Bengals' OC Brian Callahan Quotes 4.25.20
COURTESY OF CINCINNATI BENGALS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
Do you see Adeniji as a guard or tackle?
"Both. He was a four-year starter at tackle at Kansas. He played some guard at the Senior Bowl, and played some tackle. He's got some flex for both positions."
How much did that flexibility factor into this pick, especially at this stage in the draft?
"Quite a bit. Any time you can get guys that have position value, you always rank that a bit higher than a guy who's a one-hole player. Guys that have flexibility and versatility are always valued."
He's got to have some intelligence to him as well. Is he book smart and football smart?
"He's extremely intelligent. That's one of the things we loved about him. He was accepted to the Air Force Academy. The kid loves football. His intelligence is one of the things that stands out."
You guys waited until the sixth round to draft an offensive lineman. Does that indicate how you feel about where the offensive line currently sits?
"No, I just think that's kind of how it fell. We had players that we liked graded higher than some of the linemen on the board at the time we picked. Sometimes that's just how the draft unfolds. You're trying to take the best players you can find – your highest-graded players – and that's kind of what we've done through this process. We liked Adeniji. We had him graded pretty high, and we're happy we had a chance to take him where we took him. We liked him in some other spots a little bit higher too. We're excited about his addition, and he brings some ability to us that we like."
He was a captain at Kansas. It seems like everyone you guys have drafted has been a captain. You've been working on that culture aspect pretty heavily...
"Yeah, it's important. Again, he was also a four-year starter, so he's played a ton of football. Guys that are captains and have leadership qualities, work ethic, and things that their peers at their schools have respected about them — those are the types of people we want in our locker room. Culture is important to us. The standard of culture is important to us, and those guys tend to stand out in that regard, as far as work ethic, and how they treat their profession. That's why you want guys that are in those leadership roles."
The Senior Bowl seems to be paying off for you…
"Yeah. It was a distinct advantage, especially given how things unfolded as the offseason went along. We did a lot of work on all the players in that game, and we're well ahead of our normal process if we didn't coach that game. It's an advantage, and you really get a chance to know these guys and interact with them. You use it to your advantage when you can."
What are some of the things you liked when you saw him down there?
"He's extremely athletic. He's physical – he's kind of a pure offensive lineman in that regard. He's got a lot of vowels in his last name – that gets me excited (laughs). His flexibility playing guard – he was supposed to play tackle, but they moved him to guard because of numbers. He didn't say a word and did it well. He looked good. He played the best against the best teams, and they played against Baylor and Oklahoma in that conference. He's got some quickness to the second level, and you can tell his intelligence. There's a lot of things to like about him."
Was he a four-year starter at left tackle, or did he start at right and they moved him over at Kansas?
"He can play both of them. He finished on the (left) side at Kansas."
At the Senior Bowl, did he play more than one spot?
"He only played guard at the Senior Bowl. He repped in some of the drills at tackle, but he played guard in the game."
Was that to see if he could play guard, or because of an abundance of tackles?
"Both. I think people wanted to see him play some guard. A lot of tackles project as guards in the NFL, so I think everyone wanted to see what he looked like playing inside. His size profile is good for either position. Sometimes those guys get moved inside and play really well, and sometimes they don't. He's got position flex to be able to play both. We liked him as a tackle, and he can play some guard if we need him to."
At the Senior Bowl, were you a part of the crossover meeting with him? Who all was a part of that?
"That was Jimmy (offensive line coach Jim Turner) and Ben (assistant offensive line coach Ben Martin). They handled that. Jimmy's been really excited about Adeniji through this whole process. He was one of the guys that he targeted earlier on. It was probably after the Senior Bowl time with him that he thought was going to be a good player, and especially for the value where we had a chance to pick him. He'd been one of Jimmy's favorites for a while."
In terms of the development of the offensive line as last year went along, why did you think that happened? Where on that line do you think you've improved the most?
"Obviously getting Jonah (Williams) back is a big portion. It's like getting a first-round pick again, which is nice to have him back in the fold. He's obviously a guy that we feel like is going to be a cornerstone at left tackle for us. We've added in that regard. As far as the development goes, it's hard to play offensive line in the NFL as a young kid. Mike Jordan is coming along. He really played well as the year went on, and we saw some of the things that we thought we would see. It just takes time to learn how to play, to learn how to use your leverage, use your pad level and use your hands. It's a totally different game against totally different players when you get into these types of talent levels that you see. Trey Hopkins' emergence as a starting-caliber center was really huge for us, and the more comfortable he got, the more he made that line his own. He became the unquestioned leader up front. We're going to have competition at the right guard spot. Xavier (Su'a-Filo) is coming in off of free agency, Alex Redmond has played some for us, Billy Price has played some for us, and Billy's got value because he's a center too, so he's got position flex inside. Bobby (Hart) has been solid. He was solid this past year. And we're obviously all high on Fred Johnson, and the snaps that he got at the end of the year. It's a small sample size, but there's going to be good competition there with Fred as a right tackle. Fred's also got position flex – he played guard in Pittsburgh (before joining the Bengals). We added Isaiah Prince as a waiver wire claim, and as a depth signing to see how he develops. There's pieces there development-wise, and there's also smaller developments I think than you would see. It's not going to jump out at you. No one's going to jump up and down and say 'Look how much better we are.' But those things are happening, and they were happening as the season went along. So we're kind of right on the trajectory we thought they'd be on, especially with those young kids."
