I'm sure that all of you missed my weekly mailbag feature last week very much since I didn't get around to publishing it--my apologies to you all. However, there was a lot of interesting news to digest over the last week and half in the absence of this Cincy Jungle staple.
We had some big name coaches come to Cincinnati in Assistant roles. Before the official free agency period actually began, the team brought in a cornerback to visit, and now they are gearing up to see some of the top college prospects up close in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine.
Speaking of the Combine, there is one particular player that will be in attendance that will have the attention of the Bengals staff and University of Cincinnati fans alike. Running back Isaiah Pead has become a lightning rod of a topic around these parts. Since his MVP performance at the Senior Bowl, there are a lot of mixed opinions on where Pead will land on draft weekend. I received a tweet on this subject:
@CUIBengalsFan Explain to everyone that Pead is NOT worth a 2nd round pick lol
This is a sticky subject to say the least. There are many of our loyal readers who are convinced that Pead is a solid second round pick and believe that the Bengals should pounce on him. While he showed his versatility and athleticism during the Senior Bowl, I still have my doubts that Pead worked himself into the second round or higher. He's a bit small for an every-down NFL running back and I think that that hurts his stock. At this moment in time, I can see him going in the third or fourth round.
However, my belief on where Pead is currently slated could all change over this weekend. If he runs a fast 40-yard dash time at the Combine and nails some interviews, he could improve his stock to a second round player. Given his ability to return kicks and catch passes, he could become this year's version of Dexter McCluster and get drafted in a relatively high spot.
Pead has had impressive seasons the last two years, displaying his ability to be a playmaker as a runner and receiver. In 2011, he registered 1,259 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns along with 39 receptions for 319 yards and three more touchdowns. I've made it known that I feel the Bengals need a player at the running back position who can be a big play threat as a traditional running back as well as a receiver and Pead is an intriguing prospect in that regard.
I'm just not quite sold that Pead is a guy that can carry the load by himself in the NFL. Given that reservation that I have about him, I'd be reluctant to use anything higher than a third round pick on him. If the Bengals were to pair Pead with a bigger between the tackles type of back, they could have a formidable one-two punch much like the Raiders had with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush.
Last week, the Bengals had the recently released Stanford Routt visit their facility late last week. Though the Bengals were one of three finalists for Routt's services, he ultimately signed a three year contract with the Chiefs worth $20 million. I have mixed feelings about how this situation played out. With their dire need for cornerback help, it was refreshing to see the Bengals being proactive about their predicament and make a somewhat aggressive pursuit for a player that likely would have filled a big roster hole.
Even though the reviews about Routt's talent are mixed, he would have fit in nicely as the No.2 cornerback behind Leon Hall, while being pushed by Nate Clements. And, with Hall rehabbing a bad injury, he would have been a temporarily serviceable No.1 corner if Hall were to be unavailable at the beginning of the season. Regardless of if you feel that Routt is a bit overrated or not, the move to bring him on board would have been a sensible one at the right price.
Even though it may be a relief for some that they didn't overpay for Routt, it worries me that there's a pattern brewing with the Bengals and them undervaluing free agent cornerbacks. First, they didn't want to pay a Pro Bowl-caliber player at the position in Johnathan Joseph and then they didn't seem to make a competitive offer to Routt. In both instances, the team had ample salary cap room to sign either player. With this pattern, how are we to expect that they'll spend big money this year on a top-flight cornerback such as Brandon Carr or Courtland Finnegan? I don't expect them to, unfortunately, and it's a shame since I see them needing to add at least two new corners.
Lastly, I've been impressed with the Bengals' recent hires. First, the team brought in Mark Carrier to coach the defensive backs group after what seemed like an eternity. While most figured that Rod Woodson would get the position, I feel that Carrier is a better hire. He's had a solid track record as a coach and comes highly-respected by his former employers. With Woodson, you'd be getting a coach with one subpar season under his belt.
The Hue Jackson hire was a surprising, but welcomed one. I've always felt that the Bengals were understaffed as a franchise. Beefing up their coaching staff is obviously a good move and Jackson is known as a "player's coach" who is well-liked. In his first time with the club, the team saw some of the most exciting offensive output in franchise history. Even though he won't be working with the offense this time around, I expect him to work his magic in Cincinnati once again. On top of that, I think he could have an influence on free agents possibly landing in Cincinnati, especially with the Raiders (his former team) looking at losing a lot of their key players.
Now, they've hired former offensive line coach, Jim McNally as a consultant. It's currently unclear as to what exactly McNally's specific responsibilities with the club will be, but it's another welcomed hire. Usually, "consultants" in the NFL have their hands in a bit of everything. My assumption is that he'll be helping with talent evaluation and scouting--something we've been begging Mike Brown to bolster for the last twenty-one years.
All three of these hires have Marvin Lewis' stamp on them. I think between the draft last season and these hires, it's becoming increasingly clear that changes in the organization are slowly occurring and Marvin got a little more out of his last contract negotiation than we all gave him credit for.
Keep sending tweets to me @CUIBengalsFan, and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get some of yours in this feature every week.