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Bengals plan to draft a pass rusher; held FaceTime with Derrek Tuszka

The Bengals shelled out big money on defense in free agency, but they ignored edge rushers in the process. Expect that to change sometime after the first round of the NFL Draft.

Butler v North Dakota State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have clearly done their homework on this class of edge defenders. With the NFL Draft just a few dozen hours away, their thirst for pass rush is clear and evident.

The latest player they’ve reportedly talked with over the computer is North Dakota State alum Derrek Tuszka. Tyler Dragon of The Enquirer reported not only of the team’s virtual meeting, but their plans to target pass rushers in the draft after they take care of business on Thursday night.

Looking at whom the Bengals have talked to during this unprecedented pre-draft period, it’s clear they’re looking for not only an edge rusher, but one who can play in space as an off-ball linebacker as well. The common moniker is a 3-4 outside linebacker, but those players rarely take snaps off of the line of scrimmage. The Bengals seem to be vying for a true hybrid.

Tuszka looks the part of someone who will only be taking snaps on the line, and that’s perfectly fine. No edge defender had a quicker time in the 3-cone drill at the NFL Combine than the leading sack artist of the North Dakota State Bison. Relative to his size, Tuszka tested like a high-quality NFL player, which helps validate his tape against FCS-level offensive linemen.

Exactly when Tuszka ends up getting drafted is up for debate, but it’ll be sometime on Saturday. The Bengals could end up drafting an edge rusher long before that depending on how the board falls. Their need for depth at the position is pretty dire with Carl Lawson being the only true backup, and he’s on the last year of his contract.

Expect help for Lawson, Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap to arrive later this week.