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Bengals 5-2 Start Speaks Loudly

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 31, 2011 – 2:55 am

The Seattle Seahawks have retired three uniform numbers. 

#80 for wide receiver Steve Largent.

#71 for offensive lineman Walter Jones.

And #12 for the “12th man.”

There’s a reason why Seattle is 62-37 at home since moving into CenturyLink Field in 2002.  The partial roof that covers approximately 70% of the seats and the steep upper deck trap the crowd noise and make it nearly impossible for visiting offensive players to hear each other.  In 2005, the New York Giants had 11 false starts in one game.

But relying on a silent snap count, the Bengals only had two such penalties on Sunday, and allowed one sack in a 34-12 win over the Seahawks.

“That is a seriously loud place to play,” said left tackle Andrew Whitworth.  “It’s the closest thing you’re going to get to a playoff atmosphere.  That’s the loudest place that I’ve played in and I’m proud of this young team coming out here and doing what it took to win the ballgame.”

“The only guy that struggled with the silent count a little bit was Andre Smith who jumped a couple of times, but everybody else did a great job,” said my radio partner Dave Lapham.  “They changed up the silent count so Seattle’s defensive line couldn’t get a jump on it and really executed well.”

“The thing that people don’t understand is that this isn’t a loud place on third down – this is a loud place on every single down,” said Whitworth.  “You can’t hear anything whether the quarterback is under center or not.  You’re literally just looking at the ball trying to play.  You’re reacting the entire time rather than just playing.  To get out of here without making too many mistakes shows the poise of a young football team.”

Visiting rookie quarterbacks were 1-6 at CenturyLink Field before Andy Dalton joined Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman as the only rookies to win there.

“It was a team win,” said Dalton.  “It wasn’t one phase that did it – we did it in all three.  It’s good to see.  It wasn’t a perfect game, but we were able to get out of here with a win.”

“It was a hard-fought game,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.  “There were things we did very well in all three phases and things that we have to do better.  The coaches will go to work and we’ll get started on Tennessee tomorrow.”

With their fourth straight win, the Bengals improved to 5-2, meaning there are only four teams in the NFL with better records: Green Bay (7-0), San Francisco (6-1), Pittsburgh (6-2), and Detroit (6-2). 

“It’s seven games,” said linebacker Brandon Johnson.  “We have a long road ahead and we’ve only played one division game.  We still have our division opponents coming up and this was not even a conference game.  This was just a good road win.  Anytime you can win on the road is good – it means your team is battle-tested, it means you’re prepared, and it means you’re poised and can go out on the field and handle adversity.” 

“We got some things changed this year and got some new guys in here with new attitudes,” said Whitworth.  “The leaders of this team and the guys that have the biggest roles are doing things the way you’re supposed to do ‘em.  It’s creating a ‘next man’ attitude where every guy is waiting for their chance to prove that they can do it too.  That’s what is helping us be successful.”

“It’s a lot of fun playing with these guys,” said Dalton.  “Everybody is rooting for each other and we’re on the same page.  We have to keep pushing and keep grinding because we still have more than half of the season to go.”

* * * * *

How about Adam Jones?

In his first game back after missing more than a year with a neck injury, Jones was on the field for one play and made it count, returning a punt 63 yards to set up the Bengals first touchdown.  Adam probably would have sprinted 89 yards for a touchdown if he didn’t strain his hamstring on the return, forcing him to sit out the rest of the game.

“I was just trying to make a play,” said Jones.  “I’m expected to do these things.  I’m not bragging or anything, but it was a great block, the ball was deep and I love those kinds of plays.  I just have to stay healthy.  I could have gone back in and played, but there was no use to go out there and pull it when we play Tennessee next week.”

“He’s one of those guys where we’ll all excited when he gets to touch it,” said Whitworth.  “I’m proud of him and they way he stepped in there.  He got a little tweak, but he’ll be alright.”

In fact, Jones says that he will definitely play next week against the team that originally drafted him 6th overall in 2005.

“I can’t wait,” said Jones.  “Believe it.  It’s going to be a real show next week buddy.  You can bet on that.”

* * * * *

I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 and Artrell Hawkins and me for “Bengals Pep Rally” on Friday afternoon from 3 to 6 live from the Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash.  Both shows can be heard on ESPN 1530-AM.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


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Notes and quotes

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on October 30, 2011 – 11:45 am

SEATTLE — The numbers are 3-9, 2-5-1, 0-4. That’s the record of NFL teams coming off byes this season, the Bengals record the week after byes under head coach Marvin Lewis, and the record when that week came on the road.

The numbers don’t get much play in the Bengals locker room and neither does the Warren Sapp argument that the new rule giving teams off a mandatory four straight days in bye weeks has contributed to the bad bye week records.

Right guard Bobbie Williams has played all the bye games under Lewis but one, but he came to the Bengals from Andy Reid’s Eagles, a perennial playoff team that got a week off during byes.

And Lewis always gave his players four straight days off before giving them five this year. While the game after the bye has usually been a loss, Lewis has a winning record in November/December games and a losing one in September/October games.

“It’s all about mindset,” Williams says. “Our preparation this year has made this a special year for us. If we come out with that mindset and win the game, all that stat stuff isn’t going to matter. We can’t let teams be an ‘if’ or a ‘but.’ We’ve got 10 weeks to play good football and it starts with this game right here.”

