Though Cincinnati won’t have any coaches on the North or South coaching staffs, they will be there watching prospects practice, interviewing them and then hopefully watching them play on Saturday.
Among the current and former Bengals who’ve taken part in this annual college all-star game are Marvin Jones, Clint Boling, Kevin Zeitler, Eric Winston, Will Clarke, Ryan Hewitt, C.J. Uzomah, Josh Shaw, and none other than Geno Atkins.
This game may not make or break a player’s NFL Draft stock, but it can serve as a taste of what’s to come, as Duke Tobin told Bengals.com.
“In our view, it’s only an opportunity to improve,” Tobin said of Senior Bowl Week. “We’re not going to move you down based on a week practicing with people you just met in a system you just learned. But you do have a chance to raise your stock.”
The Bengals certainly hope they’re able to find impact players at this year’s Senior Bowl and eventually draft them. They usually come out of each draft with a player or two who takes part in this event, which spans a week of practices and interviews before Saturday’s game.
Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons hopes to find more guys who will help the Bengals put more points on the board, something they didn’t do enough of in 2016.
“We’re looking for points. That’s the priority. You saw how important it was in the championship games on Sunday,” Simmons told Bengals.com.
Simmons actually found his two best Bengals punters — Kevin Huber (2009-present) and Kyle Larson (2004-2008) — at the Senior Bowl. Perhaps we’ll see the Bengals find another long-term specialist this year with Huber coming off one of his worst years as he becomes a free agent in 2018.
His net punting has dipped for two straight years and got down to 39.5 in 2016. He’s also averaged just 22.5 punts inside the 20-yard line. Most NFL punters can hit closer to 40 net average and 30 downed inside the 20, so perhaps the Bengals will search for an eventual replacement at the Senior Bowl.
But the biggest need will be at kicker, where the Bengals only have a former soccer player signed for this offseason. It’s very likely they’ll add one, if not multiple kickers between now and the days after the NFL Draft.
If the Senior Bowl offers a pursuable kicker, you can bet Simmons will find and keep tabs on him leading up to the draft. Zane Gonzalez out of Arizona State and Jake Elliott out of Memphis are the two kickers participating in the game and we can expect the Bengals will meet with both of them, to some degree, during the week.
Here’s a look at Gonzalez’s stats at ASU:
Here are Elliott’s stats from Memphis: