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Two-minute drill

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 30, 2010 – 5:23 am

A two-minute drill of observations heading into the last week of the preseason:

2:00: Antonio Bryant is a good man with a big heart and that passion may have done him in with the Bucs and Bengals.

He basically admitted last week that he came back too early from his knee injury last preseason in Tampa and that this spring he became so immersed in trying to get to know the offense and get in sync with his teammates in Cincinnati that he hurried on to the field and didn’t tend to the details of rehab.

Here’s a guy that could have taken the money and run but didn’t. Twice. He was the franchise player in Tampa in ’09 before getting what amounted to a $7.85 million here, according to reports. Throw in the money the Bengals gave Laveranues Coles last year and that’s a grand total of nearly $18 million wasted trying to replace T.J. Houshmandzadeh, still playing in Seattle.

There are those here that wonder if Houshmandzadeh would have been hard to handle here last year in a run-first offense. But now there is no wondering about this: The Bengals have to take a wide receiver in the first round next year.

1:53: The Bengals are going to get grilled for this one. What was the bigger mistake? Signing him with the knee like that? Or letting him practice that first day of training camp, taking away the option of putting him on the physical unable to play list (PUP) and letting him have six more weeks to work it out and maybe have him for a stretch run? But the fact they didn’t put him on IR or reach an injury settlement with him would indicate they don’t think he could have helped them next year, anyway.   

They didn’t make the biggest mistake, which is keeping him in place of a young guy like Quan Cosby or Jerome Simpson in the hopes they could squeeze something out of the investment. That would have been the hat trick.

1:37: So who gets the final two spots? With Maurice Purify hurt and Matt Jones catching just four balls in four games, does Simpson have the upper hand going into Thursday’s preseason finale in Indianapolis?  (Word is that he was in the right spot on the Jordan Palmer interception that ended up a TD Saturday.) If he does, is that sixth and final spot being contested by Cosby and Dez Briscoe? And is it a contest? Cosby has played the best in the games of any receiver trying to make it.

1:23: Mike Nugent showed Saturday why the Bengals signed him thinking he would be a solid replacement for Shayne Graham when he flashed that second-round leg with the 54-yard field goal Saturday night in Buffalo.  Remember, this is a guy that made more than 80 percent of his tries with the Jets before he got hurt. Yes, the downside is he doesn’t boom kickoffs. But if they think he’s now healthy, he may have done enough to convince them.

1:10: Say what you want about the defense giving up 21 points in the first half but when they had their first secondary and line in there in the first quarter, rookie running back C.J. Spiller couldn’t get to the edge. Plus, they were so banged up it brought back memories of how they limped through the playoff game last year. Their best move was leaving so many guys home, from the three defensive linemen to the four DBs. Memo to Mike Zimmer: Ice them again Thursday.

1:03: Will a fourth safety please stand up? Rico Murray may have with some nice hits on a night he finished with four tackles from scrimmage and one on special teams. Special teams captain Kyries Hebert led the team along with linebackers Brandon Johnson and Roddrick Muckelroy with five tackles. Murray’s edge on Hebert is he can also play some cornerback. But Hebert is a bigger factor on special teams.  Maybe the fourth safety isn’t here yet.

0:55: Even though he hasn’t played in the last two games, it looks like linebacker/fullback Dan Skuta (ankle) is going to make it. Look for him to play in Indy. That would give them six backers with Skuta and Brandon and Michael Johnson backing up. Is that all they’re going to keep now that they have to keep an extra running back with the Brian Leonard injury? That still leaves guys like veteran special-teamer Abdul Hodge and a fourth-round pick, Muckelroy, outside looking in.

0:47: Fullback Fui Vakapuna (shoulder) has yet to play in a game. It looks like they’re trying to protect him for the season but it would seem they are covered if he can’t go with Skuta and a combination of tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Reggie Kelly. They could always not go with a fullback and go with four tight ends but it seems that they tried to make Dan Coats a fullback once before and moved him back to tight end.

0:34: Huge battle at running back for that last spot with James Johnson and Cedric Peerman. It seems they are fighting for the right to be cut when Leonard returns in the first couple of games of the season. But there is also a larger issue of backup bell cow running back. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski talked about that last week.

