What in the fey-ook is going on in Cincy? They are killing me by staying on my radar in ways that have me saying, “Damn, wish that were my team.” You know it’s beyond the beyond when I’m tapping Pacman Jones for cutest father-daughter picture (from of a field of 18). Every day there’s a new story with the Bengals doing something smart.
We’ve covered the Bengals running at 4-3 and also how they’re building a great front four and a particularly tall and pass deflecting/altering one. I’m on record as being a Mike Zimmer fan; Jay Gruden knows his business. But the hits keep coming and it’s time to catalogue everything the Bengals are doing right.
Drafted Margus Hunt.
Look at the measurables (6′ 8″, 4.60 40, 38 bench reps) and Margus Hunt just oozes 5-tech DE in a 3-4. Bengals already have Dunlap (6′ 6″) and Johnson (6′ 7″) at DE. Bengals didn’t have a need there really (although M. Johnson’s franchise tag might signal his departure next year), they simply decided to take the single most unique athlete in the draft. Now then, thus far in camp the Bengals have not been using Hunt with the #1s and indications are that the learning curve will be steep. But as we knew or are learning, that’s true for all rookie DEs, even top 10 picks.
Going big in the secondary.
George Iloka (6′ 4″) is now showing as a starter on the Bengal’s depth chart. No need to bang the tall d-backfield gong here again, you all know where I am on that. Though he played FS at Boise, Iloka is playing strong safety for the Bengals. They signed Taylor Mays last year; drafted Dre Kirkpatrick last year; plus Iloka… these are big d-backs. If the Bengals wanted, they could roll out the second longest d-backfield in the league: Kirkpatrick (6′ 2″), Mays (6′ 3″), Iloka (6′ 4″), Leon Hall (5′ 11″).
Looks like a Bengals fifth round pick is starting along with Bengals fourth rounders Peko and Atkins and Boling. That’s how you build through the draft. Or not.
Forgotten Orson Charles, now starting FB.
I was pretty big on Orson Charles when he came out of UGA last year. I expected he’d challenge the incumbent Jermaine Gresham (first rd, 22nd overall, 2010) and he did have four starts last year. Not bad for a fourth round rookie. But for this camp, the Bengals went ahead and drafted the top-rated TE in the draft. Like the Hunt pick, it wasn’t a need selection; it was a ‘how can we not accept the riches bestowed upon us by the draft gods’ pick. So where does that leave Charles? Starting at fullback and reportedly looking great.
Looks like another fourth round pick starting for the Bengals along with Peko and Atkins and Boling and fifth rounder Iloka. That’s how you build through the draft.
You can talk about being aggressive or you can actually be aggressive. You can practice the mindset. Marvin Lewis has chosen option “B” by running the Oklahoma drill.
While flag-football enthusiasts decry the “dangerous and archaic” drill, there are still some coaches who have had success with it and still run it or modified versions of it.
Not shown, Browns on stationary bikes.
Injury risks? Cripes. Hey. Pollyanna. Injuries happen. So while the Browns spew buzzwords of attacking aggressive play while dressing their players in bubble-wrap; the Bengals (and Buckeyes) are actually doing it in practice. My money is with Urban (and Lewis) on this: you are what you practice.
Three deep at TE.
The Bengals recognize the matchup problems with a two TE set and actually invested more than one year contracts and waiver pickups. They’re three deep with young talented TEs with Orson Charles, Jermaine Gresham, and Tyler Eifert. Two first rounders. Because you can talk about wanting better TE play and act on the talk by coming to camp with a never-started-before fourth rounder and two UFAs (both fifth rounders); or you can invest in firsties. (BTW, yes, Eifert was an option for the Browns. Make the deal with the Rams.)
Since I’m not a scout and neither qualified to judge technique nor have access to tape nor really able to view hours of it, I enjoy the thumbnail athletic assessments provided by combine data. I don’t consider myself naive in this way, I know it’s just one part of the picture. But on the other hand, if these things aren’t important, why are three days spent compiling accurate data?
That being said…
There’s always the intangible: is the player a baller? The Bengals are running with three linebackers whose 40 times are probably worse than most d-lines; worse than Jarvis Jones. Harrison, Burfict, Maualuga. They’ve never been elite athletes; they’ve always been sell-out, productive, tone-setting LBs. I really don’t know how this will work out. But I enjoy the hell out of the planning which seems to be: we want an intimidating linebacking corps of proven playmakers, ballers.
In addition to Gresham (6′ 6″)-Eifert (6′ 5″) (and Charles) at tight end, the Bengals’ WRs are tall. Green (6′ 4″), Sanu (6′ 1″), Jones (6′ 2″), Tate (6′ 1″). The prospect of a Gresham-Eifert-Green-Sanu formation will create match-up problems for at least one AFCN team.
Gio Bernard: receiving threat at RB. Finally.
Reports from Cincy indicate that Jon Gruden has still another wrinkle for his game plans with second rounder Giovanni Bernard. I’m not usually big on little backs, but Bernard was a great back at UNC (admittedly ACC, but still). He’s got that 5’9/210 bowling ball frame that has been effective for MJD and (at one time) Michael Turner.
The definition of ‘building through the draft.’
The Bengals get a lot of crap for signing problem children FAs like Jones, Burfict, Harrison, Lawson. But their record of hitting with their fourth and fifth round picks is stellar. Lasts year’s 10-6 playoff team had these Bengals fourth round picks starting for them: Boling, Geathers, Atkins, Peko. That’s a good record and getting better as Iloka and Charles now starting too. You don’t build through the draft by trading out of the draft. For as much crap as Mike Brown gets, his draft record is excellent. In addition to the fourth rounders who are starting, he’s gotten impact players in the third (M. Johnson, Sanu), second (Whitworth, Dunlap, Dalton). It’s his first rounders that look dicey (A. Smith, Kirkpatrick, Gresham), but when you go deeper, his draft record is excellent.
Sure why not? My early AFCN predictions read like this.
- Cincy 13-3; Zimmer demonstrates that you can get a pass rush with a 4-3 that features huge DEs.
- Ravens 11-5; Joe Flacco earns it; joins the top-5 QB club.
- Rteelers 8-8; Decastro-Pouncey-Adams keep Roethlisberger upright; he starts 16 games for first time since 2008.
- Browns 6-10; Browns blogs cite improvement and need for patience; enter 2014 with $40m in cap space after trading Rubin for 3rd round pick.
I don’t see any reason to back off of this prediction as of now.