CINCINNATI — NFL coaches and executives are notoriously coy when talking about the NFL Draft in the days and weeks leading up to the annual three-day selection process. And they most certainly are not going to offer up their honest and full opinion on particular players they have their sights set on.
But that doesn’t mean the likes of Zac Taylor, Brian Callahan and Lou Anarumo can’t offer some valuable perspective about their approach or what the organization might be thinking not only this season but in the years going forward when it has to think about long-term contracts to Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Logan Wilson, Jessie Bates and Tee Higgins.
We had the chance to talk up head coach Zac Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo about what’s on their mind and what priorities lie in the near future as roster building essentially concludes with the addition of drafted and college rookie free agents.
The focus will then shift to making sure everyone is on the same page, as rookie mini-camp and organized team activities get underway.
Since drafting a cornerback seems to be a very likely end result if the Bengals don’t trade down from No. 31 on opening night, we’ll start with Anarumo and some of the significant questions that were asked about building depth on defense and perhaps drafting a corner who can step in right away and contribute.
“You never know. We’ll be prepared either way. But it’s a good draft we feel like in certain positions. So we’ll see how it goes. But, looking forward to it.”
“Yeah. For sure, especially with the longest season in NFL history, as we all know, playing all the way to the end is a great thing, but it just put you up behind the eight-ball little bit in terms of getting ready for the combine, get ready for the all those things in free agency all at once but we were able to handle it great. And again, Duke and his staff have done an unbelievable job of guiding us in the right direction early on and then letting us get our legs underneath us, but it’s been great.”
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) April 19, 2022
“I think a combination of all that, especially if you’re picking high, that’s why we have rounds. So, if you’re picking high, you want a guy that can do all of those things, a guy with length, a guy with speed, can change direction, go get the ball. Those are some of the qualities you look for, especially higher in the draft.”
“I don’t know (about) range for a corner. It’s just a matter of flat-out long speed and change direction and ball skills. I think those are qualities that everybody’s always look for.”
“Really, we just look at their movement. Certainly, it can help if a team (defense) is a press-man team or something, but you’re really just looking to see how they move, getting in and our of their breaks. How do they catch the ball? Are they letting guys catch a lot of balls in front of them? So, you can process what the coverages are. But really, at the end of the day, what kind of mover is he?”
“Yeah. It’s important. We try as you guys know, we try to do things where we’re using guys in multiple spots and the more that they can absorb, the better it is for all of us, player as well.”
“There are some guys now with the COVID year in college and things where I’m looking up at the board and they’re . It’s a little bit different but at the end of the day, I think a good player is a good player. So, I don’t I don’t know that that would affect anything but that might be a better question for Duke to be honest.”
“It just helps. Again the more that they can do I think really could push your guy over the edge where if they’re even with somebody else. And oh, by the way, this guy does X Y & Z. It can only help.”
“We will surely want guys that are big and stout and do a good job in the run game, first. And then we evaluate where they are after that, pass rushers and things like that. So, we’ve done a good job last few years with that and we want some big strong, stout guys.”
“A little bit harder there (to find versatility). But yes. We we’re watching some guys the other day that we thought this guy can maybe do a few different things. So, that always helps.”
“In my mind, yeah, I think we need to always, at each position, you want to add quality depth. I think that position for sure.”
“That’s the good news. I don’t know that we have to just go reach and say we have to have this. So, we’ll keep talking about it. But, if the guy comes in and we feel like you can make an impact right away, he’ll get more playing time along time.”
“It’s always great. I think the more competition we add is always great for a coach. So, I think it’ll be great and just looking forward to it.”
“You just add the other positions to it, but I think we’re doing corners this morning so I’m kind of looking forward to that. As you get used to doing it, you grow with it and you get a feel for things that are similar to the DBs. The D lines, obviously totally different but the linebackers, there are some (similar) qualities that you can see.”
Now for Zac Taylor.
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) April 19, 2022
“We’ve got a good receiver room and so if it were to come up in that position then you’re just making sure it’s a player that fits that room really well, so I wouldn’t get into the ins and outs of a specific receiver that you’re looking for this year. It’s like a lot of positions in this draft for us and that we’re in a good spot depth-wise. Our team could take players that really make you a lot better at that position.”
“No, I don’t think you want to pinch yourself into anything. We’re going to look for the player that fits us best and it can make us better in the short term in the long term so until you get your hands on a player it’s impossible to say how they’re going to react to life in the NFL and how quickly they can transition. Obviously, our scouts have done a great job researching these guys. Our coaches have been on the road for the last month getting the feel for these guys, then the pro days and then you draft a player you think can make the organization better and the team better and then you see how they integrate within your systems.”
“It’s what you spend a lot of time on. Our scouts do that really over the last two years, researching these players, going into schools, talking to the coaches, the support staff, anybody they can get information from to get the background on the players. And then our job as coaches as we meet these guys, really over the last 45 days or so, is to learn more about how they fit with us and what’s their football character. What are their intangibles like in the locker room? Do they love the process? That’s the biggest thing for us is how they react to this process. How are they going to react to the grind of a really long season where you’ve got to pay attention to meetings and practices. And you’ve got to love that stuff or else it’ll kind of kind of eat you up a little bit. So those are the things that we just have to do during the scouting process. And again, Duke and his staff did a really good job of ironing that stuff out for us. making it easy.”
