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The week ahead

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 29, 2010 – 5:26 am

With the Bengals starting practice Wednesday in preparation for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game in Cleveland (Cincinnati’s Channel 12), here is a forecast of the media buzz for the week:

» Four-time Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson tweeted his visit to town Tuesday night that included a Jeff Ruby steak and a chat with the coaches over at Paul Brown Stadium. Although the Bengals are trying to figure out what to do at right tackle, Anderson isn’t an option.

But he indicated he’s going to be around the facility Wednesday, which is nice because he hasn’t been around the guys since he refused to take a pay cut just before the 2008 season and moved on to Baltimore. Anderson is one of the smartest guys to ever play for the Bengals and if the beleaguered offensive line gets a chance to rub shoulders with him, that’s a plus.

The line, of course, is already a blazing topic after the struggles in Carolina.

» Speaking of blazing, the Bengals defense is now No. 9 in the NFL. That didn’t take long. Two weeks after defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer called himself out and simplified the scheme in the rubble of the New England debacle, they’re back in the top 10.

With the Browns coming off an enormous ground game against the stingy Ravens in a performance led by Brady Quinn trade throw-in Peyton Hills, all eyes are again on the Bengals rush defense. The numbers on the ground haven’t been as grand as last year, but the fact is in the last two weeks they have allowed two of the NFL’s top rushing teams just a combined two touchdowns while battering them in time of possession.

Last year they gave up just a handful of runs of 20 yards. They’ve already done that in the first three games, but they’ve been very tough on third down again. They’ve held teams to 6-for-26 on third down in the last two games to counter a 30-yard run by Baltimore’s Ray Rice and runs of 26 and 15 by Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams.

» The state of Carson Palmer is no doubt going to be a 24-7 hot button this week. Here is a sneak peek of what former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason of CBS had to say to Bengals.com for a story later this week:

“From watching him on TV, it’s hard to get into his mechanics, but I can say just by looking at him he just doesn’t have that confidence in the pocket,” Esiason said. “Why, I don’t know. But I know as a quarterback, confidence is everything. When he puts together a couple of halves, he’ll get it back.”


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Afterthoughts

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 27, 2010 – 2:19 pm

A few afterthoughts from a Hurricane Hangover in Carolina:

» You have to like the moxie with Marvin “Bill Parcells” Lewis going for it on fourth-and-two and fourth-and-one and trying a 50-yard field goal on a sponge with a scant three-point lead and just 14:53 left. Who didn’t think he was nuts for sloshing out the kicker that point? The only way Jimmy Clausen beats you is on a short field. But Mike Nugent took Lewis off the hook.

(Imagine where a wide right would have left Lewis on the heels of the late spike to end the first half.)

On further review, special teams coach Darrin Simmons put on quite a show on that fourth-and-two from his own 40 in the second quarter. Punter Kevin Huber was actually on the field. I failed to see him on the field during the game, but then I wasn’t looking for him at left tackle, either. With the real tackles on the right side, running back Brian Leonard knew where to take that direct snap wide to convert.

Good for Simmons on the field where he broke in as an NFL assistant special teams coach 11 years ago. His guys won the game. They can say the conditions were lousy for offense with the field and ball so wet. But punt returner Quan Cosby looked like he was playing in a dome with a flawless day fielding five with no fair catches. Throw in two Nugent FGs and five Huber punts inside the 20, and it looked like the two local guys grew up on the Kings Island water rides.

» Not a great field for offense, but on any surface it shows that this team will only go as far as the offensive line takes it. They not only have to protect the quarterback, which was shaky at times against a Panthers pass rush that had done nothing in the first two games, but they at least have to play as well as they did last year and it hasn’t happened yet.

Center Kyle Cook has made more mistakes with the snap count than he made all last season and right tackle Dennis Roland is struggling on pass pro. Cook was so solid last year that he’ll really give them a lift with a return to form.  It looks they either have to develop Andre Smith more or give Roland more help on the edge. Roland is a smart guy, football savvy, the best technician on the line. But sometimes that kind of guy needs help in a league stocked with athletes. 