All his backs seem to have a different specialty. But Cedric Benson looks like the one guy that can pound it 75 to 80 times in a month of games. Bratkowski said they could get by for a couple of games with Bernard Scott and Leonard/Peerman/Johnson if Benson was shelved, but would probably have to look elsewhere if it was for a longer period.

0:28: Maybe it’s just me, but rookie end Carlos Dunlap looks quite active out there. The defensive line is no doubt the hottest battle heading into Indy. Whether they keep eight or nine. These guys would look to have spots:  Robert Geathers, Antwan Odom, Domata Peko, Tank Johnson, Jon Fanene, Geno Atkins, Dunlap. Maybe Frostee Rucker and Pat Sims, too.  But that gives you nine and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald is a guy they’ve always liked.

0:15:  See why backup tackle Anthony Collins is so valuable? Without him, Dennis Roland is the backup left tackle and while he does a solid job over at right tackle, he’s not the answer at left. They’re hoping Collins (ankle) is ready for the opener.

0:07: Left guard Evan Mathis got a lot of snaps at center Saturday with rookie center Reggie Stephens working at left guard. So they may be trying to decide if they need to go get a backup guard/center or if they’re OK with what they’ve got.

0:00. Big day on the river Sunday Sept. 5. Riverfest while everybody is listening to Reds-Cardinals from St. Louis down river.

It is also the day the Bengals finalize the 53-man roster after cuts on Saturday the 4th. So how many guys that aren’t here now are going to be on that roster? They already have a list of guys they think are going to get cut elsewhere and will make their cuts accordingly. In years past, that’s how they came up with Graham and Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the anticipation of what’s going to be out there always seems to exceed what is actually left.


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Less is more?

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 27, 2010 – 8:05 am

With the talk of an 18-game schedule heightening this week, here’s how we see the lockout ending next year:

The owners and players reach a deal on or about Aug. 1. Scrape together a 10-11 day training camp. Jam in two preseason games. Be ready to go for real Sept. 10. Not only does it keep the league calendar purring despite the NFL being dark since March, it proves that the game can still be played at a high level without weeks of on-field practice.

Which is a good thing because it is looking more and more like the only way the players are going to accept an 18-game schedule is if the May and June voluntaries are drastically cut, if not eliminated, and if training camp is shortened.

“The thing with the 18-game schedule is not so much guys can’t get through it, but if you’re going to be here three months in the offseason, bodies are going to wear down,” said left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals rep to the NFL Players Association. “You’re going to have to find a way to get some of the offseason cut down. You would have more players go for it because it does generate more revenue. It does help the game as far as quality. I am for that. The problem is what it does to your body …. you’ve got to eliminate the OTAs.”

The only people who would probably gripe about that are the coaches. But remember the decade before OTAs became in vogue in the late ‘90s? You basically only one had one mandatory minicamp and the level of play didn’t seem to be impacted. Guys like Jerry Rice and Walter Payton and Anthony Munoz did OK.

And what is the spring but just six more weeks of crossing fingers that no one gets hurt in ridiculous fashion, like blowing out an ACL on the next to last play of some red-zone drill in helmets and shorts just before Memorial Day?

“Every year you have a DB tear a foot up, or hurt an ankle, or a receiver diving for a ball mess a shoulder up,” Whitworth said.  “I think most players when they first hear it, wouldn’t want to play 18 games. But now you present it to a player, ‘You’re only going to be here for a month in the offseason. You’re going to have training camp for a shorter period. You’re not going to play a bunch of preseason games.’ Now it’s a totally different scenario. There’s no way to look at the players’ experience right now and add two more games to our season.”

There is some thinking that if the OTAs are cut out, there must be an expanded training camp like teams had before the spring camps.

Safety Chris Crocker doesn’t see the league giving up the offseason workouts. It’s not the ‘80s anymore, he says. It is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and that means year-round.

“I just don’t see us giving up the offseason. I can’t see it coming,” Crocker said. “This is a full-time sport. We’re still here. We still do things on the field that’s not counted as organized activities. Having OTAs is not the point. It’s being here and I don’t think guys want to be here as long. I just don’t see us winning that battle. And if we do win, who wants a longer training camp? … We’re moving backwards.”

