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Found on Big Blue Draft book 2/26/05

:player: Draft Watch :player:

LSU DE Marcus Spears will not be working this week at the scouting combine after he suffered what is being described as a minor knee sprain getting ready for the draft. Spears, though, is expected to be ready to work out at LSU's pro day on March 9th. Spears, in fact, isn't the only former Tiger not to be able to workout this week. C Ben Wilkerson still is recovering from a patellar tendon injury suffered late last season and won't work out; Wilkerson also likely won't be ready for the LSU pro day on the 9th :player:


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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Defensive line offers plenty of potential

It could produce seven first-rounders

By Mark Curnutte

Enquirer staff writer

INDIANAPOLIS - If the Bengals are in the market to draft a defensive lineman, they will have their choice of some good ones with the 17th overall pick.

Several draft experts project five defensive ends and two defensive tackles as first-round picks this year.

Coach Marvin Lewis has said the Bengals need to improve the consistency of their pass rush and run gap defense.

Former starting tackle Tony Williams is not expected to return to the Bengals as an unrestricted free agent.

The consensus top tackle available in the draft, to be held April 23-24, is Florida State's Travis Johnson. He is 6 feet 4 and 305 pounds but says he looks like a 280-pounder. The biggest question about Johnson is whether he was a one-year college wonder, though he did have 17 tackles for loss.

"My senior year, it was my show, my team," Johnson said Saturday at the annual NFL scouting combine. "I got the opportunity to show what I could do."

Johnson and Shaun Cody of Southern California are the two likely first-round tackles.

The list of projected first-round ends is longer. The top ones are Wisconsin's Erasmus James, Georgia's David Pollack, LSU's Marcus Spears Oklahoma's Dan Cody, Iowa's Matt Roth and Maryland's Shawne Merriman. They all are versatile.

When asked Saturday where he would play in the NFL, the 260-pound Pollack said: "You can't answer it. It's the coaches' decision. I can play wherever: linebacker, defensive end. I switched positions three times at Georgia. I came in as a fullback; people got hurt, and I was switched to defensive tackle my freshman year. I moved to defensive end my sophomore year."

James had eight sacks and 111/2 tackles for loss this past season.

"I don't have a model," James said Saturday. "I see tendencies of Julius Peppers and (Jevon) Kearse."

Pollack is strong against the run and had 91/2 sacks. Spears had 81/2 sacks and, like Merriman, can play both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses.

"I can play up the first three downs and in pass-rushing situations," said Merriman, who weighed in at 272 pounds. "I can rush. So whatever they need me to play, I'll play."

Lewis, who uses a 4-3 defense with four down linemen, was asked at the combine whether he would switch - even occasionally - into a four-linebacker set.

"It depends on the players," Lewis said. "It's been proven that it depends on their mental aptitude. It's how they can handle the transition."

The Bengals' defensive line and linebacker corps are in relative flux compared to the secondary, which stabilized last season after an outstanding draft and veteran acquisitions.

Though the Bengals finished with 37 sacks, they had six games in which they had just one - indicative of stretches without putting much pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Questions about the health of middle linebacker Nate Webster remain following his season-ending kneecap injury. Landon Johnson could be moved outside to replace Kevin Hardy in the starting lineup.

Tackle Langston Moore improved the play of the defensive line when he replaced Williams, and starters John Thornton, Justin Smith and Duane Clemons - as well as promising pass rusher Robert Geathers and tackle Matthias Askew - return.

However the pieces fit together, Lewis wants to improve on a rush defense that was tied for 26th this past season.

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