The Bengals are loving the extra time off that the new collective bargaining agreement has ordained with fewer padded practices and training camp practices. They believe it’s contributed to the knock-on-wood good luck they’ve had with injuries as well as their three fourth-quarter comebacks.

“I think it’s been beneficial to us,” Williams said. “The body has had a break but the mind has still been working on football.”

As one player said, “If Warren was still playing, ask him if he’d want the four days off.”

On Friday, Lewis recalled what defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said to him earlier in the week about last Sunday’s games and the teams coming off byes. “Except for Kansas City-Oakland, the teams that were supposed to win, won and the teams that were supposed to lose lost.”

THINKING ALOUD: What will have a greater impact on Sunday’s game is the NFL’s loudest stadium as the young and revamped Bengals offense faces its biggest challenge of the season. The good news is that the two guys that played in Seattle the last time (2007) play at one of the most vulnerable positions to the noise with Williams and left tackle Andrew Whitworth on the offensive line. And if tackle is the most vulnerable position, Whitworth played both tackles that day because of injuries.

“It’s really important for us to get off on the ball. They’re going to tee off,” Whitworth said of him and right tackle Andre Smith. “You see them jumping the cadence like crazy when they’re at home, and that’s really what they do. They take you out of your game. They play with the noise and can go off the ball movement and things like that. You play late off the snap and you’re in trouble.

“So just to make sure—not just for us tackles but the whole line—we’ve got to get off the ball on time and can’t be late and can’t be one guy coming off, one guy not and that kind of stuff. So we’ve just got to be on the same page, execute as always. And the main thing is not let it change anything about us, just go out there and do what we do, and crowd noise is crowd noise.”

That most likely means a silent count and radio analyst Dave Lapham, who played all five positions during 10 seasons on the Bengals offensive line, counsels changeups.

“You can’t let the defense pick up the rhythm of the count,” he said.

Lapham says playing well out here would be a huge lift for an offense that still has to face crowds in Pittsburgh and Baltimore as hostile but not as loud as it will experience Sunday.

“I think it’s a great learning tool for us,” Whitworth said. “A young team getting to go on the road before we have to go to Baltimore, before we have to go to Pittsburgh. It gives us a test to go out there and play at a team that’s going to play at a high level and a crowd that’s going to try to keep us out of the game.”

JENNINGS ADVICE: Former Seattle cornerback Kelly Jennings has spent the past two weeks giving his own scouting report on the crowd and the Seahawks receivers to his fellow defensive backs. Jennings started 44 games for them in the previous seasons before he was traded for defensive tackle Clinton McDonald just before this season.

“It’s an advantage,” Jennings said. “Even two years ago when we were 3-13, the stadium was full and the crowd was cheering as loud as if we were 11-3.”

It’s unclear how much Jennings is going to play Sunday against his old mates. He’s barely played this season because of a tender hamstring he tweaked when he was still with the Seahawks, plus the Bengals haven’t seen a lot of three-receiver sets. That’s going to change Sunday since Seattle has the ninth most snaps in the league with three receivers, but it also marks the return of cornerback Adam Jones off PUP.

“Maybe they haven’t put up the great numbers that some other guys have but you really have to keep your eye on them,” Jennings said of the Seattle wideouts. “They have a lot of talent over there. When we’re studying film, I just kind of give them the inside scoop on a lot of guys. What drives guys, what their favorite moves are, things I remember from when I was there.

“Everybody knows Sidney Rice is a great player. Mike Williams is a huge receiver. But 15 (Doug) Baldwin , he’s one that’s slowly coming on the scene that people don’t really know much about. You have to keep your eye on him. He’s real quick and shifty and he can definitely make plays for them.”

Baldwin is one of the great stories of the early NFL season. He played with Bengals rookie receiver Ryan Whalen at Stanford last season and while Whalen, a sixth-round pick, is looking for his first pro catch, Baldwin, a free agent, trails only first-rounders A.J. Green and Julio Jones for most rookie receiving yards with 330 on 20 catches.

Jennings has moved on from his Seattle experience. The head coach and GM that drafted him in the first round in 2006 are no longer. So even though he thought he played well under new coach Pete Carroll last year, he’s not surprised he’s gone.

“Being in this business for six years now, I’ve seen a lot of things happen,” Jennings said. “I guess it was kind of a shock because I did start, but it’s not a surprise because for the simple fact it goes like that sometimes.”

He’s still close to his fellow first-round cornerback Marcus Trufant, as well as defensive end Red Bryant and running back Justin Forsett. But the NFL roulette wheel has done its business in Seattle. Injuries and the new regime now have two youthful corners in first-year NFL players Richard Sherman, a fifth-round pick from Stanford, and Brandon Browner, a 68-game veteran in Canada with 12 career interceptions and a championship with Calgary.

That could briefly set up a Grey Cup matchup with Bengals spot receiver Andrew Hawkins, a winner with Montreal.

HOMETOWN VISIT: Bengals safety Taylor Mays, who grew up in Seattle, hasn’t been back very much since he left for college at USC and looked forward to the visit only because he could visit with his parents.

He also said he plans to talk with Carroll before the game as well as other coaches he knew at USC. The two have been linked in controversy since the 2010 draft because Carroll needed a safety and didn’t take him in the second round.

“It wasn’t really anything. I felt like we had a good relationship then and we have one now,” Mays said.

