Bengals Coaching Staff Keeping a Close Eye on the Combine

As we begin combine week, there has been a lot of talk about whether or not the combine means anything or if it can help a players draft status, in both a positive and negative way. Here at Cincy Jungle, we have debated the effectiveness of the combine and whether or not it can change a players grade or draft status. A lot of talk going in to this years combine, likely because some top prospects are not doing on-field drills, Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson, is centered around the "behind the scenes" of the combine which includes interviews, tests, and conversations between prospects and scouting staff.

This is not the case for Bengals quarterback coach Ken Zampese. Zampese, in a recent interview on the combine, states,

I like to stand right next to the guy," Zampese says. "I want to see the ball come out of his hand. I know it sounds strange, but seeing it from the stands or from behind a fence isn't the same. I want to stand where I want to stand so I can see all the angles the ball is coming from.

Though Zampese puts a lot of emphasis on the performance of the players, it is also the intangibles that make a player valuable. How does he react after missing an easy pass? How does he react when he drops a reception? Does he turn, with his head down, and run back to the line or does he pick up the ball quickly and sprint back to the line so he can fix his mistake and move on? These points, though they may seem small, show the character of the player and are just as important as whether or not he actually catches the ball or makes the throw.

Zampese admits that the combine is only a small piece to the overall process, but,

...it's a piece and they have to all be added up.

Bengals strength coach, Chip Morton, doesn't completely agree with Zampese on his views of the combine. Zampese is on the field with the players and gets to see them perform, while Morton gets to see another side of the players and see them while they are a bit more relaxed during the warm-up and stretching section of the combine. Morton states that even though the stretching gives him a chance to look at how flexible the quarterbacks shoulders are or how limber the running backs legs are, he states that his favorite part of the combine is mingling with the prospects in between their workouts.

I've been asking my kids for the last five years or so if there's anybody they like. Anybody they want me to say hello to and give them a message," Morton says of the guys they watch on Saturdays. "The year David Pollack came out my son said he really liked him and when I talked to Pollack he was, of course, great. A lot of energy, engaging. He liked (Jordan) Shipley, too, and it was the same thing. Pleasant. Engaged. Serious. And it's funny; those are two guys we were able to get.

If Morton's strategy holds any sway on who the Bengals draft, I'd say that he has a pretty keen eye and has had quite a bit of good fortune when it comes to his conversations with Bengals draft picks. David Pollack was a tough, hard-working OLB before he suffered a career-ending neck injury in 2007 and Jordan Shipley is one of the best slot wide receivers the Bengals have had in a very long time. So, an argument can certainly be laid out that the "behind the scenes" of the combine can be just as important in determining a prospects value as their on-field performances.

It is comforting, from a fan's perspective, to know that the Bengals are not just looking at one aspect of a prospect over others (i.e. a players abilities as opposed to their character/personality). This is evident from the last few years' worth of draft picks that the Bengals are no longer taking great athletes with character issues (Odell Thurman and Rey Maualuga), but they are taking great athletes who have humility and upstanding character. This is a great sign for the Bengals and it their quality drafts in the last three years are creating the biggest pre-draft buzz for Bengals fan in a long time. It's a good day to be a Bengals fan, indeed.

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