Digesting Saturday’s moves

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 27, 2011 – 10:12 pm

A look at how Saturday’s six cuts could affect the roster:

QUARTERBACK: With Jordan Palmer gone, the Bengals are left with three (Andy Dalton, Bruce Gradkowski, Dan LeFevour) and all signs point to them keeping just two and putting one on the practice squad. It could be LeFevour, but he could also come off the waiver wire. If the Panthers whack Cincinnati native Tony Pike, keep an eye on him.

OFFENSIVE LINE: They didn’t cut a lineman Saturday, but keeping two QBs would open a spot here. If you line up with four tackles (Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Anthony Collins, Dennis Roland), a center (Kyle Cook) and five guards (Bobbie Williams, Nate Livings, Clint Boling, Max Jean-Gilles, Otis Hudson), that already gives you 10 when you would normally keep nine and you still don’t have a backup center. That guy would be Reggie Stephens. They can’t PUP Hudson because he hurt his knee during training camp, a tough break because they said next to Smith he was their most improved lineman. If he can get back after the bye (the seventh game), maybe they’ll keep him on the 53. But they’ll need that extra spot.

WIDE RECEIVERS: They cut rookie Jamere Holland, so maybe that means they’re looking at Calvin Russell or Andrew Hawkins for the practice squad. Aren’t the six receivers A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley, Quan Cosby, Ryan Whalen?

SECONDARY: They cut three DBs Saturday when they terminated the contract of cornerback Fred Bennett and waived safety Tom Nelson and cornerback LeRoy Vann. That leaves nine cornerbacks (Leon Hall, Nate Clements, Adam Jones, Morgan Trent, Jonathan Wade, Rico Murray, Brandon Ghee, David Pender, Korey Lindsey), three more than usual and maybe four if they keep five safeties. Plus, they’re expected to go on the street looking for corners on Cutdown Day.

The top four? Hall, Clements, Trent, and probably Wade, but the rest have not asserted themselves. And what if they don’t PUP Jones (neck) and need a spot for him? Murray is grinding because he can play multiple spots and besides safety Chris Crocker, Murray is the only DB that can play both corner and safety now that Nelson is gone. Ghee, last year’s third-rounder, has barely played with a hamstring problem, and didn’t get many snaps against the Panthers.

Before a knee injury plagued his rookie season, Nelson had a promising start when he made the roster as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois State at safety in 2009. His ability on special teams and to play both cornerback and safety helped him in past roster fights, but the Bengals are jammed at safety. There are still six left and they’ve kept either five or four in the past: Crocker, Reggie Nelson, Gibril Wilson, Jeromy Miles, Robert Sands, Taylor Mays.

Wilson said Saturday his reconstructed ACL felt good after his first action in a year on Thursday and they’d like to have his experience. They’d also like to have the speed and athleticism of Miles and Sands. Getting Sands through waivers to the practice squad would seem to be a tough nut since he’s a fifth-round pick. Tough to see them giving up on Mays so quickly after they traded for him. Even if it was a seventh-rounder in 2013.

Lewis likes him, not to mention the fact he was in the right spot on his “7-8 snaps” Thursday even though “he did (it) with 1½ practices.” You know coaches love that.

LINEBACKER: The Bengals cut rookie Stephen Franklin, so you’d have to think if they’re going to put a backer on the practice squad it would be Kentucky rookie DeQuin Evans. It looks like they have to keep a spot for injured backup SAM Dontay Moch, so the big question is going to be if they PUP WILL backer Keith Rivers (wrist). That seems to be where he’s headed since there has been no indication he’s close.

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Quote of the Game

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 25, 2011 – 11:22 pm

Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on running back Bernard Scott’s 12-yard TD run:

“He ran a power play on his touchdown and there’s an unblocked guy standing right in front of him. He just cut it. The guy wouldn’t have even pulled his flag in flag football; that’s how quick it was.”

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Plenty of info on Pryor

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 19, 2011 – 9:48 pm

When it comes to the Bengals and Terrelle Pryor and Monday’s supplemental draft, there is no question they’ll be fully informed on the former Ohio State quarterback.

It’s believed the Bengals are scouting Pryor’s workout this weekend but then, so are probably many NFL teams. Yet they’ll be a familiar face running the show.

