Bengals again use early rounds of draft to focus on defense


CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo stood up from the podium late Friday night and said his work for the NFL draft was complete.

Though Anarumo was joking, he wasn’t too far off.

After taking a defensive player with each of their first three picks for the second straight draft, the Bengals used three of their final five picks Saturday to address offensive needs. They spent another one of those picks on a punter in the sixth round.

“I’m excited for how it shook out for us with the eight picks we had,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “I felt like we got value with all the players. Really excited to get them into the mix, and at the same time, it hit some needs that we had as well.”

Despite needing depth at tight end, the Bengals elected to stand firm at that position. Taylor made it clear he believes free-agent signee Irv Smith Jr. can be the team’s starter this upcoming season.

“By signing Irv and getting Drew (Sample) back, there’s a lot of guys behind there that are going to provide some competition for depth,” Taylor said.

“So we feel like they’ve all been trending in the right direction. … We feel like we can get a lot out of that room.”

Cincinnati already has depth at receiver. But the Bengals added two more potential options for quarterback Joe Burrow in Purdue slot receiver Charlie Jones (Round 4, 131st pick) and 2022 first-team All-Ivy League wideout Andrei Iosivas (Round 6, 206th pick) from Princeton.

The picks sparked a question about the future of Bengals current No. 1 slot option Tyler Boyd, who is entering the final year of his contract.

As questions loom at running back for Cincinnati, the Bengals added Chase Brown from Illinois in the fifth round. The London, Ontario, back won the Jon Cornish Trophy, presented annually to the top Canadian player in college football.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati’s top rusher each of the past six seasons, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to a misdemeanor charge of aggravated menacing over allegations that he threatened and pointed a gun at a woman in Cincinnati earlier this year.

Samaje Perine, Mixon’s longtime backup and Cincinnati’s reliable third-down option, signed with the Denver Broncos in free agency.

The Bengals still have familiar yet unproven options Trayveon Williams and Chris Evans in the backfield.

Brown adds a wealth of productivity at the college ranks to Cincinnati’s running back room.

The Bengals added Michigan punter Brad Robbins in the sixth round to provide some competition for incumbent punter Drue Chrisman. Interesting enough, Chrisman is a graduate of Big Ten archival Ohio State.

Cincinnati ended its draft by grabbing Miami cornerback DJ Ivey at pick No. 246 in the seventh round.

What the Bengals needed most of all was a stronger pass rush.

They got it. Cincinnati introduced their 2023 draft headliner in first-round pick (28th overall) Myles Murphy on Saturday. The former Clemson defensive end, who will wear No. 99 for the Bengals, said he’s already received text messages from veteran Cincinnati edge rushers Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard.

Murphy said he’s anxious to learn from the two ends and form a dynamic and unstoppable trio.

“Just fast and disruptive,” he said. “Just putting every quarterback on notice.”

Anarumo continued his focus on Michigan defensive backs, as Cincinnati selected former Wolverines cornerback DJ Turner II in the second round.

With Turner, the Bengals could have one of the fastest secondaries in the league. Turner was the fastest player at this year’s scouting combine, posting a 4.26 40-yard dash.

Turner reunites with former Michigan teammate Dax Hill. The Bengals drafted Hill in the first round last April.

Speaking of safeties, Cincinnati lost both of its starters from a season ago — Jessie Bates (Atlanta Falcons) and Vonn Bell (Carolina Panthers) — in free agency. The Bengals used their third-round pick on Alabama safety Jordan Battle.

“They’re a winning program, which was something I was hoping I got drafted into,” Battle said. “Coming from Alabama, you’re probably going to hear that a lot — a guy from Alabama that’s joining a team that knows how to win.”

The Bengals have won a lot over the past two seasons. They’ve won back-to-back AFC North championships and have cemented themselves as one of the top-tier teams in the NFL. But the franchise is still seeking its first Super Bowl win.


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