A Mile High worth of matchups:
The Bengals never beat John Elway in the seven games they played him when he quarterbacked the Broncos. They hope to finally chase him down Sunday now that he’s Denver’s Executive VP of Football Operations.
But Mile High’s staggering homefield advantage from the Elway era is no more. Since they beat the Bengals in that infamous Christmas Eve game of ’06, the Broncos are 16-18 at home.
Here are some other matchups to watch:
Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth vs. Broncos SLB Von Miller: Miller, the very worthy No. 2 pick in the draft, is an engaging sort who said on this week’s conference call with the Cincinnati media that former Bengals middle linebacker Dhani Jones is a guy like himself with glasses, a bow tie, and he had a chance to get to know him during the lockout. He also had a chance to get to know Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton because he had a couple of high school teammates that played with him at Texas Christian and after constantly bumping in to him at rookie functions he calls Dalton, “My dog.”
“He’s a great quarterback. He’s got all the accuracy and the arm, but he’s an even better person,” Miller said.
But Miller, who had his name on the NFL Players Association lawsuit that grew out of the labor dispute, couldn’t remember the name of the big guy that is the Bengals NFLPA player rep.
“Number 77,” Miller said.
Well, left tackle Andrew Whitworth knows all about Miller and compares his closing speed “to a young John Abraham.”
“You can see that Miller has all the talent in the world and he’s got all the pass rush moves,” Whitworth said. “But what makes rushers really good is that closing speed and he can really fly.”
Whitworth is going to get Miller occasionally because the Denver rushers in the 3-4 switch sides, but it looks like Miller won’t get flipped with Elvis Dumervil because Dumervil looks like he won’t play with a shoulder problem. The 6-3, 237-pound Miller is going to be a challenge in the running game for guys like tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Colin Cochart and fullback Chris Pressley.
Those guys were rock solid when it came to igniting the run game last week in Cleveland, but their “bigs” were also a factor when they went with a few heavy formations with the game on the line. They might need more speed against the 3-4.
In the opener, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden kept it simple for his rookie QB. He stayed pretty much with two backs, as well as double tight ends about 60 percent of the time compared to three-receiver sets, while keeping shifting and motioning to a minimum.
After giving up 190 rushing yards Monday night, the Broncos know the Bengals are coming at them on the ground. Expect what they gave the Browns last week in the first and fourth quarters.
BENGALS WRs VS. BRONCOS SS BRIAN DAWKINS: At age 37, the 6-0, 210-pound Dawkins is still a massive force in the run game and if running back Cedric Benson is going to go off on the next-to-last worst rush defense in the league, receivers A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell have to get in his way. Dawkins, in his 16th season, has 37 interceptions while Green and Simpson, the Bengals starting receivers, have a combined 26 NFL catches.
The last time the Bengals saw him in the ’09 game, Dawkins had a game-high 11 tackles but the Bengals receivers weren’t known for blocking then like they are now. Dawkins was one of Denver’s last, best hopes Monday night against the Raiders.
The Bengals are still stinging from a blow by an unblocked Broncos hard-hitting safety. In the 2006 Christmas Eve loss that knocked them out of the playoffs, blitzing John Lynch popped the ball loose from running back Rudi Johnson in the fourth quarter as he dented the Denver 40 with the Bengals trailing, 24-17, in a game they would lose on a blown extra point.
BRONCOS QB KYLE ORTON VS. BENGALS DB COACH KEVIN COYLE:Orton is getting tremendous heat in Mile High, but he’s a guy that can hurt you. He’s got a 32-30 record, on Monday night against Oakland he recorded his 10th career 300-yard game, and he has an intriguing career stat of 53 TD passes and three picks in the red zone, a differential behind only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
But he’s been miserable against the Bengals. In one of his first NFL starts for the Bears he threw five picks against them in 2005 and take away the deflected 87-yard TD pass against them in 2009 and in his two starts he has a 31.4 passer rating against the Bengals.
Of course, the guys from ’05 are long gone except for Coyle. Two of the starting DBs are there from ’09 with cornerback Leon Hall and safety Chris Crocker, as well as the then nickel back Morgan Trent.
Tags: Bengals-Broncos matchup
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On Wednesday, the number of Super Bowl rings in the Bengals locker room doubled when Cincinnati signed free agent tight end Donald Lee.
