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Ex-Ravens coach sees Bengals' upside


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The more I read about this guy, the more I like him.

Ex-Ravens coach sees Bengals' upside

Bengals linebackers can expect to hear a lot about Ray Lewis from their new position coach.

Jeff FitzGerald, who was announced Wednesday as the team's new linebackers coach, handled Lewis and the rest of Baltimore's star-studded linebacker corps the past four seasons.

"Everyone can get better," FitzGerald said in a phone interview Wednesday night from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

That list includes Ray Lewis.

"He was always eager and wanted to get better," FitzGerald, whose stop with the Bengals will be his fifth as an NFL position coach, said of Lewis. "He worked his (butt) off in practice. I was always jumping all over the other guys. 'You can't run around the way he runs around, and he has accomplished everything?' "

FitzGerald, 47, takes over a position group whose success or failure in 2008 will be pivotal in the overall fortunes of the team and a defense searching for redemption.

The Bengals are toying with the idea of switching from a defensive scheme that uses three linebackers to one that employs four, known as the 3-4.

The Bengals placed four linebackers on the season-ending injured reserve list in 2007, including rising third-year player Ahmad Brooks.

"I am told we have some potential difference-maker players," said FitzGerald, who met late last week with Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer at Paul Brown Stadium.

In addition, the Bengals are expected to regain the services of promising pass-rush outside linebacker Eric Henderson and possibly Odell Thurman, a play-maker as a rookie who was suspended the past two years for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. The Bengals might be considering a move to outside linebacker for defensive end Robert Geathers.

FitzGerald is all about linebackers. He was a linebacker at Oregon State before a knee injury ended his playing career. Three of his four pervious NFL coaching stints - Baltimore, Arizona and Washington - were as a linebackers coach. He worked with defensive backs and special teams at Tampa Bay from 1990-93.

"I think I bring a lot," he said. "I'm going to be able to help these guys develop. It is my job and obligation to bring them along and make them thorough linebackers: blitzing, against the run, zone (pass coverage) drops, man-to-man coverage. I'm going to make them better football players."

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