CINCINNATI — The Bengals turned the first two days of the NFL draft into an upgrade for their offense, re-signing right tackle Andre Smith while bringing a tight end and a running back aboard.
Things went so well that they felt free to take a chance on a track and field star-turned-defensive end from Estonia in the second round.
Smith had been the only missing piece of the starting offense from last season, when the Bengals reached the playoffs for the second year in a row as a wild card and lost to Houston. Smith, an unrestricted free agent, finally decided to stay with Cincinnati, which drafted him in the first round in 2009.
The defense has been the strength of the team, finishing sixth overall last season. The offense struggled in big games, especially the playoff loss. It’s clear where they have to improve.
“It’s just going to be up to us to do our part on offense,” said Smith, who got a three-year deal.
It has a chance to get better.
The Bengals took Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round on Thursday night, giving quarterback Andy Dalton another proven receiver to complement Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green.
They picked running back Giovani Bernard from North Carolina with the first of their two choices in the second round last night. They are looking for a back to complement BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is more of a straight-ahead runner. Bernard was the first running back taken in the draft.
“You can plug me into any type of situation, plug me into any type of offense,” Bernard said. “I’m a guy who’s going to accept my role, whatever the role is going to be.”
The Bengals chose one of the more intriguing players with their other pick in the second round. Defensive end Margus Hunt was one of three defensive ends in the draft who were born abroad and came from other sports.
Hunt, who is 6 feet 8 and 277 pounds Hunt went to Southern Methodist as a track and field star from Estonia. He set a junior world record in the discus and competed internationally in the hammer throw and shot put.
When SMU dropped track and field, Hunt tried out for the football team in 2009. He didn’t even know how to put on his pads at first. The coaches started teaching him the game by getting him to block kicks. He quickly became adept at it, blocking seven his first season.
He got better every year, using his exceptional strength and speed to get eight sacks last season. The Bengals have one of the deepest defensive lines in the league and can give Hunt time to develop.
“When you watch the tape, it’s not all the time, but there’s flashes where you say, ‘Wow!’ ” defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. “We’ve just got to point him in the right direction.”
Hunt’s mother and sister were with him when he was drafted last night. It had been a year since he had seen his mother, who lives in Estonia.
“To say the least, they were freaking out today,” Hunt said.
With their only pick in the third round, the Bengals selected safety Shawn Williams from Georgia.
TE Tyler Eifert
1st round, 21st overall, Notre Dame
RB Giovanni Bernard
5 feet 8, 202 pounds, North Carolina, second round, No. 37
Short strides and quick steps allow for surprising cuts. Same strides help him get up to speed very quickly.
DE Margus Hunt
6 feet 8, 277 pounds, SMU, second round, No. 53
Tall, thick, but athletic lineman with loads of potential. … Much quicker off the snap given his size, and his long first step helps him pressure the outside shoulder of offensive tackles.
S Shawn Williams
6 feet, 213 pounds, Georgia, third round, No. 84
A physical safety with an overall muscular build that translates well to the NFL.
|Fourth round||No. 118|
|Fifth round||No. 156|
|Sixth round||No. 190|
|Sixth round||No. 197|
|Seventh round||No. 240|
|Seventh round||No. 251|