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Bengals manage a very different Senior Bowl week

Duke Tobin and Zac Taylor speak on the importance of this year’s Senior Bowl.

NFL: FEB 28 Scouting Combine Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Practices for this year’s Senior Bowl are over and done with, and the actual game is set to take place Saturday afternoon in the University of South Alabama’s brand new stadium.

It’s been a different week in Mobile, Alabama as COVID-19 protocols have drastically altered how NFL personnel can meet and talk with players. Clubs were allowed 10 representatives to attend practices and meet with no more than 16 players per night during a four-hour window in a socially distant environment.

The Bengals have had to deal with this like every other team, but as director of player personnel Duke Tobin said to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, this week is all about confirming, not learning.

“Guys can’t make or break themselves down here. You can just confirm what you already know,” Tobin said. “It’s a positive experience for guys to come down and get in front of people and confirm what they see on tape.”

The format and overall vibe of the Senior Bowl may’ve been different this year, but players from all over the country still competed against each other in ways they’ve never been able to do before. It’s the small school players facing higher levels of competition that intrigues Tobin.

“We like to see the energy a guy brings. How motivated he is and how he competes against elevated competition. Sometimes you never get to see a guy against top level competition until this week. When you see how they translate it, that’s certainly a positive thing.”

Tobin and his staff have done most of the leg work up to this point when it comes to evaluating college prospects. Head coach Zac Taylor and his staff have really just begun college scouting, so this week was important to garner first impressions and work with Tobin in that regard.

“So often you come down to the Senior Bowl and you’ve never even watched a guy before,” Taylor said in an interview with Jay Morrison of The Athletic. “You don’t even know who he is sometimes. The rest of the world may, but coaches don’t know. We’ve been so focused on our season. So to be prepared the way Duke (Tobin) helped us all get up to speed before we came down here has been really helpful.”

Taylor and the Bengals coached one of the Senior Bowl teams last year and ended up drafting three total players from each roster. With eight picks in this year’s NFL draft, and this week being perhaps the only week they’ll get to interact with these players in person, it wouldn’t be surprising to see another Senior Bowl alum end up in Cincinnati.

You can watch the Senior Bowl this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST live on NFL Network