Right now, teams can report to training camp 15 days before the first preseason game. What if most, if not all, of the OTAs were cut out, and they occurred 21 days before the first game? There would certainly be more healthy players available and they might be crisper and fresher.

That will be the interesting thing about 2011. Both Crocker and Whitworth don’t think anything will happen until it has to happen, which means late July. As Whitworth says, look at the rookie negotiations. A deadline always spurs action.

“They have to do it. If I were them, I’d probably do it, too,” said Crocker of the owners’ lockout. “They have to see if we’re going to move.”

But when?  The first move comes in March when the NFL shuts down. The only thing that happens is an April draft. The second move is in late July to lock out the camps. That is what is interesting. What level  of game is going to be played if there is no spring ball and a short camp? Here is a guess that by the first bye week, who is going to remember?

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer says he’s not for the 18-game schedule because it’s going to cut down on the significance of the games. But as long as only 12 teams make the playoffs (please, no NBA or NHL) and the parity is still at a premium, teams are going to be fighting for division titles and Wild Cards at 10-8 and 9-9 instead of 9-7 and 8-8.

What the owners have to do is be sensitive to the players’ physical needs. This is a much more punishing game than even 10 years ago and certainly there is much more research.

Less is more just may be the operative term here.


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One if by T.O, Two if by Chad

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 25, 2010 – 5:44 pm

During Wednesday’s locker-room session, Terrell Owens said that Chad Ochocinco is the best wide receiver that has been opposite him since the incomparable Jerry Rice.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve had somebody of that caliber,” Owens said. “I played with Jerry Rice. He was at the top of the charts as far as being explosive and making a play anywhere on the field.  It’s been awhile and that’s not a knock on (any) of the guys I’ve played with.  You put our resumes side-by-side, there’s nobody out there that can really compare until you put Jerry Rice.”

Owens has it right because he’s going by the numbers. At some point during the Sept. 12 opener in historic New England, the Dynamic Duo should make some history themselves.

 One if by T.O.

 Two if by Chad.

Owens is 49 receiving yards away from becoming the third player in NFL history with 15,000, joining only Rice (22,895) and Isaac Bruce (15,208).

Ochocinco is 48 yards away from becoming the 33rd player with 10,000 yards and moving ahead of Eric Moulds on the all-time list.

When they both reach the milestone, the Bengals become just the second team in NFL history to line up a 15,000-yard receiver and 10,000 yard receiver at the same time. Rice teamed with Tim Brown in Oakland from 2001-2003.

Owens saw Rice pass the 15,000-yard mark his rookie year of 1996 when he was teamed with Rice and J.J. Stokes in San Francisco.


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Big voices; Chad responds

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 24, 2010 – 4:56 pm

The Bengals not only play the big boys Opening Day in three-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady’s Patriots, but they also get the big voices for the 1 p.m. game in Foxboro, Mass. CBS is sending their top announcing team of play-by-play man Jim Nantz and analyst Phil Simms. For the following two weeks, the Paul Brown Stadium opener against the Ravens and the Sept. 26 game in Carolina, the Bengals get play-by-play man Bill Macatee and analyst Rich Gannon.

The Ocho has responded.

He was fined fined $25,000 Tuesday for violating two NFL game policies –- possession of an electronic device and posting messages on a social media site – when the Bengals beat the Eagles Aug. 20. 

Two messages appeared on his Twitter page during the prohibited period for players to be using social media, which begins 90 minutes prior to kickoff and lasts until postgame media obligations are fulfilled.

Asked to comment, he texted, “Child Please!”


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Philosophy at receiver

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 24, 2010 – 7:36 am

Even before Monday, Bengals wide receivers coach Mike Sheppard had to agree that the battle for the last few spots at his position is murky. A tossup where there are no clear-cut guys stepping up to round out what will be a six-man field.

“That’s fair,” Sheppard said. “Everybody has done something good. And then there have been some unfortunate things like Maurice (Purify) getting hurt.”

