Now that the Cincinnati Bengals are off the draft clock, they've turned their focus to signing draft picks, adding undrafted free agents, making cuts where necessary and resuming training for the upcoming season.
Through its eight-player draft class, Cincinnati showed how serious it was about having a more physical offense was. Half the Bengals' picks were offensive players, but two players in particular should contribute to the renewed focus on rushing that new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has promised to bring. Other anticipated undrafted free agency additions make that even more evident.
The running game is where we begin with Monday's post-draft Quick Takes:
1. Run-game adds: The Pros. We're going to do these first two Quick Takes in a "Pro vs. Con" format. First the pros to the running-game additions the Bengals made this weekend. When we look at the running back the Bengals drafted, Jeremy Hill (LSU, second round), there actually is a lot to like. Just consider the stats from his final season: 1,401 yards, 16 touchdowns and 6.9 yards per carry ... most of them against SEC defenses. During their film study of Hill's play within LSU's pro-style offense, Bengals coaches were impressed that Hill created holes with his agility, speed and power-running style. Several other running backs they considered played in spread offenses that set up blocking lanes that won't regularly be there in the NFL. Another pro: center Russell Bodine (North Carolina, fourth round), who is considered a truly physical center. He's noted for his toughness and strength, and could be the perfect interior lineman (he played some guard, too) to run Cincinnati's renewed power game behind.
Along with those draft picks, the Bengals are expected to sign the following undrafted free agents: interior linemen Dan France (Michigan State) and Trey Hopkins (Texas), fullbacks Ryan Hewitt (Stanford) and Nikita Whitlock (a defensive tackle at Wake Forest), and running backs Jeff Scott (Ole Miss) and James Wilder Jr. (Florida State). It's clear the Bengals at least want to explore what their offense can look like with all these training-camp invitees.
2. Run-game adds: The Cons. The cons to the Bengals' run-game selections have to do with whether the Bengals were true to the "best player available" drafting model, and if they are worried about any red flags from certain players' pasts. We'll start with Hill, who was picked two spots ahead of Ohio State's Carlos Hyde and one spot behind Bishop Sankey, who was the first running back selected. Hill has intangibles the Bengals' coaches like, but most draft projections had him rated below both Hyde and Sankey. Did his selection fit the bestplayer available model the Bengals like to trumpet? Maybe not. There also were issues with Hill's past, including a conviction for a misdemeanor sexual assault incident when he was in high school, and an arrest following a bar fight that was caught on camera just last year. The Bengals didn't seem too troubled by those issues, although many outside of Paul Brown Stadium are. Using a second-round pick on a player with his background could be perceived as a gamble. Similarly, Wilder, a physical, upright and tall (he's 6-foot-2) runner, had arrests and maturity issues when he was in college. The risk is dramatically minimized in his case, though, since he went undrafted.
3. M.J. 2.0? As easy as it might be to compare third-round defensive end selection Will Clarke to former Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, don't. At least not yet. It is true that Clarke has very similar measurements to Johnson -- both are long and lean in body frame and stand taller than 6-foot-6 -- but it probably isn't feasible to equate a rookie's college performance to a proven NFL end. Yes, Clarke will be sporting Johnson's familiar No. 93, but it'll take some time for him to ease into a defense that already includes the likes of ends Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers, Wallace Gilberry, Sam Montgomery and Dontay Moch. Still, as picks go, Clarke was a solid mid-round selection, even though many Bengals fans were hoping one of the higher-rated ends like Missouri's Kony Ealy would be selected when Cincinnati made its second-round pick. He was available.
4. One game. Had it not been for Michigan State recruiters attending the Twiggs County High (Ga.) vs. Dooly County High (Ga.) regular-season finale in 2009, Darqueze Dennard might have never been a first-round pick. Spartans coaches made the trek to south Georgia to watch a teammate of Dennard's and instead walked away impressed by what they saw out of him. Later that night, Dennard, a then-high school senior, was told by his high school coach that the recruiters were interested. They eventually extended Dennard his only college offer. Before that game, Dennard thought his football career was nearing its end. He didn't foresee a football future.