Mays put in some work during the bye week with secondary coach Kevin Coyle as he continues to try and get used to the scheme. They went in the gym and Coyle represented different offensive formations with chairs.

“It’s different than seeing it on a piece of paper and actually seeing it in front of you,” he said.

VEIL OF NO SECRECY: The unwritten rule in an NFL draft room is the same as it is in the locker room. “What you say here, what you do here, what you see here, let it stay here.”

As it does in many war rooms—NFL and the real ones—that went by the boards Sunday in the Bengals draft room when ESPN cited sources that said club president Mike Brown wanted Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett in this year’s draft but in the end sided with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and others for Andy Dalton when both were available at No. 35.

Which is another example of the tremendous power Brown gives the Bengals assistant coaches and Lewis in the draft, particularly in the early rounds. On a lot of teams, the assistants are in their offices watching the draft on TV, never mind having input in each stage of the process.

Rarely is there unanimity in any draft room and debates become public. An alleged John Harbaugh-Ozzie Newsome divide in Baltimore on first-round pick Jimmy Smith was revealed almost immediately back in April.
That’s why the company line is always, “We disagree, we discuss, we debate, but we leave the room as one.”

And the Bengals got a one, and maybe another, when they debate the picks they got in the Carson Palmer trade next April.


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A Fictional Mobster Would Approve Of Leonard’s Growing Role

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 29, 2011 – 10:02 pm

Perhaps I should survey the locker room to be sure, but I’m pretty confident in thinking that Brian Leonard is the only member of the Cincinnati Bengals that has had Tony Soprano in his apartment.

And yes, I mean actor James Gandolfini and not Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

Gandolfini is a proud Rutgers grad and avid football fan who once wore Leonard’s #23 jersey on the sidelines while Brian was playing for the Scarlet Knights.

“My sophomore year at Rutgers, he was at the game when we beat Michigan State and sat next to my parents so they got to know him a little bit,” Leonard told me.  “His old roommate eventually became the Rutgers chiropractor and he knew where the players lived, so he brought James Gandolfini over to our house.  He hung out with us after a huge win.  It was pretty cool.”

Unlike Gandolfini in The Sopranos, Leonard is not the star of the Bengals show, but he is averaging an impressive 9.3 yards when he touches the football this year (9 runs, 9 receptions).  With Cedric Benson serving a one game suspension on Sunday in Seattle, Bernard Scott is expected to get the bulk of the carries, but Leonard figures to play an increased role as well.

“He’ll be used a little bit more,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.  “It will depend on how Bernard is holding up.  I think he’ll need a blow from time to time and we might also see Cedric Peerman a little bit, but Leonard is ready to go.  We might use him every third series kind of like we do with Bernard Scott right now and I would expect Leonard to get more touches.”

Leonard is in his third year with the Bengals after being obtained from St. Louis in a trade for defensive tackle Orien Harris who is currently a member of the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League.  It is one of the more lopsided trades in Bengals history.

“I was kind of surprised when I was traded,” said Leonard.  “I did pretty well in my rookie year in St. Louis.  I started four games at running back and I started the rest at fullback.  In my second year, I tore my rotator cuff in the preseason and had to get surgery.  I had to sit out nearly that whole season and when a new coaching staff came in with Coach Spagnuolo from the Giants, they really didn’t give me a chance to be honest.  I don’t think they really knew how to use me – I’m kind of a unique player and they decided to trade me.

“You know what?  It worked out for the best.  I love it here in Cincinnati.  I love the fans; I love my teammates, so I’m glad to be here.”

Leonard made his mark in his third game with Cincinnati back in 2009.  With :36 seconds left and the Bengals trailing Pittsburgh 20-15, Leonard took a swing pass from Carson Palmer and lunged for a game-saving first down (You can see the play here.  Leonard’s catch is at the 1:50 mark).  Two plays later, Palmer hit Andre Caldwell for the game-winning TD to give the Bengals the first of their six division wins that season.

“I think that play was actually really important for my career,” said Leonard.  “Before that play, I wasn’t getting many reps.  I was probably getting five reps a game – not touching the ball five times a game – I was on the field for about five offensive plays a game.  After that, my role got bigger and now I’m touching the ball four or five times a game and I’m out there all of the time on third down and in the two-minute drill.”

The Sopranos has been off the air for four years.  Fortunately, another Rutgers guy is helping to give Bengals fans compelling TV viewing on Sunday afternoons.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


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Jones Hopes For Immediate Return

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 26, 2011 – 1:13 am

Adam Jones is back at practice and says he expects to be on the active roster this Sunday at Seattle.

Has he been given any indication by the coaching staff that he’ll be activated?

“No, but I expect to be,” said Jones.

“Adam is a self-proclaimed doctor and probably talks a little too much about this stuff,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.  “I don’t want our players ever to talk about anything to do with injuries because that’s not their call.”

The 28-year-old cornerback, who has been out of action with a neck injury for more than a year, was able to return to practice on Monday on a three-week exemption that allows him to practice without being counted against the roster limit.  Jones can be activated at any time during that window, and since Cedric Benson is serving a one-game suspension this week, there will be an opening.

“It’s what I love to do and I’m just happy to be back,” said Jones.  “I can’t wait until Sunday.”

Whether Jones is activated this week or not, the Bengals are counting on him to add depth to the secondary in the near future.