Safety Gibril Wilson won a ring with the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII and Lee started six games for the Super Bowl-winning Green Bay Packers last year.
“It was like a dream come true,” Lee told me. “When I was a little kid in Mississippi, me and my dad used to watch the Super Bowl every year and I was like, ‘Wow. It would be great to play in a game like that one day.’ I tell little kids out there, ‘Never stop dreaming and work hard because dreams do come true.’ To play in that game and to win it was the pinnacle of my career.”
Lee, 31, has 198 career receptions and gives the Bengals an experienced tight end on the active roster to go with 2nd-year pro Jermaine Gresham and rookie Colin Cochart.
After practicing with the Bengals for the first time this week, Lee came away raving about Gresham.
“He’s going to be one of the greatest tight ends to ever play this game,” said Lee. “I didn’t know much about him, but watching him in practice, he looked like a wide receiver out there. I look at that guy as like a Randy Moss for this team. He’s a great guy and I feel blessed to be here and to be able to work with him.”
Wait a second…let me get this straight. After watching him in one practice, Donald Lee thinks that Jermaine Gresham could become one of the best tight ends in NFL history?
“I’m not saying ‘the best’ that ever played the game, but if he continues to work hard and keeps getting better each and every day, then he can one of the best tight ends to ever play the game,” said Lee.
Donald Lee, on the other hand, is more of a solid-but-not-spectacular type, but he’s lasted nine years in the NFL and earned that Super Bowl ring.
“It’s at home locked in a steel vault,” said Lee. “I keep it locked up until some of my friends come around or I’m about to go to church or some event. That thing has got to be the best ring that they ever made. They gave us a magazine that showed every ring from the first one right up until the one that they gave us, and I didn’t see any on that page that looked better than the one that we got.”
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After Week 1, Cedric Benson is tied for the NFL lead in carries with 25 (with Washington’s Tim Hightower).
“I love carrying the ball all day on Sunday and I usually get warmed up as the game goes along,” said Benson. “You tend to take over the football game when you execute in the run game and we have the tools here in Cincinnati to do that with a strong offensive line up front.”
Benson is currently third in the NFL in rushing yards with 121. The league leader is Oakland’s Darren McFadden who gained his 150 yards against the Bengals next opponent Denver.
“They drafted Von Miller and have a lot of good linebackers, but being able to see the Raiders open up some holes on them and create big plays was exciting.”
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A.J. Green’s first NFL catch was a memorable one – a game-winning 41-yard touchdown grab in the 4th quarter to beat the Browns.
But Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden says that Green needs to be targeted more frequently than he was the opener.
“He’s got one catch for 41 yards and shame on me for not getting him the ball more,” said Gruden. “We have to do a better job of finding ways to get him the ball and letting him make plays because he is a very, very fun guy to watch and explosive.”
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The big debate in Denver this week is whether it’s time to dump quarterback Kyle Orton in favor of Tim Tebow.
Orton passed for 304 yards in the Broncos’ Monday night loss to Oakland, and averaged 281 passing yards a game last year to rank 4th in the NFL. The Orton-or-Tebow debate does not appear to extend into the Bengals locker room.
“I’m an Orton fan and I think he’s a good quarterback,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “I know that he doesn’t get a lot of the credit, but he led the Bears into the playoffs and to me, he’s been a guy who has been pretty efficient. You have to keep him off of the spot. You want to keep him thinking, keep him moving, and not allow him to sit back and be comfortable.”
“He can make all the throws and you have to defend the whole field,” said cornerback Leon Hall. “As a defense, you can’t say that he only does one or two reads – he goes through the whole progression. If you let him sit back there and give him a lot of space, he can be as good as anybody in the league.
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Who led the NFL in receiving yards last year?
Roddy White? Reggie Wayne? Andre Johnson? Larry Fitzgerald?
Nope, nope, nope, and nope.
The answer is Denver’s Brandon Lloyd who caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards – an average of 18.8 yards per catch.
“The fans probably wouldn’t know, but I can guarantee that our defensive backs know and the guys that play in the NFL know,” said Leon Hall. “Everybody in the league watches what people do during the year, and it didn’t go unnoticed last year when he was playing well. We’re hoping that he doesn’t use us as a stepping stone to repeat what he did last year.”
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