And will we see Anthony Collins and Evan Mathis? Last we knew, Collins, a fourth-round pick, played fairly well at left tackle as a rookie in 2008 before they switched him to right tackle last year. Mathis rotated quarters with Nate Livings at left guard for much of last season. But neither have played as much this season as they did last season.

» Exhibit A why the line is the key: Quarterback Carson Palmer had a chance to pop the big play everyone has sought and he had wide receiver Terrell Owens running past the linebackers wide open. But it looked like Cook, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and running back Bernard Scott couldn’t fend their guys off long enough and Palmer got hit and the ball ended up short for an interception.

Not even sure the first interception was Palmer’s fault, too. It looked like The Ocho was getting used to the field as he splashed his way to what looked like an in route. But he looked tentative on the slippery field and stopped before cutting in. When he didn’t extend his arms in front of the DB, it made you think he didn’t have traction.

But, yes, there were some other Palmer throws that were ill-advised and should have been picked. He was about as inaccurate as he’s ever been in the NFL, which means it’s a little bit of everything. Weather, protection, himself.

» Did anybody else think it curious that Lewis said after the game he wanted to play a field position game and the first three plays were passes?

But offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski steered it back on course with the smashmouth 16-play drive in the second quarter and running back Cedric Benson’s nine-carry third quarter to get nearly a full quarter edge in time of possession. And it really opened up play-action, didn’t it on the last two passes of the game that meant something? Both were off run fakes and they were the widest receivers were open all day.

» How good and deep are the Bengals DBs? They lose starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the last four minutes of the win against Baltimore, and they don’t miss a beat with safety Chris Crocker moving to corner.  Third corner Adam Jones missed the Carolina win and they are successful on nine of 11 third-down tries with Morgan Trent coming off the bench to reprise his third corner role from last season.


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Offense needs to lead way vs. rookie QB

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 26, 2010 – 9:16 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Sunday’s game here against Panthers rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen doesn’t hinge on the defense.

You can probably get a pretty good sense what is going to happen. Carolina running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are going to get their yards on the ground, but in the last 26 games since defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer settled his system in place, the Bengals have rarely been pummeled on the ground.

Clausen is going to make some plays, too, with wide receiver Steve Smith. But if Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had nowhere to throw to his three receivers with at least 587 career catches last week, what is Clausen going to do with a stable that has only one receiver with more than 35 NFL catches?

And recent history says Clausen isn’t going to produce a cascade of points, either. Head coach Marvin Lewis is 6-7 against rookie QBs, but if you’re like him and don’t the count the 2009 throwaway finale in The Meadowlands, it is 6-6. In those 12 games, the defense has allowed 18.9 points per game.

That’s not the problem. The problem is in those 12 games the offense has countered with just an average of 18.0.

OK, take away the games that quarterback Carson Palmer was a first-year starter himself and the 34-3 loss to Baltimore in 2008 when he was hurt. The Bengals are 4-3 in those games, but they still have only scored 18 while giving up 15 points. And only twice did the rookie generate 20 points, the Browns’ Charlie Frye in Cincinnati’s 23-20 win in 2005 and the Jets’ Mark Sanchez in last season’s Wild Card Game.

So we think we know how it’s going to go. Three touchdowns ought to do it. The Bengals score 21 and they ought to be 2-1.

The best way to put pressure on a rookie QB? Not an all-out blitz or disguised defenses or an eight-man front to stop the running game. Just a good old-fashioned 17-point first half and get him in a hole 10-0 or 14-0. Now he’s got to throw. Now he just can’t hand it off. Don’t let him hang around. It’s up for an offense led by a guy making his 84th NFL start to do a very big part.

The last time the offense produced 17 first-half points? Eleven games ago in a 17-7 win over the Ravens last Nov. 8. They had a 17-7 halftime lead on Detroit rookie Matthew Stafford on Dec. 6, but the first score came on defensive lineman Jon Fanene’s interception return for a touchdown.


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Simmons, special teams come full circle

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 23, 2010 – 6:06 pm

How the world has changed since the Bengals last journeyed to Carolina nearly eight years ago.