“I think he’s going to help a lot,” said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.  “He’s a good kid that has come in here and done everything that we’ve asked him to do.  He’s had some trouble in the past, but for some reason, I have a tremendous relationship with the kid.  He needs to have somebody who will discipline him and tell him what’s right and wrong.  He’s a tremendous athlete – he’s quick, he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s physical, and all of those things will help us a lot.”

Jones could also help in the return game as he’s returned four punts for touchdowns in his NFL career.

“That’s going to be up to Coach Lewis as to how we use him and when he use him,” said special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons.  “If it were up to Adam, he would be in on every play.  He’s been in my ear for a lot longer than six weeks – however long he’s been on the PUP list – so he’s anxious to get out there and I’m anxious to get him out there.  We just have to be smart about how and when we use him.”

“When Adam is able to come back and play, he can help us as another cover player and he’ll also help us in the return game,” said Coach Lewis.  “There are some things that he is very special with, and hopefully he can get back to the level he was at before he was injured last year and play even more consistently.  Hopefully, that time will come along pretty soon.”

“I’m just praying to God to keep my body healthy because everything else will work out for itself,” said Jones.  “Physically, I’m there.”

* * * * *

This week’s game at Seattle is Cincinnati’s only game on the west coast this year and the team will travel on Friday instead of Saturday to adjust to the three hour time difference.

“Marvin Lewis is a big proponent of that,” said my radio partner Dave Lapham.  “Mike Brown had been like his dad – under Paul Brown we always traveled the day before whether it was east coast, west coast, or no coast.  I think it’s a plus.  I remember as a player, when we went out to the west coast the day before, I would wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning.  Even though it was a 1 o’clock kickoff out there, it seemed like it was a night game because you’re awake for so long.  It just throws your body clock off and players are creatures of habit.” 

But adjusting to the time difference isn’t the only reason why the Bengals travel a day early.

“It’s a body clock thing but it’s also a thing for families,” said Coach Lewis.  “Anytime you’re an eastern team and you go to the west coast, there are a number of people that find their way to the game.  So these guys kind of get inundated with family.  This way, they get an opportunity to do the things that they need to do with their family, and take care of tickets for Aunt Mildred and Uncle Joe, and then by Saturday, they can get a nap and get focused.  By the time we get to Saturday evening, they’ve spent the necessary time with those people and they’re ready to go to sleep.  It makes our Saturday and Sunday more normal.  If you get in on Saturday, then they’re inundated with all of that stuff.  We’re trying to take some of the distraction out.”

* * * * *

If Carson Palmer’s former teammates enjoyed watching him go 8-for-21 with 3 interceptions in his Oakland Raiders debut, they weren’t saying it to reporters on Monday.

“I don’t think they should have put him in the game,” said safety Chris Crocker.  “It wouldn’t have mattered if you were Dan Marino – if you hadn’t played in 10 months and had one week of practice, you’re set up for failure.” 

The Raiders have a bye this Sunday, giving Palmer some much-needed time to prepare for a November 6th start against Denver.

“Carson is going to get better—he’s a repetitions guy,” said Lapham.  “When he was here, the backups complained that they never got any snaps. Carson is not necessarily a quick study like a Peyton Manning or a Tom Brady – he needs reps and he didn’t come anywhere near being ready to play last Sunday.

“To throw a whole play book at him in three days is not an easy feat for anybody,” said Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.  “He’ll get better with time, and the more comfortable he gets with the terminology and his receivers.  Coming in on three days of practice…I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

* * * * *

One stat that hasn’t received much attention in the Bengals 4-2 start is average drive start.  They’ve won the field position battle in every game this season.

“That’s our number one goal,” said Coach Simmons.  “That’s what we strive to do every game and fortunately, we’re 6-for-6.  Some games it’s been by a yard or two and other games it’s been bigger.  There’s a lot that goes into that and we’ve had some fortunate things happen, but at the end of the day, that’s the only stat that matters to me.  What’s the average drive start for the two offenses – that’s something that we want to win and win by a wide margin because that definitely has an impact on the outcome of the game.

* * * * *

I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 on ESPN 1530-AM.  Our guests are expected to include Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Mike Wilkening from Pro Football Weekly, and Mike Salk from ESPN Seattle.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


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I Think I Believe

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on October 19, 2011 – 5:14 pm

Again, in honor of Lance McLaRussa and Peter The King, Things I Think I Believe, The Carson Edition.

I Think I Believe Tuesday was a very weird day in Bengaldom. It’s a happy day with the Church of Paul Brown’s bells pealing and the pundits singing and the team resting at 4-2.

And let’s lift a glass to a first-round pick in 2012 and at least a second-round pick in 2013. Right guard Bobbie Williams heard the compensation for Carson Palmer and his eyes went wider than Shayne Graham against the Steelers.

“The gift,” Bobbie said, “that keeps on giving.”

But there should be some sadness here. Palmer is one of the great all-time Bengals and even though he’s been good and gone nine months now in the hearts and minds of Bengaldom, the trade closes a significant chapter in its history.

What’s that you say? He’s a quitter, a coward, a wimp?

If that’s how you see it. I see it that he’s a good guy and a hell of a quarterback who made a mistake when he let the frustration and competitiveness get the better of him and would any of us be any better?

