What did you like about Tycen Anderson that made you want to draft him?
"He's another big measurables guy — height, weight, speed. It's the way he plays the game. He's smart and gives us the flexibility to do bunch of different things, so he was very intriguing to me. We did a great job going to get him."
Was he almost exclusively a safety at Toledo? Can he cover some slot guys?
"More of a safety. He did do some of that, but in a more deep-zone type guy. He's shown all of it all of it on tape, but just a little bit more of the other stuff."
Do you see him more as a center field free safety, or an in-the-box physical safety?
"A little bit of both. He's done both, so we'll see. We'll get our hands on him and see how it goes."
He's a big special teams guy — is assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons satisfied?
"(Laughs) I can't speak for Darrin, but again Tycen is a guy that can run real well. He's done it in his history — those guys are hard to find that run that fast."
I see he has 4.36 speed ...
"Yeah, he's all of that. Running around 4.4, 4.3 — once you've talked about those numbers, it's fast enough."
With first-round pick Daxton Hill, second-rounder Cam Taylor-Britt and now Tycen, you have three guys that are all sub-4.4 speed in the secondary. It seems like that was something you really targeted...
"Yeah. I just think that in today's NFL, we're going to play a bunch of great receivers. Think about Miami's speed on their perimeter, with Tyreek (Hill) and (Jalen) Waddle. And then the guys in our division — there's speed everywhere, especially in the back end. Those guys are going to get out of position some just by the nature of their jobs, and if they can't get back into the play they're going to struggle. So these guys do have to make that up in recovery speed. And that's what we're looking for."
The guys coming in this year have high speed numbers. Did you always value speed, or did you look at the defense you have right now and say, 'Speed is what we need to add to this defense?'
"It was a component that came with these players. There's always a fine line of what's fast enough, as long as the play speed shows to a degree. But these guys had kind of all of those things — height, weight, speed and the length part — which is important to me back there (in the secondary). It was a great part of it."
With the defensive line and guys like Logan Wilson up front, do you think your defensive unit speed is amongst the best in the league position-by-position?
"I would like to think so. We've got some guys at each level, as you mentioned, that can really run. That's where this game has gotten to."
With the additions inside the conference at WR that you mentioned, how much of that was with this in mind versus perhaps where Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates are in their Bengals careers right now?
"I'm really just thinking about this year, to be honest, and adding good players. We looked at the board, and as it fell this way these were the guys that we had high regard for, so we went after them."
Yesterday, you said when you add more and more safeties or defensive backs, it gives you more of a chance to put more defensive backs on the field at the same time. Is this is a continuation of that?
"Yeah, for sure. Again, as you said and as I mentioned yesterday, we've had packages where there's six or seven — six for sure, but sometimes even seven of them — out there. No other position does that. You can never have enough defensive backs, especially coming from a DB coach by heart (laughs)."
Naturally everyone is going to talk about the 40-yard dash times and the speed, but how important is the change of the direction and their three-cone drill in evaluating secondary players?
"It's a part of it, for sure. You always hear the term 'straight-line fast,' and some guys can't stop. Stopping and starting is a huge part of this because the wideout knows where they're going and we don't. It's as simple as that. And if the guys can't put the brakes on, they're going to give up a lot of completions. So the short area quickness is certainly a part of it."
How well did he do transitioning between free and strong safety?
"They moved around some. But these days it's really not that big of a deal. In college, they're both about the same. They both play two-high zones, and one will drop. It's not so much like we do where it's a lot of single-high stuff for those guys anymore. I remember back in the day when I was coaching college, and it was a boundary safety. A field safety is more that way that necessarily is in the box. Or a post safety. Everybody's different. But this guy can cover some ground, for sure."
Is it fair to say that's a factor in a lot of the single-high looks that you like? Or maybe because you have a guy like Bates, who has so much range on the back end?
"That plays a part of it. It's just my philosophy that we're going to try to outnumber them on those early downs, make them throw into tight coverage, stop the run, and get them into all scheduled downs as best we can. Each week will be different, as you guys know, but that's kind of how I think about it when I look at the game."
Is that at the line of scrimmage or in the secondary?
"Always at the line of scrimmage."
It looks like he's a two-time captain. What did coaches and other contacts tell you about his intangibles?
