Bengals at the NFL Combine: Offensive line ‘a priority in the draft’

ENGLEWOOD, CO - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Brian Callahan of the Denver Broncos poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Englewood, Colorado. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)

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ENGLEWOOD, CO - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Brian Callahan of the Denver Broncos poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Englewood, Colorado. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)

As the son of an offensive line coach, Brian Callahan has always taken a special interest in watching offensive linemen go through their workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Cincinnati Bengals new offensive coordinator has spent most of his coaching career up until now as a quarterbacks coach, but the Combine is the one time he can really set up shop alongside his father, Washington Redskins offensive line coach Bill Callahan, so naturally he ends up among the big boys.

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Callahan had an increased interest in watching offensive linemen go through their workouts Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, as the Bengals are in need of some players in those positions, particularly at tackle. He watched them weigh in Wednesday morning, while sitting next to his father, and enjoyed the chance to talk about some of the prospects in this year’s draft class.

“I think it’s a priority in the draft,” Callahan said. “We don’t have enough players on the roster currently, especially at tackle, so we need to find them. What that means for us and where they come from, I’m not sure. But we’re going to need offensive linemen. The numbers dictate it.”

The Bengals finally seem ready to give up on their top two draft picks from 2015, as tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, head into free agency this month, and Bobby Hart, who played right tackle on a one-year deal last year, likely moves on as well.

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Callahan said it’s hard to find linemen that can succeed as rookies but the experience is usually beneficial for them long-term. In watching those players at the Combine, he looks for all the usual traits one would expect of a modern-day offensive lineman: athleticism, size, strength and power.

The profile of a left tackle is generally a more athletic, longer player, while the right tackle is the “bigger, mauler run type,” Callahan said, but as defenses produce more pass rushers coming from different spots, there is more need for players to be able to protect in the pass and run game equally well.

He also looks for an intelligence factor that many overlook.

“You want smart linemen, because there’s a lot that goes on up front,” Callahan said. “There’s a lot of communication that happens at the snap, and those guys have to be able to hand that information and do their job with really, really fast decisions being made. They have to be able to process, have to be able to think, and they have to be intelligent to understand the big picture of what’s happening in the defense. So I think that’s really important. We want smart players up front.”

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Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said the team will see what linemen are available at No. 11 overall, where Cincinnati has its first pick in the draft, and if there isn’t a good fit, they’ll go with another position group.

Some mock drafts project the Bengals take a linebacker or quarterback first. Quarterbacks were set to conduct workouts Saturday, and Callahan and new head coach Zac Taylor both being former quarterbacks coaches should have a good eye for the talent available there, as Cincinnati seeks a backup to Andy Dalton. Taylor believes Dalton will work well in his and Callahan’s new offense, but depth is just important there as with any other position.

“I think it’s important every backup in our building is competing for a job,” Taylor said.

Taylor and Callahan also were interested in watching the tight ends this week, especially knowing Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah are all up for free agency. Both said there isn’t a need to necessarily find a different type of tight end to fit the new system, but free agency is hard to predict and the organization is still evaluating the current roster.

“That’s the nature of the position we’re in right now in free agency with three of them being up as free agents,” Callahan said. “Certainly you look it and I feel like there’s a role for all of those guys in our system. Which ones come back and which ones we get ultimately isn’t up to me. They’ve all been productive. It would be fun to have them all sitting on our roster, but it’s the nature of the NFL these days in free agency. We’ll find a role for any and all of them if they’re back, and if they’re not we’ll move on and find the next guys. But they have been, especially Eifert, a difference maker when healthy.”

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