Posted: 7:45 p.m.
MOBILE, Ala. - Mike Zimmer, the Bengals defensive coordinator, spent a good portion of Tuesday's North practice looking at the defensive backs but he might as well have been looking at the 2010 schedule.
"My theory is with the schedule we play, if we don't improve in our depth at almost every position, we're going to have a hard time competing," Zimmer said. "We play all the first-place teams in the AFC. Every team in our division is going to be better. We can't be the same and have the same record. We have to get a lot better.''
Five of the foes finished in the top 10 of NFL offense and seven in the upper half of the league, including two of the top three teams: New Orleans (1) and New England (3), followed by Pittsburgh (7), Indianapolis (9), San Diego (10), Baltimore (13) and Atlanta (16).
No wonder Zimmer is looking to improve the inside pass rush. The Bengals face five of the top nine passers from '09, starting with No. 1 Drew Brees of the Saints, Philip Rivers of San Diego (3), Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers (5), Peyton Manning of the Colts (6) and Tom Brady of the Patriots (9).
"(Tackle) Tank Johnson gutted it out all year with (a foot) injury, but he's unsigned," said Zimmer, who consensus says is looking to beef up safety because Roy Williams is a free agent and the Bengals finished the season there so thin and struggling to top the run. "We'd like to re-sign Roy, but who knows? This league is becoming so much of pass it and spread it, you've got to almost have four corners. You can have a physical (safety), but you've also got to have a coverage safety."
The Bengals have that in their starters with Chris Crocker (coverage) and Williams (physical), but they're looking to upgrade behind them. Particularly if they can't sign Williams. They also want to re-sign Johnson.
The Bengals aren't known for taking safeties in the first round, so the best one here this week, USC's Taylor Mays of the South, doesn't look to be an answer. But Virginia's Chris Cook, playing for the North, could be in the second round as a versatile type that could possibly project to playing both.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Florida quarterback Tim Tebow may be a rock star here with the fans and media this week, but it looks like he's been a stone-cold failure with the scouts. Scouts from two different teams said after watching him a second time this week at Tuesday's practice that he is, hands down, the worst quarterback at the Senior Bowl.
The reasons are simple. They say his elongated, almost sidearm throwing motion is too slow. His footwork is not good. And one of the scouts said he isn't athletic enough to make plays in the Wildcat consistently in the NFL.
» The North receivers had a much better day Tuesday, although the University of Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard had a couple of more drops to go along with a couple of Monday's miscues. Still, his coach this week, Lions wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, was very enthused about Gilyard calling him at 9 p.m. Monday after chewing him out at practice earlier in the day. They spent an hour together talking and going over plays.
Even more impressive is that Gilyard was reportedly treated for dehydration Monday night, but still managed to meet with Jefferson.