How realistic is it to draft an offensive lineman outside the top 50 picks and expect them to be helpful in their rookie season?
"It depends. Some people surprise you. A guy like Adejini, with his intelligence and his experience, can maybe, you hope, push some competition further along quicker than it does in some years. But that's legitimate. You get outside of these four or five immediate-impact starters that got drafted in the first round, and that's just kind of the reality of how it shakes out."
With his athleticism and the way the running game changed last season, does he fit that newer scheme?
"I think he fits any scheme, really. His athleticism is certainly a plus, he does do a good job. As I said earlier, he's really good at climbing to that second level, so he's going to fit in the zone scheme. He's physical, even though he's not a monster human being. He plays big. I don't know if there's anything athletically he would not be able to do schematically."
Will he compete for a spot on the right side, or does Bobby Hart have the inside track on that spot right now?
"We always want competition, and we're always going to try to find the five best guys that can help us win games. Whoever that ends up being, we're open to it. There's no real incumbents at this point. Guys that play well are going to play. We've kind of proven that over the last year; and we stand by the philosophy that competition is legitimate. It's real, and these guys are expected to compete. We'll find the best five guys to play, and that gives us the best chance to go win games."
Is it fair to say an offensive line that doesn't protect a rookie quarterback well enough is a big concern, especially when you draft one as high as you did this year with Joe Burrow?
"I'm not concerned about it; I think there's a lot of ways (to help) if you're struggling in one particular area – say if you're struggling in pass protection, there are ways to help that. I do think that when quarterbacks make good decisions – when you look at just taking quarterback hits and sacks, there's a lot of things that go into it and it's usually never just on one particular person or one particular unit. The receivers have got to get open, the quarterback has to make decisions – it all works together. There's ways you can help when you're struggling in certain areas. The run game is what it is, and we have good backs, but they've got to make somebody miss every now and again too. It's just how it works. So to sit here and say that I'm concerned about the quarterback getting hit, I'm really not. There's a lot of ways to help those things that become problems, and I don't think we're going to have a lot of problems with it either, to be honest with you.
"The other part of it protection-wise is scheme. We didn't have very many free runners last year. We were pretty solid as far as picking up pressures and blitzes. So those are the things we spend a lot of time on too, as far as schematics go with protection. If guys are having trouble, there's good players in this league on the other side of the ball and we find ways to help them. We chip, nudge, keep guys in the protection if we have to – there's a lot of ways to mitigate any potential issues as the season goes along."
As far as dealing with pressure in the pocket, Burrow doesn't seem as prone to a lot of the common problems rookie quarterbacks have. Does that make him different than your standard rookie quarterback?
"Yeah. There's guys that feel the pocket great and he's one of them. His ability to avoid the rush and avoid problems just based on his feel in the pocket is something that will be a difference. That's part of the reason we love him as much as we do. His ability to escape and make plays on the move, those are traits that he has that the NFL's moving toward. You see all these guys that make plays, and they're guys that can move and get out of the pocket. Some of these guys would take a lot more sacks and hits if they couldn't move, so that's part of it too."
The scheme change in the second half of the season seemed to positively impact the running game, which in turn positively impacted the pass protection. Would you agree?
"Yeah. Any time you've got to force a defense to play a little more honest, as opposed to it being second-and-12 and they get to tee off, that makes a difference. So everything is kind of married together. It's kind of as I said before — all that stuff fits. If you can run the ball well and get yourself into down-and-distances where you're not facing pass rush all the time, they're not treating second down like third down, and you're not getting a bunch of exotic looks because they know you've got to throw it. So yeah, that helps everybody. That helps keep the rush down, that helps keep the defensive line honest. It's always better."
What do you like about Tee Higgins, and what does he bring to the receiving corps?
"There's a lot of things I like about Tee. Obviously we were really happy he was there when he was. We had high grades on him and thought he was going to be gone in the first (round). So we were thrilled when he was there. He has size, and he's a big, long presence as a receiver. He's got an incredible catch radius. He's got great hands. He's really a great kid personality wise, and he's going to fit great in our receiver room. He works hard and is really highly regarded by the people down there at Clemson. We felt the same way when we spent time with him. He's got really good football intelligence, and I'm excited to see (how he fits). We've got a pretty good, intimidating group of pass-catchers when you trot them all out there, with A.J. (Green) and Tyler Boyd, and you throw Auden Tate in there. And now Tee Higgins is in there, and you've got John Ross' speed. It's a skill group that is exciting for us."