Bengals Need To Be Fueled By Green Energy

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 22, 2012 – 10:19 pm

If you look closely at A.J. Green’s college stats at Georgia, you’ll see that in addition to having 166 receptions and 23 touchdowns, he had one blocked kick.

“I was in charge of the field goal and extra point block team and all I wanted was to use A.J. one time,” said former Georgia assistant coach John Jancek, currently the defensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati.  “So I battled to get him on the block team and sure enough, he blocked a kick to win a game against Arizona State.  It was the only time he ever tried it and he blocked it clean.  He was one for one.”

“We were down and needed a block and I just went up and blocked it,” Green told me.  “I have a picture of it in my house.”

Clearly, there aren’t many things that A.J. Green can’t do on a football field.  But one thing is impossible:  Catching the ball if the Bengals don’t throw it to him.

In Sunday night’s loss to the Steelers, Green finished with one reception for an 8-yard touchdown.  It marked the third time in his career that A.J. has finished with one catch (they have all been for touchdowns) and his eight receiving yards were a career-low.

“When you go back and look at the stats and see A.J. Green with one catch, it bothers you quite a bit,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

Pittsburgh deserves most of the credit.  In addition to having cornerback Ike Taylor shadow Green on every play, Dick LeBeau gave Taylor linebacker help on short routes and safety help on deeper routes.

“They were buzzing safeties over the top or buzzing linebackers on some of the underneath stuff,” said Green.  “They did a great job – hats off to them.  Ike Taylor played a hell of a game.  He’s a great player and has been in the league for a long time.”

“They played a little bit more two-man than they have, but they’ve played it (before) so it wasn’t that big of a surprise,” said Gruden.

The extra attention from Pittsburgh’s defense did not have Green seeing red.  Unlike some other receivers in the Bengals recent past, A.J. did not throw a fit on the sideline when the ball was not coming his way.

“I feel like we had some good stuff drawn up, but the defense played well against me,” said Green.

“He can complain if he wants to,” said Gruden.  “I’m trying my hardest.  I want to get him the ball probably more than he wants it.”

The Steelers weren’t the first team to roll their coverage toward Green and they obviously won’t be the last.  The Bengals still have to get their best player the ball.

“There was a lot of concern about A.J. catching only one pass, and we have a concern that we didn’t get the ball to A.J. enough,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.  “We didn’t get the ball down the field and over the top.”

“We had some plays for him,” said Gruden.  “It’s not like he wasn’t part of any play.  Every time we call a pass play we know where A.J. is and what he’s doing and he’s a viable option.

“When it’s all said and done, you have to have some plays that feature him running fast and far and we didn’t have enough.”

The bottom line is that the Bengals have two weeks to figure out ways to get Green’s hands on the ball.  And blocking kicks is not what I have in mind.

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Bill Polian: “One Of My Biggest Regrets Is Not Drafting Dalton”

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 12, 2012 – 10:15 pm

Prior to last season while the status of Peyton Manning was still uncertain following neck surgery, former Indianapolis Colts vice chairman Bill Polian elected to use Indy’s first round draft pick on offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo.

But if Polian had a do-over, Andy Dalton would not be a Cincinnati Bengal.

“I’ve told this to Marvin and Mike so it’s no state secret – one of my biggest regrets was not taking him in the first round and leaving him for (Cincinnati),” Polian told me this week on ESPN 1530.  “But if anybody got him, I’m glad that my friends at the Bengals did.”

After going 2-14, the Colts wound up selecting Andrew Luck with the number one pick in this year’s draft so things eventually worked out fine for Indy.  But Polian, now working for ESPN after being fired in Indianapolis, says that the Bengals landed a good quarterback too.

“He is a terrific leader, he’s very, very bright, he’s got more than adequate arm strength, and he’s a fighter,” said Polian.  “He looks like an altar boy or a choir boy, but plays with a crowbar in his hands.  He’s got a lot of killer in him which is really great.  That’s what you want in a quarterback.  I’ve heard people compare him to Bernie Kosar, but I think he’s much more athletic than Bernie, and I think that he has a better arm than Bernie.  He’s a tough character and he’s a winner.”

The six-time NFL Executive of the Year was also effusive in his praise of Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins who is tied for third in the NFL with 6 sacks through 5 games.

“The position of inside pass rusher is a key position,” said Polian.  “When you get an athletic defensive lineman who can rush the passer at the tackle position, it makes it so much harder for the offensive line to slide and help people.  If you’re going to ‘chip’ it’s going to be with a back or a tight end.  The line can’t move because you cannot run the risk of the guard whiffing and having that guy go clean to the quarterback.  So Geno Atkins has turned out to be a terrific addition to the Bengals and an inside pass rusher – I think after the quarterback – is the most important guy on the team because if you can rush from the inside, that means usually that you can rush with four and cover with seven and that gives you a heck of a defensive advantage.”

Polian was the architect of the Buffalo teams that went to four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s and built the Colts team that won Super Bowl XLI in 2007.  He obviously knows how to build a contending team and I asked him what area the Bengals still need to address.

“You would like a little more explosion in the offense,” said Polian.  “That’s easier said than done.  You’re not going to go out and trade for Roddy White – that doesn’t happen.  If there was another explosive receiver, if there was an Edgerrin James-type explosive running back who when the line blocks for six (yards), he could get 12 – that would be icing on the cake.  But they’re in pretty good shape right now.  I really believe that.  It’s a terrific young nucleus led, of course, by the quarterback and one of the elite wide receivers in the National Football League.  When you’ve got that, you’ve got a chance.

“I said on ESPN that I have the Bengals going to the playoffs and everybody laughed at me, but I believe that’s the case.”

