NFL NEWS

Bengals searching for big bodies

The Sports Xchange

March 02, 2018 at 4:36 pm.

Dec 31, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws as Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) applies pressure during the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 31, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws as Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) applies pressure during the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — The Cincinnati Bengals’ rebuilding process likely will begin along the offensive line, and personnel director Duke Tobin is encouraged by the depth of this year’s draft at those positions.

“I see talent in all the positions,” said Tobin, speaking at the Scouting Combine this week. “I think the draft offers a lot of linemen. Maybe not an Orlando Pace, but a lot of guys who’ll be starters and good players.”

The Bengals, who finished last season 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the second straight season, pick 12th in this year’s draft. They have 11 total picks including four they received as compensation for free-agent losses.

Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson is the premier lineman in this year’s draft and could go in the top five, well ahead of the Bengals’ first selection. Tobin questioned investing heavily at the guard spot.

“Every position matters,” Tobin said. “It’s the philosophical question; do guards matter? Guards are getting paid more in free agency. We found that out last year with (Kevin) Zeitler. Whether they change your fortunes as a team is the debatable point.”

Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked 39 times last season and the Bengals struggled to establish a consistent rushing attack before rookie runner Joe Mixon had a strong finish. They averaged 3.6 yards per rush, but that number was much lower during the first half of the season before Mixon became the full-time starter when Jeremy Hill was lost to an ankle injury. Hill, a free agent, is expected to sign elsewhere.

Former No. 1 pick Cedric Ogbuehi struggled at tackle. Tackle Jake Fisher took time to adapt to a new position. Russell Bodine is a free agent, and with offensive line coach Paul Alexander gone after 23 seasons, it’s uncertain if Bodine fits into the plans and schemes for new line coach Frank Pollack.

“Frank has a great progression of teaching,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “It’s going to be a new voice, and we’re excited about that. We have a lot of change and a lot of newness on both sides of the ball.”

Cincinnati also could take a look at the tight end position in the draft with Tyler Eifert coming off injury but expected to be brought back on a one-year deal. South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst or Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews could be enticing.

“My guess is there will be interest around the league in Tyler Eifert because when he’s on the field, he’s a difference maker,” said Tobin. “But we’ll see as it goes as to what that interest level is and what Tyler’s thoughts are.”

There’s speculation that the Bengals could draft a quarterback, but it would be primarily a backup type signal-caller with AJ McCarron expected to seek a starting role elsewhere after winning his grievance to become an unrestricted free agent.

“At the root of scouting we’re looking for big, strong, fast, complete players,” said Tobin. “Then you accept deficits from there. What you get at the Combine is a medical assessment of these players. The more time you spend with these players, the better your overall assessment can be.”

 

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