It was Dec. 8, 2002 as Bengaldom lurched into the last belches of the pre-Marvin Lewis era. There were a lot of things that prevented the Bengals from being NFL respectable and of the most fundamental was their haphazard approach to special teams when putting together their rosters and preparing for games.

Even before the Bengals arrived in Charlotte that season, they had already allowed a kick return, a punt return, and a blocked punt for touchdowns. The Panthers would apply the coup de grace in the person of Pro Bowl punt returner Steve Smith.

With the season shot on just one win, they wanted to see what they had in rookie Travis Dorsch, a fourth-round pick who had been a weapon at Purdue as the winner of the Ray Guy Award for top punter in the nation and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award as the top kicker.

Dorsch may have been an answer, but he couldn’t get active for a game until this one when he replaced Nick Harris as the punter and it was a disaster. Smith returned two line drives for touchdowns of 61 and 87 yards as the Panthers rolled to a 52-31 victory. At one point one of those gratuitous press box announcements floated through declaring that someone named Shayne Graham had just tied Carolina’s seven-year-old franchise record for extra points in a game with six.

Then 37 days later Lewis was hired and one of his first hires was a young, energetic special teams assistant that the league said had a bright future in Darrin Simmons, three month shy of 30. Simmons had a hand in the Smith carnage as the Panthers assistant and it didn’t take him long to show he could work on the fly.

When Neil Rackers was hurt in the ’03 preseason finale, he had the Bengals poised to grab Graham off the waiver wire in anticipation he would lose a camp derby to franchise icon John Kasay, recovered from a sports hernia.
Graham went on to become the most accurate kicker in Bengals history during seven seasons before leaving for free agency this past spring. His run symbolized the competency and consistency Simmons supplied to an area that had neither, particularly when it came to coverage and returns.

Of the longest 20 plays against the Bengals in history, only two are kick returns that have come under Simmons and the second one didn’t happen until 10 days ago in New England when rookie Brandon Tate popped a 97-yard kick return.
Six of the longest plays in history came on returns in the nine seasons before Simmons arrived.

Simmons returns to Carolina doing the same old stuff. He brings in the reigning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in kicker Mike Nugent, a guy pulled off the scrap heap in April. He nailed five field goals last Sunday for the Bengals’ only points in a huge 15-10 AFC North victory over Baltimore in his first Paul Brown Stadium game as a Bengal.

Maybe even more significant were his two touchbacks in the final 4:34 when the Ravens couldn’t even think about returning them even though they needed to get one desperately.

Nugent,  a second-round pick of the Jets in 2005, dropped off the end of the world when he suffered a muscle injury early in his fourth season and now he’s back two years later. He credits Simmons tinkering with his technique as a major reason for his success.

“You’d have to call it ball placement,” Nugent said. “Or ball positioning. I used to have it the same way for kicks and kickoffs. I’ve changed how I do it for kicking and it’s given me more consistency.”

Simmons isn’t going to throw a parade just yet. He admires how Nugent has resurrected his career and how his flat-line demeanor is suited for the position.

“It’s what he’s supposed to do. That’s what we pay him to do. That’s what I expect,” Simmons said.  “The guy is very solid. Very good to work with. What do you expect? He’s a high school quarterback. He was a good kicker before or else he wouldn’t be here. The foundation is already there and he’s had a good one since (Ohio State). We’ve refined some of his fundamentals and some of the smaller details to make him more consistent.”

His no-frills southern Ohio personality (Centerville) has made a hit in the locker room. The leaders of the offensive line, right guard Bobbie Williams and left tackle Andrew Whitworth, were looking to throw him into the cold tub right after the game.

“I can’t deal with that, so I ran away,” Nugent said. “When I heard them talking about it, I got out of the locker room as fast as I could.”

Whitworth is sorry he missed his shot, but he kind of likes Nugent’s philosophy.

“I think Nugent has the good strategy,” Whitworth said. “Being a special teams guy he gets his job done.  Kickers and punters will tell you, they want to be those guys that put their team in position to win. People are usually getting talked about because they’re doing something wrong. It’s kind of like an offensive linemen, they know what it’s like to feel like us.

