With the conclusion of the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals should have a bunch more information to sift through as they continue their preparation for the draft next month.
But how hard will it be to get the new coaching staff on the same page with director of player personnel Duke Tobin, who spent the last 16 years working alongside Marvin Lewis?
Tobin looks forward to finding out. Up until the combine, he and head coach Zac Taylor were still working through coaching hires. The rest of the staff was finalized Thursday.
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“The guys that we have, they understand the scouting process and what goes into it, and they understand how to look at players,” Tobin said. “It’ll be a new group of guys and we’ll have to jell and we’ll have to figure out how we see players, and maybe we’re seeing them the same way and just talking about them differently and so forth.
“There will be a learning curve a little bit with some of the position coaches. Zac and I have been aligned from the start on what we’re looking for and how we want our team to look, so I don’t anticipate any issues there. My job is to make our coaching staff successful and help in any way that I can. The vision for that team will come from Zac.”
The player personnel department will remain front and center but working around what Taylor deems his vision to be, Tobin said.
Tobin has been with the Bengals since 1999 and has a clear idea what ownership expects and his job is to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“When we draft a guy, we want the guy to be all in on who we’re bringing into the building, and so everybody that touches that player has to be on board, and that’s what we work so hard to get,” Tobin said. “We work so hard to get that, and then it feels good when you can pull a guy off the board, he’s available to you, and everyone is pulling him in the same direction and not saying I didn’t want him or you didn’t want him. And that’s something we’ve worked really hard to accomplish with Marvin and we’ll accomplish that with the new group as well.”
Taylor said developing a relationship with Tobin has been easy so far. The two talk daily, “hourly almost,” he said, and the chemistry has been there since he was interviewing for the job.
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The main thing for Taylor is getting used to a greater responsibility in the decision-making process with evaluating the current roster and draft prep. While he has sat in on a lot of offensive personnel meetings in the past, this will be his first experience taking part in the defensive side as well.
“It certainly is more involved than I have been in the past, just as a head coach as opposed to a position coach, but I think you’re always prepared for it because you’re always involved with the personnel meetings everywhere I’ve been,” said Taylor, who spent the last two years as a wide receivers and quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams. “It’s not that much different of a process than I’ve been used to. Our conversations have been great, we’re on the same page, communication is key between personnel and coaching staff. So far that’s been outstanding.”
In terms of evaluating the roster, Taylor is going back to the preseason and looking at every rep each player took in 2018.
He also is leaning on some of the returning coaches for extra input. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, special teams assistant Brayden Coombs, wide receivers coac Bob Bicknell, quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, assistant quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher and defensive backs coaches Daronte Jones (cornerbacks) and Robert Livingston (safeties) all return. Simmons, being a 17th-year veteran with the Bengals, especially has been helpful as someone who has been involved with almost the entire roster.
Taylor likes the ability to blend the old with the new in terms of ideas from previous staff to those just joining. Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan looks forward to seeing what that ends up looking like, but said clear communication will be the key to getting everyone on the same page.
“Anytime you build a relationship it’s going to take time,” Callahan said. “The good thing is I try to be as open and clear as I can with whatever the conversation might be — type of player, player profile, whatever that is. As long as there’s a reciprocal flow of information where I’m honest and you’re honest, it’s not personal and all we want to do get the best player for the Cincinnati Bengals, if you feel that, there’s really not a whole lot of issues. We all like football a lot. It makes it pretty easy.”