“Yeah, that’s the simplest way to put it. I think it’s not just about looking good on game days and playing great in game days. It’s the guys who can do the other part really well. Usually, it leads to success for them early in their career, potentially, if they love walking in the building every day and seeing what coaches have in store for them and being a part of the team and being in practice. All that kind of stuff which is more important to you in the evaluation process, intangibles or versatility, flexibility, and skill set. It’s a mixture of everything. Obviously, we want talent. That’s the easiest way to win a championship, is to have a lot of talent on your team. And then you’re looking for guys there’s a lot of guys in the draft so you’re looking for that mix of talent and in the football character and the intangibles, versatility based on the position that they’re playing obviously. So again, that’s why there’s there’s a lot of players that are in this mix. Duke leads the charge and does a great job with his scouting staff of paring it down to the guys that really fit the Bengals, will make us a better team.”
“I think it’s good anytime you can hit on your draft picks and they’re really good players for you. It certainly helps to have guys on those younger deals. I think we just have a really good mixture of young players who we’ve drafted here, players that we’ve added from other organizations that have served us really well. So, it’s just a really good mix of young guys and veterans on this team.”
“I always think it’s important. That’s why, again, Duke and his staff have done such a great job of researching these guys and presenting what all these players are about, and then the coaches are able to go on the road as well and give their input. So, it’s just a really good collaborative effort by everybody to make sure that we’re always adding. You don’t want to miss on draft picks. It’s impossible to be perfect all the time, but I think Duke and his staff have done a really good job these last couple years of bringing the right people in the building.”
“It was more free agency for the coaching staff early on. We wanted to make sure we’re hitting each period the right way and so you went to the combine quickly, I think two weeks after the game. And so maybe as a coaching staff you didn’t know those players as well as we had in the past but like I keep saying, Duke and those guys knew them extensively and so you lean on them for that information. But we wanted to make sure we were correct in free agency, adding those right pieces immediately, and then you move to the next stage of the player acquisition process and that was the draft. So, we dove into that, and then our players will be showing up and shortly after the draft, we’ll dive into our own players. So, it’s fun to be a part of. There’s different stages of it, different seasons, if you will, of the offseason and we’re kind of in that middle stage right now of the draft.”
“Just circling back and making sure we all see everybody the same way and if you don’t have all those discussions, to make sure you’re ironing it out. It’s not maybe like the movies where you’re having all these in-depth conversations while you’re on the clock. Duke does a great job he’s got so much experience doing this, of anticipating the conversations that you’re going to be having on draft day, two weeks, three weeks in advance, and so those are the conversations you’re really having right now.”
“That’s hard to say. You just want a guy that fits what we’re about and so I think that’s at all areas of the draft. So again, that’s why we spend these next two weeks talking in depth about what we’re looking for at each spot and all the different scenarios that can play out. And so again, we just want players they’re going to make us better and help us get back to where we want to be.”
“Short memory. There’s so many really talented receivers in the league right now that are that are big, fast, physical, got great speed. So again, you’re challenged almost every week with the different skill set, potentially from a receiving core that you’re going to face. And so, there’s different guys that maybe fit different schemes a little bit better but I felt like we played against a lot of really good corners this year, a lot of guys that were in free agency this year we played against. And a lot of them have different skill sets and what I appreciate most as an offensive guy mostly, is those guys that just compete down in and down out. And they might not be perfect but you see that football character that really stands out.”
“He’s a good player. He’s had a great career there. Obviously, I was on the offensive side of the ball. I was only there for nine months so I won’t pretend that I knew all the defensive guys as well as I would if I had been there a little bit longer. But certainly, he was highly thought of coming out of Virginia. And he certainly is a great addition over there at UC and he had a great career for those guys and helped them win a lot of games.”
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) April 19, 2022
What about Brian Callahan?
“Ideally, they’re a three or four-phase contributor on (special) teams. If you’re taking a receiver that’s going to be an interior-type player, slot-type body type. Well, maybe he’s a returner. And the makeup of our roster right now with three starters currently under contract, those are the guys that are going to play in the majority of the snaps. And we need a guy that can be able to fill in somewhere. What that body type looks like, what that is for the draft spot and all that can vary. But you need guys to do have some versatility if they’re going to play in your fourth and fifth (receiver) spot (or) they’re going to be in a Special Teams role or return role, however that works. You need guys that can do a little bit more than just one thing, ideally. It doesn’t mean that that you’re limited to that, but you do need some versatility, if you’re in that spot.”
“Yeah, these receiver classes are generally deep. There’s going to be a lot of them every year just because that’s the nature of what college football’s become. There’s always going to be receivers at all levels of the draft. There’s always going to be your high-end talent. They’re going to be there every year. There’s going to be a mid-round guys and they’re going to be guys that have traits or guys that have value somewhere in terms of whether it’s special teams, return ability, all those things. The classes are going to be relatively deep every year. You’re going to have the ability to find receivers probably every year to some varying degree in every round. For the foreseeable future, I think it’s sort of the way that the NFL had been leaning. So, there’s gonna be plenty of options of over the course of the draft, I think, if you’re looking for that spot for really every team in the league is going to look like that.”