Even if I disagree with how he went about it at the end or wish at times he could have been a more passionate leader or more engaged in the community, that doesn’t change the fact he was one of the more courageous, talented and nicest guys to play here. He remained true to himself. Not warm and fuzzy. But private, polite, laid-back, resolute.

I Think I Believe so did Mike Brown stay true to himself. Tough, patient, trying to fit today into the big picture. Not as inflexible as you think.

And that says something for both guys in this age of TwitterFacebookNFLNetworkTeamCamsTeaPartyOccupationWallStreet with the world screaming at you at 235 miles per hour red, angry and mean like some boil on the neck to be just like them.

I Think I Believe I’m biased. Not 15 minutes after Palmer walked out of his first Raiders news conference he was on the horn Tuesday night. Not with SI or PFT or PTI or Shefty or Mort or the Dannetes or Rome, but with Bengals.com. Given what has transpired since his Mobile Manifesto at the Senior Bowl back in January, you wouldn’t exactly figure that would be an outlet on his list.

But it says something about him. It says everything about him. He’s a classy guy. Always has been. He didn’t say why he wanted out. We’ve all got guesses and we’re all probably a little right. Demanding a trade with the retirement card and four years left on a contract wasn’t the best thing to do, but this league, heck this team, has seen a lot worse. It could have got ugly. Palmer could have reported to force Brown’s hand. Brown could have offered to ship him to Washington. Tuesday could have been a two time-zone Jerry Springer, but you have to credit the civility of both guys.

I Think I Believe I disagree with Doc, although I’m assuming the “Mike Brown’s Finest Hour” column is largely tongue in cheek.

If you ask me, deciding to keep the Bengals in Cincinnati back in 1995 when everyone was telling him the smart money was in Baltimore was his finest hour. Published reports now put the Ravens revenue at $25 million more per year than the Bengals.

Other hours that trump the Palmer trade: Convincing Paul Brown to get back into pro football and doing it in Cincinnati, scouting and pushing the draft selections of Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason, building two Super Bowl teams in the ‘80s, hiring the AFC North’s first African-American head coach in Marvin Lewis.

I Think I Believe I liked Lewis’ answer when I asked about the consideration given to the same 4-2 records of the Bengals and Raiders. Say the Chargers win the AFC West and say the Bengals are trying to be one of two wild card teams that come out of the AFC North. Well, Cincinnati has beaten Buffalo head-to-head to win a tiebreaker. And if they had let Hue Jackson struggle with Kyle Boller for a while, you wouldn’t have had the Raiders to worry about for very long. Now you’ve given them air with a guy who has been to the Pro Bowl and won divisions.

But as Lewis said, “Once you make the choice and the decision, you can’t worry what happens on the other side. If you go through life that way, where are you going? You’d chase your tail all of the time and you’re not moving forward. Anytime a guy leaves this place and has put himself on the line for me like they have, I’m going to wish them well every chance I get. We love the chance to compete against people we’ve had here before. That’s part of it. That’s what any sport is about.”

I Think I Believe Palmer was worth the No. 1 pick in 2003. In the six seasons before he became the starter, the Bengals were 14-36 in division games. In his six seasons he didn’t miss a division game, they were 22-14. Enough said. And they had a shot every time he strapped it up after a decade of getting blown out and for eight years he said all the right things.

I Think I Believe I’ve said before that Palmer has a chance to be the Jim Plunkett of the early 21st century. A former Heisman Trophy winner and overall No. 1 pick; a battle-scarred veteran thought to be washed up leading another franchise to a Super Bowl title. Add now that both are returning to their native California for Al Davis’ team.

From 2004-06, only Brady and Manning were better than Palmer. And in ’09 he might not have had great stats, but he had the ultimate year for a quarterback with seven last drives at the end of a game or overtime that either won it, tied it, or gave the Bengals the lead. If he had performed that season in the NFC East there would be a statue of him.

Does he have anything left? I’d like to see him in an offense where the receivers don’t make it up as they go and the system doesn’t ask him to always drop back seven steps and make a great throw just to get eight yards. Then we’ll know.

I Think I Believe I disagree with Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated when he says that there is a double standard in granting Palmer a trade and not one to Chad Ochocinco when he demanded a trade in 2008. Which worries me because Trotter is one of the smartest guys out there and is very good at his craft.

But they are two different situations. The major thing is Ocho had a prohibitive salary cap hit of about $5-6 million if the Bengals traded him before the ’08 draft. Palmer had none. The Ocho reported to mandatory minicamp and training camp, Palmer didn’t report to anything.

And The Ocho went very public with his rant (he kept NFL Network on the air by himself that spring) that began at the Super Bowl and didn’t stop, really, until he got sent home in November the night before the Steelers game for insubordination. Palmer didn’t surface until Tuesday’s news conference.


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Bengals Have Their Guy, So Carson Could Go

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 18, 2011 – 11:24 pm

The Carson Palmer trade was right out of The Godfather:  The Raiders made an offer that the Bengals couldn’t refuse.

“We got two first round picks right?  That’s what you’re hearing?” asked linebacker Thomas Howard when the trade rumors first reached the locker room.  “Not bad.  That’s not bad at all.”

As it turns out, the Bengals received a first-round choice in next year’s draft and a second-round choice in 2013.  According to NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi, the 2013 pick will become a first-round choice if the Raiders advance to the AFC Championship game in either of the next two years (not one Oakland playoff win as previously reported – a win in the Wild Card round would not alter the pick).