"All thumbs-up with this guy. Anytime you're a two-time captain, for sure. And it shows. We've put a premium on that, as you know, the last few years, and it's worked well for us. This is just another guy to add to it. It's an added benefit that comes along with a heck of an athlete."
How is his tackling?
"Again, all these guys that come out, you're always going to have a little bit of a learning curve with all of it, especially tackling. Every time they come in my room on these visits, what I do is I sit them down and show them one of the biggest plays of the year in my book. It's first-and-10 in the Divisional game, and Tennessee gets the ball back with about 2:30 left. They've got two timeouts, the game is tied — so to me the playbook is open to them. It's not necessarily a two-minute (situation). They run the ball on the perimeter with Derrick Henry, and it's Chido (Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie) and Derrick Henry one-on-one. And we've all seen what that looks like for most corners in this league — he's made highlights of it. Chido knocks the stiff arm down, and it's second-and-seven, and that leads to what ended up being the interception. If he doesn't make that tackle, it's probably a 20-yard run before Jessie can get over there because everybody was kind of pinned. I show those guys that immediately. This is the NFL — you're going to be one-on-one with guys like this, and you have to get them on the ground. It's like a base hit in baseball. I don't care if it's a dribbler through the right side because they shifted to the left, it goes down as a hit — get him on the ground. And these guys will have to learn that. It's not going to be a knockout hit. You want to be a singles hitter as a tackler, not a home-run hitter."
Did Anderson visit here?
"No, I wasn't able to get him on that. But he will when he gets here (laughs). He will see it. It's one of my favorite five minutes of my time with the guys."
I assume you met with him on Zoom?
"Yeah. We've done a great job with all that. Rob (secondary/safeties coach Robert Livingston) did it, and I kind of jumped in on it. And at the Combine. But he's quite the guy. You guys are going to like him."
What has this draft meant to you as a whole personally getting so many young defenders that fit your vision of what you want?
"It's great. As I mentioned yesterday, I think we went into free agency the last few years on defense and then took more offensive guys in the draft. It kind of flipped a little bit this year, obviously. But I think we're set up the right way. We have veteran leadership now. I mentioned it the other day, Cam (Taylor-Britt) is going to come in and sit there, and Mike Hilton is going to sit here and Chido's going to sit there. He's going to turn left and right, and he's going to have two great veteran players to learn from. We coach them, obviously, but there's so much more to it these days — learning how to be pro, how to go about your everyday business — and who could have two better guys than that? Along with Vonn (Bell) and Jessie (Bates) and Eli (Apple) and the rest of the group. All the positions have those type of guys. With Zach Carter — here's Sam Hubbard, here's Trey Hendrickson, and here's D.J. Reader. And then Coach Hob (defensive line coach Marion Hobby) up in the front. We're very fortunate, and so are the players."
Since you traded up, were you surprised to see Anderson still on the board?
"Again, we had good grades on him, and we went up a few spots. Any time you've got a guy there that's still hanging, I think everybody gets a little anxious. But it worked out, so it was good."
On the Zooms, you were satisfied with his football IQ?
Did he have a good idea of why he was doing what he was doing?
"Yeah. He could talk football well, had good instincts and was able to communicate. He's a great overall player and has a great feel for what they were doing. Certainly we talked a little bit about what we would be doing, and he handled it well."
How much of a transition will it be from college to pro, or are there some parallels where it'll be an easier transition for what you're going to ask him to do to what he did?
"With any player these days coming from college, there are some pretty significant differences in the amount of defense that they're going to have to do. You watch a college game, and the first thing that strikes me when I watch is that they're just getting to the ball and trying to run as many plays as possible. Not everybody, but that's the general theme. So the defenses just line up so fast, they all look to the side, get a signal, and they go. There's a lot to that. There will just be a little bit more volume of things that they have to learn, and kind of the weekly changes in the scheme, but I'm not worried. I think the guys that we've taken will take to it, learn it, and have no problems."
It sounds like you are having a good time up there. How are you feeling?
"This is a dream come true. I feel great."
What was it like when you got the call?