“Nuge is quiet. He does his job. He does what he’s supposed to do,” Whitworth said.”You cause a lot of attention when you don’t do well. It can cause problems. Special teams guys want to keep the focus. Great guy. Works his tail off. Somebody we believe in.”

Whitworth noticed the late touchbacks and he probably was thinking cold tub before those, but he said it added to Nugent’s day: “His first big day as Bengal…Got to be in the cold tub.”

How long ago is ’02? The great Steve Smith, now 31, is iced. His last punt return was ’08 and his last kick return came in ’06. Some things never change. Kasay is still the kicker. But Simmons still has butterflies with Smith out there.

“The fact that he’s playing against us anywhere makes me uncomfortable,” Simmons said. “Greatest competitor I’ve ever coached. Sometimes it got him in trouble, but it’s also what has made him such a great returner. And, you never know, maybe they’ll put him back there once.”

Believe Simmons when he says he let his players know, just in case, to keep an eye on No. 89.
It’s how they made special teams one of the foundations of Lewis’ effort to bury the days like the last trip to the Carolinas.


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Bengals and another untried QB

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 20, 2010 – 2:31 pm

A few thoughts while fast-forwarding and rewinding through the first half of the Bengals’ 15-10 win over Baltimore.

With Panthers head coach John Fox giving rookie Jimmy Clausen his first NFL start against the Bengals this Sunday in Carolina, the Bengals can only hope he falls into the Brady Quinn-Ken Dorsey-Tyler Thigpen category when it comes to little-used quarterbacks. And not the Bruce Gradkowski-Shaun-Hill-Billy Volek disasters.

And Gradkowski has got them twice for nearly half of his five NFL wins.

If you thought Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer got more aggressive this Sunday against the Ravens, just wait. Zimmer is still fuming he didn’t blitz Gradkowski in the last two minutes in Oakland last year. Specifically that fourth-and-12.

Of course, any game isn’t a cupcake the way the Bengals are playing offense right now, and the Panthers have been known to run and play defense, a dangerous combo for a visiting team. Ask a team with even a playoff-tested quarterback like Joe Flacco.

Clausen has come off the bench in each game and is 7-for-15 for 59 yards, one TD and a pick.

Via ProFootballTalk.com, former NFL VP of officiating Mike Pereira, now with FOX, agrees with the Ravens that the roughing call on Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer was ticky-tack.

“He’s got his head low, he’s wrapped and now he’s making a normal tackle,” Pereria said to USA Today.

The Ravens went nuts on the call, particularly middle linebacker Ray Lewis and head coach John Harbaugh and Harbaugh will no doubt hear from the league about what looked to be some kind of physical confrontation.

Lewis griped that the refs put six points on the board for the Bengals because of the roughing call and the Lewis call for tripping Palmer. Lewis claims Palmer simply got his feet tangled with him.

Then it all evened out because the refs cost the Bengals seven points when they didn’t throw a flag on wide receiver Terrell Owens getting absolutely mauled in the end zone. He virtually had his arms pinned, and so, apparently, were the flags.

Speaking of Lewis, running back Cedric Benson’s move on him in the first quarter Sunday won’t make SportsCenter, but it’s a beautiful example of what patience can do for a back. On a third-and-one stretch play to his left, Benson found himself one-on-one with Lewis on the perimeter. They stared each other down like it was the OK Corral until Benson stuttered for an instant, caught Lewis leaning, and then lowered his shoulder to blast by him for five yards.

“I wanted to get him to stop his feet,” Benson said.


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T.J. will read this

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 19, 2010 – 8:25 am

You know he will.

He said the other day he reads everything about himself on the Internet and there have been 587 catches worth of reading about T.J. Houshmandzadeh this past week.

Has a more popular Bengal ever made a return trip to play against his former club?  Boomer Esiason never played at Riverfront Stadium as a Jet or Cardinal, so no.

As soon as Houshmandzadeh arrived Saturday afternoon with the Ravens, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco met him at the hotel. Then The Ocho, Batman to his Robin long before Terrell Owens was a twinkle in Carson Palmer’s eye, brought Houshmandzadeh to his house for a few hours.

There is no question his ex-teammates are looking forward to playing against him as much he’s looking forward to playing them. He was a hot topic in the locker room this week.

Cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall talked about the value of going against him in practice every day.

Another player rolled through the texts he has sent back and forth with him since he made his Ravens debut last Monday night. 

Several had varying imitations of him exploding in frustration on the field, whether it be against the refs, the coaches, or just the circumstances. You could have taken an over-under on when he’ll first rip off his chinstrap Sunday, then arms upraised, venting at the powers-that-be.

That frustration went a long way in sullying his good guy reputation last year in Seattle after eight seasons of popularity in Cincinnati. It was a tough year on the Pacific and, as usual, Houshmandzadeh wore his heart on his sleeve and told people about it and he became known as a locker-room lawyer.

Which is a funny thing.

It is all a matter of perception. Same guy, different view.

In Cincinnati, where he worked his way up from a seventh-round pick, to almost getting cut by new head coach Marvin Lewis, to becoming Palmer’s most reliable target, to a Pro Bowl running mate for The Ocho, Houshmandzadeh was seen as a smart, candid, hard-working team guy who didn’t mind that his former college teammate got the spotlight.

But in Seattle, where he had No. 1 numbers and No. 1 money, the spotlight did a strange thing. The candor became portrayed as cancer. Smart became conniving. Speaking out to the coaches to lobby his ideas became an act of defiance instead of leadership.

As Houshmandzadeh said this week, he was amazed that his reputation took such a shot in one year.

Same guy?

Pretty much.

Now, there’s no question his volatile personality got him in trouble with the Bengals coaches. His clashes with Lewis about cutting back practice were legendary and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski had to smile last week when he was asked about how difficult he was.

“We got him out of some habits,” he said.

There may be too much water under the bridge, now, but the bottom line is they knew Houshmandzadeh. He might have been difficult at times, but, in the end, they offered him the kind of money he was seeking. They knew he was a gamer and a fierce competitor that made them a better team.

In the end, of course, everyone learned a lesson and Houshmandzadeh was so candid about that last week, wasn’t he? Houshmandzadeh found out that the Bengals and their fans accepted him for what he is, volatility and all, while the Seahawks and Seattle saw it all so differently.

And, no doubt, if the Bengals knew in August of ’08 that Laveranues Coles and Antonio Bryant would not pan out, they may very well have offered the money then instead of in March.

What’s it all mean?

It means that on Sunday, Houshmandzadeh should get a rousing welcome at Paul Brown Stadium. Bengaldom figures to stand as one and honor long and loud one of the key figures that helped legitimize the franchise. Think of all those third-down catches, the red-zone touchdowns, the long balls against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the fierce pride that might have stepped on some toes but also won some big games.

Welcome back, Housh. Thanks for the memories.

Here’s to a great reception.

But not 10 receptions.


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Shipley in Fortune 500 company

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 16, 2010 – 2:33 pm

Bengals rookie wide receiver Jordan Shipley had to laugh when told he was slipping. Of the six regular receivers on the field this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, he’s the only without at least 587 career catches.

“I’ve only played one game,” he said, and he’s got a good start with five catches for 82 yards in his debut last week in New England.

According to Santo Labombarda, the Duke of the Decimals for the Elias Sports Bureau, Sunday’s game marks the first time in five seasons five 500-catch receivers are going to be on the field at the same time.  Terrell Owens (1,013) and Chad Ochocinco (696) for the Bengals and Derrick Mason (865), Anquan Boldin (593) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (587) for the Ravens.

In the ’05 finale on Jan. 1, 2006, the Rams trio of Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt faced off against the Cowboys’ Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson. Naturally, no one had more than five catches. Johnson led the way with five for 96 yards.

At least Shipley is ahead of the rookie pace of four of the players, including both The Ocho and Houshmandzadeh from that long-ago ’01 season of Jon Kitna and Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans. The Ocho didn’t get his fifth catch until his fourth game and Houshmandzadeh didn’t get it until he made his first six catches in the eighth week at Jacksonville. Until then, he’d been inactive in four games and blanked in the other three. The Ocho was blanked in his first two games before grabbing two in San Diego.

As for the other debuts: Owens also got blanked in his first two games with the 1996 49ers before also making his first two catches in his third game. Mason had one catch in the 1997 opener for the Titans.

