Monday, May 03, 1999

Rookie Fisher is future at corner

Bengals' No. 2 pick blending well on defense

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Charles Fisher
(Michael E. Keating photo)

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        The Bengals sighed this weekend after catching their first glimpse of Charles Fisher.

        They have seen the future at left cornerback and it's the lean 6-foot rookie, who impressed the club at mini-camp with speed, agility and knowledge of coordinator Dick LeBeau's defense.

        “There haven't been any busted coverages because of new players out there,” head coach Bruce Coslet said Sunday.

        Of course, the Bengals don't have a bye into the future, which is why they still seek a veteran left corner to help Fisher through the rough spots this season. Just look at the AFC Central receivers: Jimmy Smith in Jacksonville, Yancey Thigpen in Tennessee, Jermaine Lewis in Baltimore and high-priced rookie Kevin Johnson in Cleveland.

        But since they think they need a guy for one year only, the Bengals aren't pursuing multi-million dollar corners, which is what Ashley Ambrose and Ryan McNeil want to become.

        They have their eyes on a class of free agents that includes their own Corey Sawyer, a cheaper player who could start or be a third corner.

        “A number of guys would be a fit,” said Bengals President Mike Brown. “You could also do a sliding type of deal where it depends on what he actually does. If he plays a lot, he'll be paid for it. Maybe it's time for one of these guys to come after us instead of us going after them.”

        Former Oilers and Redskins corner Cris Dishman is a player the Bengals have discussed. He works out in Kansas City today and in Cincinnati during the next week. Plus, he says the Vikings have expressed interest. The Louisville product has family and friends in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

        “They'd only have to come an hour to see me play, which is kind of nice,” Dishman said Sunday. “I've played the Bengals a lot over the years and I know they've got some good players, like (receiver) Darnay Scott, and they've got that new running back (Corey Dillon).”

        Dishman, who turns 34 in training camp, said he'd have no problem being a mentor to guys such as Fisher and Artrell Hawkins, the second-year player at right corner. But Dishman believes he can start.

        “I have no problem with (being a mentor), as long as they listen and take it seriously,” Dishman said. “I won't be coming in as a Mr. Know It All. My whole thing is work ethic. Get in early and stay late and watch a lot of film.”

        LeBeau is already impressed with Fisher's film study. He was with secondary coach Ray Horton for much of the weekend watching a scheme in which he's already quite familiar.

        Fisher's defensive coordinator at West Virginia made several trips to Pittsburgh to borrow the Steelers' zone blitz, a scheme LeBeau devised while with the Steelers. Such blitzes as “zone automatic” had the same name in Fisher's college playbook.

        “It's the same terminology, but it's coded,” Fisher said Sunday. “So I have to decode it. I already know what's going on, I just have to make sure I decode it and get into position right away.”

        Fisher had a better day Sunday than Saturday. He got the call from the safeties better and was in position quicker. He also matched up athletically against NFL receivers.

        So did Fresno State free safety Cory Hall, the Bengals' third-round pick. Hall is also impressing with his size (205 pounds), speed and that he came out of a system that used the zone blitz a lot.

        The two rookies, along with Hawkins, have some in the organization recalling the 1986-87 drafts.

        In 1986, the Bengals took cornerback Lewis Billups in the second round and safety David Fulcher in the third. In 1987, they took corner Eric Thomas in the second round.

        They formed the core of the 1988 Super Bowl secondary coached by LeBeau.

        “Those players, like these guys, made us a faster defense,” LeBeau said. “When you get a guy that high in the draft, you know he's got the size and the speed. Now you have to teach them to play.”

        Which is why the Bengals still want to sign a veteran cornerback.


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