The NFL Combine offers a whirlwind of news about draft prospects, what teams are doing in free agency and how the offseason will play out.
Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin spoke with the media on Tuesday to share some of what can be expected of the team in the next six months leading up to the 2018 NFL season.
We’ve written about some of the top takeaways Tobin shared, including his thoughts on AJ McCarron, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, what will happen with Tyler Eifert in free agency, the potential to re-sign Russell Bodine, and Joe Mixon’s role moving forward.
Here are a few more of the most interesting things Tobin shared.
1. Creating turnovers need to be emphasized this offseason
“I’ve been in Cincinnati 20 years, and this is the fewest turnovers we’ve had in that 20 years. You’ve got to get the ball back to your offense. You have to make big plays on defense. You have to turn them over. We’ll get back to doing that. We have to play better before the half and at the ends of games. You win games at the end with your defense, and we have to get back to doing that.”
PREACH! The Bengals ranked 27th in the NFL with 11 interceptions in 2017, and had a -9 turnover differential thanks to 12 interceptions and 11 lost fumbles during the course of the season. That’s not going to cut it for a winning team, and the Bengals are surely hoping to return to winning football this coming season.
2. The offensive line class is deep
The Bengals are going to need to draft multiple offensive linemen in this year’s draft to compete for starting positions. Luckily, Tobin sees this as a deep class.
“I see talent in all the positions,” he said. “The draft offers a lot of linemen, maybe not Orlando Pace, but a lot of linemen that will be starters and good players... I think it’s a good draft altogether and there is a lot of talent to be had... I’m always open to good players at whatever position they come. Guards are getting paid a lot in free agency. We found that out with Zeitler. Whether they change your fortunes or not as a team is the debatable point.”
3. Carl Lawson is going to be on the field more often
Lawson had a terrific rookie season with the Bengals after being selected in the fourth round of the draft. Tobin sees his role increasing, which is great news. He played mostly on passing downs last year, but it seems he could be working on acclimating to the run game this year, too. If that works out, he can stay on the field more often.
“We felt strongly when we took him,” Tobin said of Lawson. “If the draft were going to happen again, he’d be selected much higher. He came on for us in a big way. Last year we were low in quarterback pressures. So, it was something we went into the offseason to attack. We doubled up at the defensive end spot, or the pass-rusher spot, and both of those young guys (Lawson and Jordan Willis) came in and gave us what we were looking for. They gave us a spark.
“Carl’s going to build on that. We’re going to expand his role. As he goes forward, he’ll be on the field a little bit more. Talking with coach (Teryl) Austin, he’s excited to work with him. We’ve got a lot of regard for him. We think he’s going to be a big-time player for us.”
4. The Bengals will talk to Tyler Eifert’s doctor to evaluate his return
Will he stay or will he go?
That’s the big question with soon-to-be free agent Tyler Eifert. The tight end is an impact player when he’s on the field. The problem is he’s on the field far too infrequently. He’s been injured every season of his five year NFL career, and he was just cleared from the third back injury of his football career.
So, will the Bengals try to bring him back?
The team is considering it.
“It’s a challenge, it can be done, it’s not insurmountable, but it’s a challenge,” Tobin said of working through Eifert’s injuries. “My guess is there’ll be interest around the league in Tyler Eifert because he’s a difference maker. We’ll see as it goes what the interest is and what Tyler’s thoughts are. That’ll matter as much as anything.
“But yeah, it’s always an issue when there are injury issues that kept cropping up... We’ll get the doctors’ opinions who worked on him and see what they have to say and we’ll see how Tyler feels. Those will all be components for what we do moving forward.”