But Bengals founder Paul Brown had an old adage that you don’t deal a player until you have his replacement.  Even after the Raiders’ jaw-dropping offer, the Palmer trade might not have happened if Andy Dalton hadn’t performed so well in his first six NFL starts. 

“I think it has helped Mike (Brown) become comfortable with the whole situation moving forward,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.

“Andy has done a good job with this team and I think ‘upstairs’ felt that it was the right time to let him go and move on,” said linebacker Rey Maualuga. 

“Andy is doing a pretty damn good job and he’s growing each and every week,” said Howard.  “He’s our guy.”

“They’ve made it easy for me to step into the huddle,” said Dalton.  “They don’t treat me like a rookie in there.  I’m just trying to do whatever I can to lead this team and get these guys going.”

While Dalton has only played in 5 ½ games – admittedly a tiny sample – it’s interesting to compare his stats to Carson Palmer’s at various stages of his career:

                                    Completion %           TD       INT     Yards    QB rating

Dalton                 

First 6 NFL games                  62.4                 7             5          1311             84.4

Projected season                     62.4                 19          13         3496             84.4

Palmer

First 6 NFL games                  54.9                    5           9            1211            62.1

Last season                               61.8                 26        20             3970           82.4

2009 (AFC North title)             60.5                 21        13             3094          83.6

Since 2006 (last Pro Bowl)     62.2                 76        57            11,926         83.1

Career                                        62.9                154      100         22,694         86.9    

Dalton was the fifth quarterback picked in this year’s draft after Cam Newton (1st overall), Jake Locker (#8), Blaine Gabbert (#10), and Christian Ponder (#12), but so far, the Bengals rookie has led his team to the best start at 4-2.

“I kind of came in wanting to show what I could do,” said Dalton.  “I felt like I was comparable to all of those guys that went in the first round.  There is some competition there, but it’s nothing that I’ve focused on really.

“I feel like I’m starting to get better each week and that’s all I can do.  I’m facing teams that I’ve never played before – obviously – and I’m just trying to do whatever I can to do the right thing and put this team in a position where we can win the game in the fourth quarter.”

Dalton is used to winning.  He was 14-1 as a senior at Katy (TX) high school, 42-7 at TCU, and 4-2 so far with the Bengals.  So when asked after the Palmer trade about his personal goals, Andy’s answer was not a surprise. 

“The most important thing is to win,” said Dalton.  “That’s all that matters.  I’m just trying to play to the best of my ability.  I’ve been fortunate to be on some really good teams and play with a lot of good players.  I just try to bring my attitude and push guys to get going.”

His play as a rookie, helped “push” the Bengals to make one of the biggest trades in franchise history.

“Mike Brown was smart,” said my radio partner Dave Lapham.  “He held on to a valuable commodity until he knew that Andy Dalton was the guy.  Then a starting quarterback (Jason Campbell) went down with a broken collarbone and Mike Brown was sitting there with a valuable piece of property.  (Raiders coach) Hue Jackson recruited Carson at USC and has known him since his high school days and they have a great relationship. Hue has a good relationship with the Bengals organization as well with Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis.  All the ducks lined up.  He needed a quarterback and he got one.  If you’re Mike Brown, there’s no way you don’t make that deal.  It’s a win for the Bengals and if the Raiders look at it as a win, that’s the definition of a good deal.”

* * * * *

I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 on ESPN 1530-AM.  Our guests are expected to include Oakland Raiders play-by-play announcer Greg Papa, Bengals receivers coach James Urban, and NFL experts Jay Glazer and Alex Marvez.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


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Clements Provides Helping Hand In Win Over Colts

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 17, 2011 – 8:49 am

While the 31-year-old quarterback sits in California, the 31-year-old cornerback keeps making plays.

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

Nate Clements is 15 days older than Carson Palmer and is the 2nd-oldest player on the Bengals roster behind 35-year-old Bobbie Williams.  He is one of only four 30-plus players on the AFC’s youngest team.

But if there’s any doubt that Clements still has the athleticism to play cornerback in the NFL, consider the play that he made in the 4th quarter of Cincinnati’s 27-17 win over Indianapolis.

The Colts had scored 10 straight points and were on the verge of tying the game as one of the NFL’s all-time best kickers – Adam Vinatieri – lined up for a 52-year-field goal attempt.  But Clements bolted from the edge and blocked the kick with a Pete Rose-like head-first dive. 

“I knew it was going to be a lower projection on the kick because of the distance of the field goal,” Clements told me.  “Throughout the game I had been trying to get good reads on the snap, and I was fortunate to be able to.  The guys up front did a great job to get a push up front, and the ball came out low.  I had a good jump and just stuck my arms out there.”

“That was crazy,” said safety Reggie Nelson.  “Nate’s been in this game for awhile and it’s nothing new to see him make plays out there.  He’s still got it and that’s a key to our defense.  He’s doing great.”

Clements is the only current Bengal who has played in a Pro Bowl (2004) and was once considered the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history when he signed an 8-year, $80 million contract with San Francisco.  When the 49ers released him in July to free up $15.7 million in cap space, Cincinnati pounced on the veteran free agent to replace Johnathan Joseph at cornerback. 

“Nate Clements has already helped us and upgraded the back end,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.  “His veteran leadership has been very helpful.”