Purify’s knee tendinitis has shelved him for the last two games and he was down Monday, a devastating blow for a guy trying to prove he can consistently produce on special teams. But Purify wasn’t the only receiver on the bubble Monday who was out. Matt Jones didn’t dress and while Andre Caldwell may not be on the bubble, he hasn’t dressed either in a week he’s looking to reassert himself.

And then there is the $10 million elephant in the room. With the final preseason game just nine days away, there has been no sign of Antonio Bryant (knee) on the field. The injured guys that are on the side rehabbing usually do some running early in practice when it is open to the media. Bryant wasn’t out there Monday. Maybe he came out later, but it is another indication that things aren’t going the way they hoped with him.

Do they cut their losses?

It is hard to see anyone eating $10 million. It is harder still to see them cut a younger, healthier receiver. It would appear if they do keep him, they would almost have to go with seven receivers at this point. Can they do that when they already have to go one extra at running back because of Brian Leonard’s injury?

What we think we know is that these four guys are here: The Ocho, T.O., Caldwell, and Jordan Shipley. So with no Bryant you’ve got a scrum with Jones, Purify, Quan Cosby, Jerome Simpson and Dez Briscoe for two spots. With Bryant, just one of them makes it.

The guys who are supposed to have the edge are Jones and Simpson because they are bigger, taller, and can make plays down the field. Jones has disappeared after his big opener and there is concern about his speed. Simpson continues to flash, but inconsistently. The classic example is last Friday night’s fumble after a 20-yard-plus play. The good and the bad. Plus, the coaches are still looking for more when it comes to executing his assignments.

It always keeps coming back to Cosby. He has been the most productive on the field with his special teams work. It would seem they would have no use for his punt returning skills because they now have cornerback Adam Jones and Shipley. Jones and Shipley can also return kicks, but running back Bernard Scott is the guy.

Yet Cosby does other things on special teams, like tackle and block, which a No. 5 receiver is supposed to do. The knock is he’s too small and too slow to do anything from scrimmage, but Sheppard thinks he can.

“He’s rarely been wrong. He’s very smart and he backs up every position,” Sheppard said. “So he’s dependable and when you call on him to make plays, he does.”

So do they sacrifice potential big plays for say, a Simpson, and go with dependability in a guy like Cosby? When you’ve got guys that can do what Cosby already does and Simpson does have some rare qualities, what do you do? It sounds like a philosophy final instead of Cutdown Day. There may be no right and wrong, but your essay better back up your choice.

And then there is Briscoe. If he doesn’t make it, the prediction is he’ll be gone off waivers and forget the practice squad. So maybe he’s a guy that has to make it. They like what he’s shown so far (route running, hands), but he doesn’t turn 21 until a week from Tuesday and he’s raw.

It would be good for Caldwell, too, to get something done in games. Hard to see them cutting him because of his speed and his ability to play all three spots and he looked great early in camp when Carson Palmer was throwing to him. But he’s been hard to find with the backup QBs in the second half.

Two games left and they’re right where they were the opening night of camp when Bryant went to the sidelines and T.O. showed up. It is competition they wanted and they got it.


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Things to think, believe

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 22, 2010 – 6:38 am

I put on my Lance McAlister “I Believe” T-shirt and read Peter King’s “Things I Think I Believe” in this week’s Sports Illustrated and came up with these things I Think I Believe:

» A year after not having Roy Williams for 12 games and losing Chris Crocker down the stretch, the Bengals took another hit at safety when Gibril Wilson tore up his knee Friday against the Eagles and looks to be done for the year.  The guy is into it and they loved his familiarity with some aspects of the defense. Wilson spent some time with the Giants under Marvin Lewis disciple Tim Lewis.

The Bengals now need a fourth safety and I Think I Believe don’t sleep on Rico Murray, the Moeller High School product via Kent State in his second season. He also plays cornerback and runs around on teams at high intensity. The fact he’s a swing guy is interesting. Could they keep just nine DBs, now, if they kept Murray? They would still have the magical number of six corners if they count Murray as a safety and count five others at corner.