No one will probably ever have a debut like Boldin again. Try 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns for the Cardinals in Detroit to open the 2003 season.


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Big, bad Ravens looking as big and bad

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 14, 2010 – 11:25 am

The Ravens come into Paul Brown Stadium Sunday for the 1 p.m. home opener flexing their muscles from Monday night’s street fight in which they put a black-and-blue sock in Jets coach Rex Ryan’s mouth with a 10-9 TKO over the Jets that was an AFC North game in an ugly disguise.

They look as big and bad as ever. Ray Lewis looks like he’s 25. So does Touraj Houshmandzadeh.  After watching the Bengals unable to cover Pats rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, a healthy Todd Heap gives you the cold sweats. You still have to sell me on Joe Flacco, though. But hand it to him. He didn’t make the big screwup and that’s how Carson Palmer is going to have to win Sunday.

That’s why they should lay off Mark Sanchez in New York. He gave his team a chance to win in the last two minutes, and that is saying something if you’re handling the ball every snap against that voracious defense that eats quarterbacks alive and spits out points for their offense.

Yeah, Sanchez’s numbers were awful. But he didn’t pull a sack-fumble and he didn’t throw a pick-six and that’s saying something against those guys. If Jets tight end Dustin Keller doesn’t think he’s in Teaneck on that last fourth down, who knows what happens?

Of course, the Jets never tested the questionable Baltimore secondary like the Bengals should. But then, the Bengals can’t go hog wild and try to find out and get Palmer rolled.

Cedric Benson. Cedric Benson. Cedric Benson. After watching the Ravens absolutely stone last year’s top NFL running attack Monday night you have to admire even more Benson’s two 100-yard games against the Ravens last year. So even though Chris Carr is the third corner, the Bengals can’t go flinging it. If there is one game that tests their commitment to the run, this is it.

Everyone is under the heat in Bengaldom. Outcoached. Outprepared. Outfocused. And that is just what ESPN radio is saying. The Bengals are hearing it all and reading it all this week and they no doubt expect it after being down, 31-3, 12 seconds into the second half. No other team in the NFL Sunday shocked their fans more on Opening Weekend.

But if there is a coaching staff that knows how to deal with the Baltimore defense, it is this one. Palmer is 8-3 against the Ravens and they have always seemed to find a way to protect him against what so many other teams find so unprotectable. And Marvin Lewis is 5-2 against his old team at PBS.

Wouldn’t the no-huddle be interesting against a defense that literally comes to town Sunday?

There are 345 reasons to see a little more no-huddle from the Bengals. They all belong to the frame of highly-regarded Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata, the man that chewed up the Jets offensive line for a key sack of Sanchez late in the game. Either get him off the field or make him do about four 10-yard sprints in a space of two minutes.

What kind of reception will Houshmandzadeh get Sunday? Who knows? Just make sure he doesn’t get about eight receptions and let him take over the middle. If the Bengals secondary plays like it did last year, that’s a hell of a matchup. Who knows Housh better? If they play like they did Sunday against Wes Welker, it is game, set, match. But we know this. He won’t be going against any rookie corners.

A lot of times, openers can be mirages. The Bengals aren’t that bad and the Ravens aren’t that good.

It is somewhere in between.  The question is, how far? In the AFC North, it is about the length of a bruise.


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No-huddle no brainer?

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 13, 2010 – 2:21 pm

That didn’t take long.

Head coach Marvin Lewis meets the press in about an hour for the Monday autopsy.  And how things have changed.  It’s hard to win division titles going 0-2 and here are going to be the two hot topics to start a week in which the heat is on Sunday’s 1 p.m. Paul Brown Stadium opener against the Ravens:

» How could last year’s No. 4 defense that was the heart of the AFC North title look so bad in giving Pats quarterback Tom Brady free reign?

» When will the no-huddle offense become a staple instead of desperation?

The defense is a mystery and no doubt Mike Zimmer and his CSI crew are doing forensic tests as we speak. Somehow the DNA from the ’07 defense got mixed into the 2010 body.  Five plays of at least 20 yards in the season’s first 21 minutes?