Ken Anderson, who quarterbacked the Bengals and coached their quarterbacks for a total of 26 seasons, has tutored Pryor for his NFL Pro Day and still has an easy and friendly relationship with Bengals president Mike Brown.

Jim Tressel, Pryor’s coach and another Brown favorite, spent Thursday watching the final Bengals practice of training camp, where he chatted with Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis. It would be hard to believe the subject of Pryor didn’t come up.

This one is hard to gauge.

Brown loves quarterbacks and Ohio State players and how about two for the price of one? But the Bengals also covet draft picks. The one time they used the supplemental draft came in 2006 when they had a sudden, immediate need at middle linebacker because of the Odell Thurman suspension. Thus, Ahmad Brooks arrived via the third round and Bengals fans can still see Brooks this season. They’ll just have to wait when he comes with the 49ers for the home opener Sept. 25.

They’ve already got a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and what would Pryor’s arrival do to his psyche and development? But if it’s one thing that catches the eye of Lewis it is an offensive player’s sheer speed and athleticism. The things that keep defensive coordinators up nights because you can’t defend them. That would be intriguing around these parts, where the closest the Bengals have ever come to the Wildcat is Carson Palmer’s sit-down strike.

The down side besides the potential impact on Dalton?

Pryor is clearly a long way away from being a factor as an NFL quarterback, so how do you make him your No. 3? If you do, you’d have to design a package just for him, and the Bengals obviously already have their hands full learning the new offense since they emerged with just a field goal in the opener.

No doubt Pryor’s five-game suspension to start his career is a downer. Plus, the Bengals are already bracing for possible discipline on running back Cedric Benson and cornerback Adam Jones, which can also bring fines to the club.

There’s enough to chew on and debate and who knows how it goes down?

But one thing we do know…

They’ll have plenty of info.

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Second look

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 14, 2011 – 8:30 am

Random thoughts after watching the TV version of the Bengals 34-3 loss at Detroit in their preseason opener.

» Indications are rookie SAM linebacker Dontay Moch’s broken foot isn’t initially thought to be severe enough to be season-ending. It sounds like he’ll be back between four to six weeks. In that case he’d be inactive those first couple of regular-season games.

» Besides running back Cedric Benson’s 6.2 yards per carry and backup defensive tackle Clinton McDonald’s eight tackles and one forced fumble, the best individual story coming out of the game was how right tackle Andre Smith’s foot held up. He acknowledged he’s still working on technique, but the fact he got through a game’s pounding had to be a relief.

He was inconsistent. He whiffed on cornerback Amari Spievey on a screen and let backup end Keyunta Dawson pressure quarterback Andy Dalton into an incompletion. But he was very effective in the running game. He helped spring Benson’s 16-yard run, along with tight end Jermaine Gresham taking out the defensive end.

And while right guard Bobbie Williams had trouble with the All-World Suh in the pass game a few times, he also pushed people around in the running game.

» Head coach Marvin Lewis finally has some wide receivers that block. Jerome Simpson had a feisty night and made a great effort play when he busted back downfield after running his pattern to make a diving block in an effort to help A.J. Green break a play underneath.

» Another effort play by that first group: Running back Brian Leonard again made “The Leap” on a screen pass, but the most impressive part of the play was how he dragged 250-pound linebacker Bobby Carpenter past the first-down stick. And how left tackle Andrew Whitworth was there at the end getting a block in.

The play got blown up by a holding call on left guard Nate Livings, a play analyst Anthony Munoz called questionable.

» But there is no question the Bengals interior struggled with the Lions starters. And Cincinnati’s backups didn’t give No. 2 quarterback Bruce Gradkowski much time on the perimeter or up the middle. When he had to step up, which was often, he didn’t look good. When he had time, he made some throws.

» That second half was tough to watch when it came to the passing game, considering one of their three healthy backup receivers was John Standeford, a guy that has never practiced with them. That’s got to be tough on the coaches trying to evaluate the quarterbacks.

Although Jordan Palmer no doubt would like to have his interception back in exchange for a sack. The Lions didn’t bite on a play-action rollout and Palmer was going down as he tried to heave the ball out of bounds. But it didn’t get there.