» It took just one night to realize how good this defense can be. Kevin Kolb may not be Donovan McNabb, but he’s at the controls of a proven offensive scheme that had put up some numbers in the preseason.  The intriguing thing about them is how deep they are at all three levels. They’ve never had this much depth on the defensive line ever, ever.

Who do you cut there? I don’t know, but I Think I Believe that at least two of them will end up with jobs the next day.

» How about some midseason preseason awards?

 I Think I Believe Co-Offensive MVPs would be wide receiver Terrell Owens and running back Cedric Peerman. Defensive MVP would be rookie tackle Geno Atkins, and Special Teams MVP would be returner Adam Jones.

» But I Think I Believe that running back Cedric Benson has looked extremely good. He looks fast, decisive, and ready to dole out some more punishment.  It doesn’t look like they’re carving out a lot of room for them, does it?

 Which brings me to the next.

» The offensive vibes still aren’t there and I Think I Believe that’s a gnawing concern that is now moving into the pit of the stomach. Especially after watching the Opening Day foe the night before.  Tom Brady and the Patriots already look at the top of their game.

 The ease with which New England scored against the Falcons is a not-so-subtle reminder in a year the Bengals play Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees – plus Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco twice –  that they have to do a lot more than what they’ve been doing the last three years. They have to roll out more than their one or two touchdowns a game and the same old story of pre-snap penalties, holding calls, and not-on-the-same-page interceptions is more than a bit mystifying after three games.

The defense is good but it can only take the Bengals so far with this schedule.

» I Think I Believe the kicking situation is a mess. Both guys have lived up to the backs of their football cards. Dave Rayner makes about 70 percent of his field-goal tries and Mike Nugent has struggled with injuries. The Texans gave Neil Rackers a good bit of change to sign him this offseason, but along about the third quarter Friday night you had to be thinking how the guy would do kicking on this FieldTurf surface rather than the lunar landscape he dealt with his first three seasons here.

» The Bengals are suddenly thin on the offensive line with the release of center Jon Luigs and injured tackles. It is unclear how long Anthony Collins (foot) is going to be out, but it appears it may be just a sprain. Still, I Think I Believe they could go after a center-guard type on Cutdown Day.


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Early Friday notes: T.O. gets open (letter); Hot spot

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 20, 2010 – 8:00 am

Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens got open Friday morning before that night’s game against the Eagles at Paul Brown Stadium.

In an open letter to “Who Dey Nation” that appeared in Friday’s edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Owens thanked Bengals president Mike Brown for the chance to play and promised “focus stronger than you’ve ever seen it.”

“The Bengals are now my extended family and I look forward to learning more about your city, teammates, coaches and you all,” Owens wrote. “This is my home and I’m happy to be in the Midwest. I’m confident in our team’s chances of winning the title, so anything less than the playoffs is unacceptable to us. It will definitely take a fight but if my gut is correct, Who Dey Nation will be proud this season. I signed here for a reason.

“With hard work and unity, this team will restore power and respect. We’re focused on playing in Texas on Feb. 6. Just take a look at my calendar, the date is saved. Let’s make the Jungle roar this season! “

Before signing off, “Yours truly, Terrell Owens aka T.O. aka “I’m Batman!” Owens said he has “learned that life can be more challenging but I’ve matured.”

HOT SPOT: The roster wild card as the Bengals try to advance beyond the Wild Card is that running back spot they have to keep for injured Brian Leonard (foot).

With Leonard not expected to play until the second game of the year against the Ravens at PBS at the earliest, the Bengals have to keep an extra back to join Leonard, Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott. James Johnson would seem to have the edge because of his knowledge of the system, but Cedric Peerman has some moves. The Bengals coached him at the ’09 Senior Bowl and liked him but were wary of his ball security.

So where is the position where they go with one less? Probably not in the secondary, where the cardinal rule is six cornerbacks and four safeties. It would seem they have to keep just eight defensive linemen or just six linebackers. Keeping just two quarterbacks or just five receivers would seem to be a longshot, but…

It is still extremely early in the process when you consider they could be making key additions five days before the opener off the waiver wire. There have been seasons where they added a kicker (2003) and a backup quarterback (2007) that late.