"My stomach dropped when I saw my phone ring. I had been holding my phone all day. I was sitting with my cousins and my phone started vibrating. And it was a Cincinnati number. I answered the phone and he said, 'We're going to take you.' I said, 'Yes sir, I'm ready.' It was just a really special moment, to be honest. Just to be surrounded with all of my family and loved ones. It was a great moment."
What kind of impression did you get from the Bengals when you met with coaches Robert Livingston and Lou Anarumo?
"I had a great impression. We had a couple of Zoom meetings, and obviously he (Livingston) was the leader of our pro day. Me and Coach Rob got super close, super tight. I wasn't expecting it, but I'm blessed to be a Bengal."
You said Coach Livingston led your pro day, is that correct?
"Yeah, he worked all the DBs out, so we had pretty much talked that entire day."
With the speed you have, how much corner have you played and how comfortable would you be playing corner?
"I think I have one snap played at corner. I was recruited out of high school at corner, so I'm ready to do whatever, to be honest. I feel like I can play anything on the back end."
That snap at corner. Was it in the slot or outside?
"It was outside against Ball State."
What have you done on special teams? It sounds like your special teams resume is pretty lengthy?
"Yeah, in my career at UT, I totaled close to 900 snaps on special teams. I played KO, KOR, punt return, punt on — all of special teams. I've played everything, and I'm willing to do everything."
Are you excited about the idea of returned punts in the NFL?
"Whatever happens, happens. I'm ready for whatever. I'll catch that ball and hit a crease, for sure."
Did you Zoom with Darrin Simmons at all?
Being from Toledo, how much do you know about the Bengals?
"I know for sure it's a good program. They lost the Super Bowl. I was watching that game, cheering them on. So, now I'm glad to be a part of it and try to win a Super Bowl ring."
Do you view your speed as your greatest strength, or is it something else?
"I see my biggest strength as my intelligence — my football IQ. That's my biggest strength. My smarts and my ability to adapt on the fly and just learn fast."
I can see you were a two-time captain. How do they elect those? Do your players/teammates elect that or do coaches name those?
"I'm a three-time captain, actually. It's a player-elected thing every time. Every year, we go around and vote who the captains are on the team."
What did that mean to you? A three-time captain is pretty rare ...
"It means a lot. A lot of my UT bros are out here now, so it just means a lot to me. I've been grinding with these dudes for the last five years, and just to see the love and support they have shown today ... I just take it seriously, to be honest. I know I'm a leader, I know my voice needs to be heard. I know when I stand up and say something, it's going to be the right thing. I'm just excited, to be honest."
I know in Toledo you've got Lions fans and Steelers fans. Who was your team?
"I was a Steelers. I've been a Steelers fan my whole life."
That's a problem ...
"My dad was a Steelers fan, so it just trickled down. We all know what the Steelers have meant to football over the last 20 years."
You wouldn't mind beating them though, would you?
"I'd try to beat them every time."
What's your degree going to be in?
"I got my degree in professional sales. My undergrad degree. I have three more classes to complete my master's program."
And what's that going to be in?
It looks like you played both free safety and strong safety at Toledo. What do you feel most comfortable at and what are you doing to take that next step in the NFL?
"To be honest, I've been asked this question a lot through this process, and I really don't have a preference. At Toledo, we played more of a right and left safety, so you could be the free or you could be the strong. But I feel like I can play corner. I can match up on slot — I feel like I can play in the middle of the field — and I can carry the deep half. I feel like one of my biggest strengths is to match up anywhere on the field."
How often did they use you as a blitzer?
"Quite often. Not that often, but depending on the game plan and the schemes and what the teams do. Not that often, but pretty often."
It's one thing to play with speed and be a really fast player, but with that comes the responsibility of playing in control. How do you do that and find that balance?
"It's about knowing when and where to use that speed and when and where to be fast and slow on things. It's just a good balance that you have to have a feel for in the game, to be honest. Sometimes, I might have to use my 4.3 speed to track somebody down, but there are other times where I run 4.5 to get a good angle on a dude to get him on the ground. It's studying the game."
Do you have a track background, and were you always the fastest kid on the block?
"I was always the fastest kid in my neighborhood, but I didn't start running track until I was a freshman in high school, so I got into the track background late. But as I kept going running, I started to become a good high jumper and long jumper, and those were my two specialties. I did everything as far as sprinting, but the long jump was my specialty."