Young Bengals On Lewis' Radar

Opportunity is knocking for a handful of Bengals rookies and young veterans, some of whom are walking through a door to a new future.

The rookies and young veterans, some more so than others, are getting coach Marvin Lewis' attention in their quests to make the Bengals' final roster.

“I was pleased with our draft picks, again. That’s what makes preseason exciting to me, to have those guys go out there, and you get a chance to evaluate them against the other teams and see how they’re playing and reacting to things," Lewis said. "It’s live football, and you need to see that. We were down some guys on defense, down some of our backups on defense in the game, but hopefully we’ll get more guys out and playing this week.”

One of the rookies who has flashed is linebacker P.J. Dawson. Coach Lewis was asked about Dawson's non-flash plays.

“He’s in the tutoring program constantly," Lewis said with a smile. "That’s where we expected him to be, and he’s better than I expected him to be, which is a good thing. He’s worthwhile to have in that program. He deserves all the attention he gets every day. And it comes from (coaches) Darrin (Simmons), from Matt (Burke), from Paul (Guenther) and from myself. He garners a lot of attention, and that’s fine.

Lewis said at the end of the day, Dawson is going to be a worthwhile linebacker. "He has instinctive things that we can’t coach, things he’s very natural with," Lewis said. "Now we just have to keep coaching him and get him in the right spots and do things the way we want we want to do them, with discipline all the time.”

Lewis said Dawson is a "good learner" with a good feel for the game. "It doesn’t take many snaps to figure out that a guy is going to be pretty good at doing it," the coach said. "Then you can teach him how to cut down wasted steps and trim the fat off of things. We can teach him that. That part I have been really pleased with.”

With key offensive linemen Andre Smith, Jake Fisher and Trey Hopkins out against Tampa Bay, the coach has been pleased with line depth thanks to some youngsters.

“It’s been great," he said. "For guys like Dan France, Matt O’Donnell, Tanner Hawkinson. These guys have got a lot of reps at that guard/tackle spot. Now we hope to have the other guys back and going this week. But again, this is an audition these guys are making, not just for us but across the NFL.”

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