade, we are working through a lot of those things," Tobin said. "The compensatory draft thing doesn't drive all of our decisions. It's just a piece of it. It doesn't drive it. You have got to know if you make this move, what the ramifications of this move are. What you give up to make that move not only in the financial world but on the 53-man roster. Then in the compensatory picks. It's just a piece of what we do."
_Tobin said the club remains quite interested in re-signing tight end Tyler Eifert as he heads to free agency despite a variety of injuries that has cost him more than half the games of his five-year NFL career. Reports say Eifert has been cleared from his second back procedure, but Tobin has no doubts there'll still be interest for a one-time Pro Bowl with 13 TDs in 2015.
"Because when he's on the field, he's a difference maker," said Tobin, who knows it's a challenge matching the injury history with a financial commitment. "It's hard for us to predict what the interest will be and what the contact ultimately will look like. It can be done, it's not insurmountable."
_Tobin said he likes the sounds of what new assistant coach Frank Pollack has planned for the offensive line. He's not certain of the specifics and says it's not a major change. But he also wouldn't rule out new lives for players that have had recent struggles like left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and center Russell Bodine.
"There's no philosophical sea change. We're looking for big, fast, tough, smart, productive football players," Tobin said. And I think Frank is, too. And the new defensive guys as well. I think we're on the same page."
But it's too early to make a call, Tobin said, on what personnel is going to match the new coach. He sees flashes from the embattled Ogbuehi.
"It's hard to sit here in February and guess at what that's going to look like after the draft, after free agency," Tobin said. "When all the chips fall and we know who's going to be with us, then that will be an easier question to answer. But we'll be prepared to go forward either way.
"I think (Ogbuehi) continues to trend in the right direction. We'll see what the new, if there are new philosophies up front, how that plays into his game. I think Cedric is motivated to play well. I think he's got a lot of physical traits to play well. He's going to have to go out and prove it. All of our players are going to go out and have to prove it. And they're all going to have to adjust to a little bit of a new philosophy, a new coaching style on the offensive line and the ones that do that the best will be the ones that play."