“He comes to practice every day and works hard,” said linebacker Thomas Howard.  “I said, ‘Hey Nate, how freaking long are you going to play this game?’  And he said, ‘As long as I can.’  He approaches it the way that you’re supposed to approach it.”

One thing that Clements hasn’t done in his 10 NFL seasons is appear in a playoff game, and while the 4-2 Bengals are a long way from accomplishing that feat, they’re in the hunt as they enter the bye week.

“One week at a time,” said Clements.  “It’s hard to win in this league.  On any given Sunday, anything can happen.  I understand how hard it is to win in this league and to come away with a ‘W’ at home was crucial.”

Cincinnati’s victory might not have happened if the Bengals oldest player on defense didn’t make a youthful-looking play. 

“I’ve still got it in me,” said Clements.  “I’ve still got that burst.”

* * * * *

I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 on ESPN 1530-AM.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


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Benson Provides Riveting Radio

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 13, 2011 – 3:52 pm

Another week, another stay of execution – or at least suspension – for Cedric Benson.

Prior to the San Francisco game in Week 3, Benson received a 3-game suspension for being charged with assault during the lockout.  Cedric promptly filed an appeal, challenging the NFL’s right to punish him for actions that took place when there was no bargaining agreement, no union, and he was not under contract.  That appeal was heard at NFL headquarters on Tuesday, September 27th.

Additionally, Benson filed an unfair labor practice charge against the NFL Players Association for making a deal with the league that allowed eight “repeat offenders” to be disciplined for their behavior during the lockout.  Cedric met with the National Labor Relations Board in Cincinnati this Tuesday, and a NLRB official told Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer that a ruling could take three to four weeks.  As a result, it’s possible that the NFL will have to delay its ruling on the suspension until the NLRB case is resolved.

So for the fourth straight week since the suspension was announced – and counting – Benson will take the field on Sunday.

“I try my best to eliminate all distractions the best that I can,” said Benson.  “I only want to be focused on football and my preparation going into the next game.  The heaviest thing for me was going to New York and meeting with the NFL about the situation.  After that passed, I was fine and it was behind me.  Whatever decision was to be made based on that meeting, I was going to have to be OK with.”

Cedric joined Artrell Hawkins and me last Friday for our “Bengals Pep Rally” show at the Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash and spoke very candidly about his off-field behavior.  Benson has been charged with assault in each of the last two summers, and spent five days in jail prior to the season.

“It takes a lot of play this game at a high and intense level every Sunday for 16 weeks,” said Benson.  “I try to keep that part of me just on the football field and I try to do my best to be in control.  For people that haven’t played football at a high level, you have to have an edge about you to survive in this game at this level.  I’m aware that I have that edge, but I try to keep it on the field.  I try my best to, but nobody is perfect. 

“The time that I was in (jail), all I could really think about was how slow the clock was ticking.  I was really eager to get out of there.  But from the time the situation happened to the time I sat in jail, I had some time to think about a lot of things.  It gave me an opportunity to step back and think about who is around me, who I want to be around me, the type of people that I could and couldn’t associate with, and there was still some growing that I needed to do as a person.  I’ve taken steps toward accomplishing that.”

* * * * *

We were also joined on last week’s show by Clark Judge, an NFL columnist for CBS Sports.com who had an interesting answer when I asked him if Carson Palmer’s trade value would drop if he sits out the entire season:

“I talked to an NFL coach who said, ‘If Carson Palmer actually sits out, his trade value goes up in my estimation.’  I said ‘It goes up?  Why?’  He said, ‘Because that is a guy of conviction.  That just shows you how determined he was to get out of there.  I really would want a guy like that.’  That’s illogical thinking to me, but that’s what he said to me.  If the Bengals determine that they’re going to trade him – and I’m not convinced of that – I think they could get a lot for him.  There could be and should be a market for Carson Palmer and people would stand in line to try to get this guy.”

* * * * *

I hope you’ll Artrell Hawkins and me for “Bengals Pep Rally” on Friday afternoon from 3 to 6 live from the Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash.  The show can be heard on ESPN 1530-AM.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


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Shank You Very Much

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 9, 2011 – 10:45 pm

I suspect that I was behind the mic for the 1127th and final punt of Matt Turk’s NFL career.

With 5:23 left and the Jaguars leading 20-16, the 43-year-old Turk shanked a 22-yard punt into a strong wind that – when combined with a 5-yard penalty – gave the Bengals the ball at the Jacksonville 23-yard line.  The NFL’s oldest player averaged 28.3 yards on his three punts in the fourth quarter. 

“Turk killed them – he absolutely killed them,” said my broadcast partner Dave Lapham.  “Shank you very much.”

But the fact that Turk was punting into the wind in the final quarter was the fault of his head coach Jack Del Rio. 

“It was their call in the second half,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.  “They chose the wind in the third quarter.  It was their call and it worked out for us.”

While Del Rio’s choice of direction had dreadful results for the Jaguars, Marvin Lewis made a gutsy call shortly after Turk’s last punt that played a huge part in the win.

The Bengals faced 4th-and-6 at the Jacksonville 19-year line with 3:53 remaining.  With two time outs and the two-minute warning remaining, Lewis could have kicked the field goal and tried to get the ball back.  But he elected to go for it and Andy Dalton found Jermaine Gresham for a 9-yard gain that kept the drive alive.