But the no-huddle…

You don’t need Gil Grissom to tell you that quarterback Carson Palmer always seems to get something out of it.

Granted, a lot of the stats are skewed because the Pats basically played prevent once it got to 31-3 and let them use up the clock with short passes. But the Bengals looked more comfortable in the no-huddle than they did in the game’s first five possessions, four in the traditional set that netted one first down, two three-and-outs and a fumble.

Palmer threw his pick-six out of the no-huddle on that fifth possession, which ended their most productive drive to that point.

But then, this was the hot topic last year after miserable first-half offensive performances against Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore early in the season that were forgotten with last-ditch drives. Call them what you will.  Two-minute drills, one-minute drills, hurry-up sets. Whatever it is, they make it simple, they snap it quickly, and they move the ball better than when they huddle up.

That much we know. Plus, you’ve got experience people that can do it as opposed to last year, when you had a first-year center and no Reggie Kelly that can float between tight and fullback.

The quarterback seems to thrive. The receivers seem to thrive.  The running back seems to thrive.

With Baltimore coming in here in a short week with its big people, you wonder if they’ll go to it early.

Whatever, it looks to be the weekly hot debate with a heat-is-on game.


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Bill of Rights for Patriotic opener

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on September 12, 2010 – 9:33 am

Bill of Rights for a Patriotic opener:

  1. Tom Brady’s contract. Tom Brady’s car accident. Randy Moss’ collision with words. Logan Mankins’ holdout. There haven’t been this many distractions with the Patriots since the Tea Party.

The most controversial thing coming out of Bengaldom is Antwan Odom’s admission he tested positive for a banned substance and that the case is in appeal.  A four-game suspension would hurt the Bengals, obviously. But that’s down the road.  On this Sunday the Pats beat the Bengals when it comes to dealing with off-field issues.

  1. The first tweet of Game Day from The Ocho sums it all up: OGOchoCinco:@terrellowens:

“Wake up big bruh, for every negative word uttered about us not working as teammates today let’s unleash hell on the field!!”

And no matter what happens, who does what, what the final score is, the T.O.-Ocho experiment is going to drive the tone of the season.  How will it work? It truly is reality TV. Just like it’s in your office, home, or classroom.  If the Bengals win, it’s all good. You heard nary a peep from The Ocho last season as the passing game went into the shadows. Because they won. And no matter how it goes, reality is they made a big move when one needed to be made.

  1. Running back Cedric Benson, the offensive line, and the defense are still the barometer of the team’s performance.

 

  For all the hype poured into the fuel tank of the Batmobile, those are the three principles of this season. They will only go as far as they protect quarterback Carson Palmer and Benson and the offensive line go hand-in-hand. So does the defense in a high-powered schedule that begins with Brady and ends with Brees and Rivers. They have to keep games manageable so opposing teams don’t tee off on Palmer.

  1. Palmer has more weapons in the passing game and this we all know. But the most intriguing question is how will offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski marry the smash-mouth concept with spreading the field? Run first got them to first place. Will they remember?

The Ravens’ game plan against the Pats in the last game at Gillette last year in the Wild Card Game is still as fresh as this morning’s Game Day program: Three penalties, 52 rushes.

  1. Sunday is all about special teams. It always is on the road against a well-coached, discipline team. Plus, Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons is pitted against his mentor, Scott O’Brien.

For the first time in his eight seasons with the Bengals, Simmons has as many weapons in the return game as Palmer in the offense and Mike Zimmer in the defense. He also has a new kicker in Mike Nugent and is trying to replace three of his top four tacklers from last season.

But he also has a solid new special teams captain in linebacker Brandon Johnson. Smart, thoughtful, unselfish. A guy that has paid his dues in five quiet NFL seasons. This week he gave a glimpse at just one of the many invisible leaders the Bengals have in the locker room. He pumped up two of the younger players on teams, saying linebacker Dan Skuta is the best player in the kicking games and that linebacker Michael Johnson can be an elite player for as long as he wants to play.

At about 4 p.m.  Sunday, everyone is going to be pointing to one special teams play.

 They usually do in the glow of a win and the ashes of a loss.


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