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Sun shines on Bengaldom

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 17, 2010 – 10:21 pm

Maualuga

All must be right in Bengaldom.

Andre Smith is back on the field.

Rey Maualuga is going to be on the field for the Sept. 12 opener in Foxboro.

And Mike Zimmer is fuming.

Smith and Maualuga, the Bengals’ first two picks in the 2009 draft, are big pieces in the Bengals puzzle of the future. Smith, the right tackle of that future plagued by foot and conditioning problems, ended his seventh-month exile from the field Tuesday. Maualuga, who started 15 games at SAM backer last season as a rookie, is going to start against the Patriots Opening Day after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced he faced only a fine for his DUI arrest in January.

The original decision was a one-game suspension and not the usual fine for a first-time offender, apparently because Maualuga hit some parked cars, making the circumstances more serious. Maualuga figures the suspension hung over him for a couple of months, but he was pleased with the appeals process.

He said he met with Goodell and is just thankful “I can move on, think about football, and play against New England with my teammates.”

It figures to be at SAM backer and not in the middle, even though he played about 20 of his 28 snaps at middle linebacker during Sunday’s win over Denver. Zimmer, the Bengals defensive coordinator, relies heavily on Dhani Jones’ experience and grasp of the calls, and he said Maualuga was “rusty” there after he played in all kinds of situations that ranged from base to third down. The idea, at the moment, doesn’t seem to be to replace Jones, but to see if Maualuga can be effective at the MIKE backer in certain packages.

“We have to see more of what he can do there.  He was just getting back,” Zimmer said.

Maualuga, named the best linebacker in the country when he roamed the middle for USC two years ago, missed the opener in Canton because of a tweaked hamstring.

“It was like going back home,” Maualuga said of the middle. “I looked up and it was kind of weird. I’m thinking, ‘Hey, there’s a guy on both sides of me.’ But I’ve got a long way to go. I’m trying to get better a day at a time.”

Zimmer, by the way, is furious with his defense’s performance in the first two games.  And while they would feel better if they were playing better, remember what linebacker Brandon Johnson said a few weeks ago:

“He’s better at fixing things.”

Well, Zimmer says he’s got a lot to fix after the Broncos threw for 257 yards.

“We’re not a very good defense right now,” Zimmer said. “Not good. Overrated. The things we do, we’re not paying attention. Believe me, there will be things emphasized.

Which may be a good sign in the world according to Zimmer.


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NFL statement on Maualuga

Posted by bengalsweb on August 17, 2010 – 4:12 pm

Maualuga

The following was released by the NFL on Tuesday pertaining to Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga’s arrest in January 2010. He will not face any game suspension.

“Rey Maualuga of the Cincinnati Bengals has been fined two game checks and will forfeit an additional 2/17 of his signing bonus attributable to 2010 for an alcohol-related violation of law (DUI) that is also a violation of the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.”


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Quick Glance

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 16, 2010 – 2:49 pm

In honor of tight end Jermaine Gresham’s 19-yard route on the last play of the first quarter Sunday night, here is one man’s quick Glance at the 33-24 win over the Broncos:

» The first offensive line held up, didn’t it in pass protection? Of course, there was no Elvis Dumervil out there, but then Dumervil didn’t have a sack against them in last year’s regular-season opener.

Then again, Denver, which now has no pass rushers, played more vanilla than Dallas and played pretty much straight up with no blitzes or games along the front and the Bengals responded after an urgent week of practice. The Eagles, in here Friday night, always seem to play aggressively on defense so that should be an interesting first half from a protection standpoint.

Quarterback Carson Palmer did his damage in that third drive against a secondary that didn’t have cornerback Champ Bailey in there, but it looked like the rest of the DBs that started were.

It’s hard to tell about the running game because that’s all about rhythm and with the first two series scripted, they’re trying to see different things instead of setting up a game plan. Take away running back Cedric Benson’s 21-yard run and he had nine yards on eight carries. But then again, in that stretch Palmer threw almost twice as many passes (15) and you can’t see that happening during the season.