“I have to commend whoever made the 4th-and-6 call,” said linebacker Thomas Howard.  “It was a great throw by Andy and a better catch by Jermaine.  That’s why they pay the person that makes that call the big bucks.”

“We had faith in ourselves and Coach Gruden called a great play,” said right tackle Andre Smith.  “We picked up the blitz really well and Andy was able to make a great pass to Gresham.” 

It was arguably the most important of the 157 passes that Andy Dalton has thrown – so far – in the the NFL. 

“This kid is unflappable – he really is,” said Dave Lapham.  “Guts with a capital G is Andy Dalton.”

“It doesn’t surprise us,” said Jermaine Gresham.  “We’re with him every day at practice and he shows that all the time.  He’s just putting it on film for everyone else in the NFL to see.”

“He commands the huddle, commands our attention, and has that ‘eye of the tiger’ so to speak,” said Andre Smith.  “He’s a phenomenal quarterback and I’m really enjoying blocking for him.”

Dalton’s fourth down throw to Gresham gave the Bengals a first down at the 10-yard-line and three plays later, Bernard Scott scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run.

A game-ending TD on a fumble recovery by Geno Atkins gave Cincinnati a 30-20 win over Jacksonville, improving the Bengals record to 3-2.  The Bengals have come-from-behind in the fourth quarter in all three of their wins. 

“Coach always talks about winning in the fourth quarter,” said Thomas Howard.  “Games are going to be close in the National Football League because everyone is good.  The most disciplined team that makes the most plays in the fourth quarter wins the game.”

“The chemistry on this team is really good,” said right guard Bobby Williams.  “It’s one of the best things we have going for us.  We know it and we don’t plan on losing it.  We’re going to stay humble and hungry.  Humble and hungry.”

“This team has been fighting really hard and we still haven’t played our best game yet,” said Andy Dalton.  “I’m excited about what’s to come.” 

Undoubtedly more excited than Matt Turk.

* * * * *

I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 and Artrell Hawkins and me for “Bengals Pep Rally” on Friday afternoon from 3 to 6 live from the Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash.  Both shows can be heard on ESPN 1530-AM.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


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Chemistry change

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on October 9, 2011 – 9:49 am

Nate Clements

JACKSONVILLE - Now that the Bengals starting quarterback was born the same season Boomer Esiason sat in front of the bus and the club’s Pro Bowl wide receiver was born the year Eddie Brown went to his only Pro Bowl, the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green era looks ready to write the next chapter of Bengaldom.

But an old man beat them to the punch. Cornerback Nate Clements, the oldest man on defense at age 31, born during a season Ken Riley still patrolled the corner, may have had the most to say about the new era last Sunday during halftime of the win over Buffalo.

With the Bengals down, 17-3, and looking more interested in their touches than their team, Clements spoke up. As his teammates gathered in their huddle before going back out on to the field, Clements reminded them in a quick, emotional address that they were still in it and that if they stuck together they could win.

“I was just being myself,” Clements said last week as the Bengals prepared for the Jaguars. “I felt like we needed a jump-start before going out there after what happened early in the game.”

If you’re looking for the biggest difference in head coach Marvin Lewis’ third rebuilding process of his nine seasons, this is it.

In 2003 the first one was built on implementing Lewis’ organization and philosophy for a locker room that had none. Before the start of the 2008 and then hurried along by an unbelievable run of injuries, the second reboot featured an overhauling of a veteran roster that couldn’t get over the 8-8, 7-9 hump. It was turned over to guys like Dhani Jones and Chris Crocker, journeymen veterans thankful for one last shot, and Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko, young players on the rise that saw where the talented teams failed.

Now you have this one in 2011, marked by a massive personnel change on offense led by Dalton and Green, but along with it the installation of a group of veterans such as Whitworth, Peko, Leon Hall and Bobbie Williams that saw how not to do it in the locker room, and the infusion of professional, solid veterans like Clements, Thomas Howard, Manny Lawson and Kelly Jennings have brought a fresh perspective.

Throw in the departures of long-time locker-room personalities, whether they were positive or negative, and it allowed the new breed to flex its muscles.

It helped that the draft classes of 2009-11 yielded a vein of blue-collar players that have blue chip talent. Ask around the locker room, and the long-timers keep talking about how the young guys always seem to be talking about football and not the complementary items.

The result seems to be, as evidenced by Clements’ Buffalo Address, that the players have taken more ownership than at any point in Lewis’ run. No more passive aggressive. If they don’t like it, they’ll tell their teammates.

“I think there’s more ownership, but I don’t think it’s anything over the top,” Hall said. “There aren’t a whole lot of players that are yelling and screaming. I think you definitely get a sense of ownership.”

Clements says he just did what came natural, which may be the best way to describe how the altered chemistry is bubbling. He didn’t have any index cards.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve done it before, but I can’t remember one particular moment,” Clements said. “I didn’t plan it or rehearse it. Nobody was bickering. Nobody had their heads down. It was just something I thought we needed at the time. It wasn’t to chew anybody out. It was motivation. If you keep playing, the score is going to take care of itself.”

Clements said he had no worries that anyone would object to him speaking up or taking it the wrong way. Indeed, the reaction has been overwhelming positive.

“We all understand each other in here,” Clements said.

That could end up being the ’11 mantra. Right next to Lewis’ “Find A Way” T-shirts.


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