» Rookie running back Jay Finley got the most carries on the night with seven and he looked good on a couple and not so great on others, a typical rookie night. He showed some good burst and strength on an eight-yard run on the sideline. But his Welcome-to-the-NFL moment may have come on the last drive of the first half when he was one-on-one against cornerback Brandon McDonald all alone over the middle on a dump pass and he couldn’t make McDonald miss on a one-yard gain.

» It looks like the Bengals are toying with putting cornerback Leon Hall on the best receiver no matter the side. They used him at both and while he gave up two TDs one-on-one on the left side in the end zone, he had good coverage on first Calvin Johnson and then Nate Burleson. He did get his head turned around on Johnson and lost the ball, but quarterback Matthew Stafford made that play when he threw it to Johnson’s back shoulder.

» As former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton often notes, the way they get their quarterback pressure is through coordinator Mike Zimmer’s scheming. So when they come out vanilla like they did Friday, it looks like 7-on-7 and the first group offered no pressure in the first half and that always makes the coverage look bad. Even though the Lions were decimated at tackle.

After that first drive the No. 1 guys played the run pretty well and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga looked like he had his guys lined up.

» The backups got better pressure, but they couldn’t finish for sacks. Before he left with an injured ankle, Victor Adeyanju got there a few times, but he couldn’t take down Drew Stanton on the last play before the last-play field goal in the first half.

Rookie linebacker DeQuin Evans continues to flash with his speed around the corner on passing downs, but he couldn’t finish either. He had an offsides penalty but stepped in well for Moch.

» Starting safeties Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson were active (Nelson made a nice tackle in the flat early), but when they left the game there were a lot of balls completed over the middle, particularly on the Lions’ last drive of the half.

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For openers, what we’d like to see

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 12, 2011 – 4:04 pm

DETROIT — What we’d like to see in Friday’s preseason opener (7:30 p.m., Cincinnati’s Channel 12) at Ford Field against the Lions.

» Eleven men on the field on offense. Not 10. Not 12. No timeouts blown because they can’t get the play in. You’ve got to figure it’s going to be ragged because of the lockout and a rookie quarterback. But there’s a difference between ragged and anarchy, like there seemed to be last season at some points.

» Some nice long 73-yard drives. If they’re in shape, great. If they’re not, they can’t just hop on the elliptical for a workout. They’ve got to do it on the field.

» More play-action, more three-step drops from the quarterback, quicker throws instead of longish developing routes, more moving pockets, things that maybe could have helped Carson Palmer.

» Runs on all snaps of third-and-two or less. Last year they were a brutal 28-for-58 on third-and-two or less with a high percentage of incompletions. They keep talking about adopting the physical mentality. What better way than pounding heads against Messrs. Suh and Williams in the middle of the line Friday?

» More sets with tight ends and fullbacks. Tight ends so it gives offensive coordinator Jay Gruden more flexibility with quarterback Andy Dalton and fullbacks so it gives running back Cedric Benson some room with which to work. Chris Pressley, in his second training camp with the Bengals, looks like a hammer.

» A tired but happy Andre Smith.

» On defense, no busts, no nine-yard runs, no which-way-did-he-go plays. In this first game in the post-Dhani Jones era, it is important for middle linebacker Rey Maualuga to get his guys lined up.

» Tackling. But when you think about it, they didn’t start hitting until training camp even when there wasn’t a lockout. If there’s a problem, head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer won’t stand for it.

» More pass rush, of course, so let’s keep an eye on that first nickel package. With left end Carlos Dunlap (knee) most likely out, it won’t have its leading sacker. But it will be interesting to see how Zimmer uses new outside linebackers Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard on the edge on third down, and to see if third-round pick Dontay Moch looks as fast going around the corner in his first game as an edge rusher/SAM backer as he has in practice.

» Some picks in the secondary. They’ve got their hands on a good number of balls, but haven’t caught many. They would no doubt like to see to safety Gibril Wilson able to play after returning to the field this week for the first time in 50 weeks since tearing his ACL.

» Speaking of ACLs, Mike Nugent is kicking in his first game since tearing his in his kicking knee Nov. 14 in Indianapolis. He hasn’t missed in practice yet, but everyone would like him to hit a 41-yarder Friday just the same.

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