» Especially when you’ve got a weapon around like No. 2 backup Bernard Scott. A 38-yard run and 46-yard catch on a screen pass and now he’s averaging 24 yards a catch and 5.6 yards a run in the preseason. Combine that with the regular season and preseason of last year and he’s averaging 4.8 per run and more than 15 per catch. Are we to see some kind of Great Scott package to get him about 10 touches a game?

» Remember back to even just two years ago when the closest thing the Bengals had to a punt returner was Mike Martin? Except the problem is he was then the 48-year-old coach at Taft High School. After Peter Warrick left and went away in 2004, it wasn’t exactly a Billy White Shoes Hall of Fame. You either had guys you didn’t want to do it in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deltha O’Neal, or guys that struggled with it in Keiwan Ratliff and Antonio Chatman.  Hey, Skyler Green and Leon Hall actually combined to return 11 punts in 2007 and 2008.

Now you’ve got three guys that could be the No. 1 punt returner on any club in the league.

Wide receiver Quan Cosby is following up the best year a Bengals punt returner has had since Martin led the NFL in 1984 with more, popping one for 43 and another for 17 on Sunday night. And he’s fighting to make the roster. The two guys that look to make it, wide receiver Jordan Shipley and cornerback Adam Jones, have also gone long. Shipley encored his 63-yarder last week against Dallas with a 21-yarder Sunday, and Jones got in the fray with a nifty 28-yarder up the sideline, aided, by the way, with a Scott block.

So you’ve got a 63, a 43, and a 28 from each guy.  In the four seasons from ’05-‘08, the longest return was Ratliff’s 38-yarder in ’06. Jones’ 28-yarder would have been their longest one in 2005 and 2007, when they didn’t have one of at least 20 yards. And Shipley already has two.

» More depth?

What happens on the defensive line and secondary now that they have to keep four running backs instead of three because of the foot injury to Brian Leonard? They very well may have to go one less at one of those spots with either eight defensive linemen or nine DBs, but try to break it down and it shows you how much talent they truly have.

The D-line looked active; although there was some surprise how Denver’s offensive line pushed the starters back early on double teams. But the kids continue to impress. Fourth-rounder Geno Atkins, the rookie defensive tackle, has 3.5 sacks in the two games after 1.5 on Sunday.  They’ve always liked second-year defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. And doesn’t Frostee Rucker, who plays both end and tackle, always do something? Last night he scooped up Tim Tebow’s fumble that wasn’t for a 34-yard touchdown.

(Stat note: The play-by-play sheet incorrectly identified Tank Johnson as the player accessed the personal foul on a hit to quarterback Kyle Orton that revived a TD drive after linebacker Brandon Johnson knocked away a third-down pass in the end zone. It should have been on lineman Antwan Odom.)

Second-rounder Carlos Dunlap got his first snaps at end. He may end up being more suited to play tackle, but he flew around a little bit and got a few shots on Tebow, his old Florida teammate.

Right now you’ve got 11. You’ve got your four starters (Geathers, Odom, Peko, Tank Johnson). You’ve got the two guys that can play both end and tackle in Rucker and Jon Fanene. You’ve got the run stopper Pat Sims. You’ve got the draft picks in Dunlap and Atkins. You’ve got the young vets in McDonald and Orien Harris.

Wow, if they keep only eight. And, wow if they keep nine, too.

What about the secondary if they only keep nine with five corners?  You’ve got the top three of Joseph, Hall, and Adam Jones and then  a third-round pick Brandon Ghee (hurt Sunday), two guys that played No. 3 for a season in Morgan Trent and David Jones, and a rookie free agent in Johnny Sears that has impressed despite picking up back-to-back pass interference calls against the Broncos. David Jones’ 24-yard interception return for a TD on Sunday served notice he hasn’t gone away.  But doesn’t a team that plays six games against 4,000-yard QBs need as many corners as they can get?

Nice problem to have.

» It’s a big surprise that the first defense has allowed as many long drives as it has in the first two games. Sunday’s three pass-interference calls against the corners (the other was on Leon Hall) were uncharacteristic, as were their problems with the play-action pass.

But don’t you get the idea that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is holding onto a lot of stuff until Sept. 12 in Foxboro? He was as vanilla Sunday as Broncos D-coordinator Don Martindale.


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