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Bengals Hope That Less Is More For Maualuga

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 8, 2012 – 6:17 pm

What’s good for Ray should be good for Rey.

13-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis reportedly dropped 25 pounds in the offseason, going from 260 to 235.

The Bengals have decided to have Rey Maualuga – listed on the roster at 265 lbs. – follow Lewis’s lead.

“They want me to be down to 250 by the bye week,” said Maualuga.  “I’m 254 so in two weeks that will be no problem.  My reporting weight was 260 and they feel like losing 10 pounds will be a better number to play at.  Hey, if they want me to be 250, I’ll be 250.  If they want me to be 245, I’ll be 245.”

The weight loss goal is not a knock on Maualuga’s fitness level – it’s a reaction to the current offensive trends in the NFL.

“What I’ve told Rey is that the NFL is a different game now,” said linebackers coach Paul Guenther.  “It’s more spaced-out and it’s more of a passing game.  There aren’t many teams that are going to come and just pound the ball at you where you have to be a 260 pound linebacker.”

“Coach Guenther told me that the game of football has changed and that there are no big linebackers,” said Maualuga.  “Most teams don’t come out in regular personnel and run the ball a lot – it’s all about opening things up and throwing the ball these days.  Getting lighter will boost my stamina and allow me to be out there every single play.  That’s what we’ve been trying to do the past two weeks and it’s been working.  I’m obviously losing weight and I’m seeing improvement.  I’m just trying to be coachable and do what I’m asked to do.”

At the age of 37, Ray Lewis slimmed down in order to be quicker and the 25-year-old Bengal hopes for the same result.

“You can see the difference from how (Lewis) looked last year to how he looks this year,” Maualuga told me.  “Hopefully it will have a positive impact on how quickly I play and how fast that I run.”

“He feels the difference and I went back and showed him some clips from when he was a rookie and you can see the difference in his foot speed and some of the things that he was doing,” said Guenther.  “I think that Rey knows exactly what to do.  I think when he gets fatigued, that’s when he misses tackles.  He knows what to do and he wants to do it as well as anybody on our team.”

Maualuga missed nearly all of the preseason after suffering a knee injury in the exhibition opener and was the target of media and fan criticism when he did not perform up to his capabilities in the first few weeks of the regular season.

“I really believe that Rey is the most scrutinized player on the Bengals and he knows that he has to play good for us,” said Guenther.  “I think that each week he has been getting better.  He only had four snaps in the preseason and he’s coming off of ankle surgery and I think that he has been getting better each and every week.”

“I got hurt, but that’s no excuse for how I came back,” said Maualuga.  “This is my fourth year in the league and I should be able to play how I’m supposed to play.”

Maualuga has no issue with the scrutiny that he has received from Bengals fans.

“I love the fans,” Rey told me.  “If you play good they support you.  If you lose, you hope that they will still support you.  They want to see improvement.  They want to see the linebacker that the Bengals drafted.  I’m coming to work every day giving it everything that I’ve got.”

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Lewis-Harris signed to practice squad

Posted by bengalsweb on October 4, 2012 – 9:33 am

ImageThe Bengals have signed rookie cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris to the practice squad.

Lewis-Harris was with the Bengals in preseason as a college free agent signee, playing in all four games and logging 13 tackles with a sack. He began the regular season on the Bengals practice squad, was signed to the 53-player roster on Sept. 29 and played at Jacksonville on Sept. 30. He was waived from the roster on Tuesday of this week.

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Bengals Keeping Foes Guessing

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 1, 2012 – 7:08 pm

Is the Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons or David Copperfield?

In each of their last two games, the Bengals have tried some trickery on special teams:  A fake field goal that didn’t work in Washington, and a fake punt that resulted in a momentum-changing 48-yard run in Jacksonville.

“We’ve had opportunities to make plays two weeks in a row now, and we look at those things every week,” said Simmons.  “If we execute the play in Washington and block like we’re supposed to block, it’s a touchdown.  It should be an easy one if we get the lines of communication squared away.  We’ll continue to do it.  It does keep the other teams on their heels a little bit, and can provide a spark for our team as well.  It’s a high risk/high reward thing, and fortunately for us, this time it worked.”

But it wasn’t a matter of good fortune.

Three minutes into the second quarter, the Bengals punted on 4th-and-1 from their own 29 and saw that Jacksonville rushed hard from Cincinnati’s right side – potentially allowing the Bengals to run a fake in that direction.  So roughly three minutes later on 4th-and-1 from their own 34, the Bengals had Clark Harris snap the ball to the punt protector Cedric Peerman and watched him sprint to the Jacksonville 18 (watch the play here).  Five plays later, the Bengals scored their first touchdown and took the lead for good.

“The snap was perfect and Cedric was around the corner before the guy even knew that he had the ball,” said Simmons.  “It was executed perfectly by Clark and Cedric.”

“Once I heard the call, I looked up and saw we had the exact look that we needed,” said punter Kevin Huber.  “I knew it was there if we were able to protect it right.  It worked out and I got to run in the other direction.”

“That was huge,” said Brian Leonard.  “It puts the morale of the other team down and it gets ours up when you make a play like that in special teams.”

On Monday, I asked Marvin Lewis if the fakes were simply a matter of getting favorable looks from the opponent or if the Bengals were looking to be more aggressive in special teams.

“We have not done anything different in 10 seasons now,” said Coach Lewis.

Admittedly, two fakes in two weeks do not indicate a trend, but the willingness to take risks is welcomed in the Bengals locker room.

“One thing that you notice every year in the NFL about the better teams is that when they see an opportunity they take it,” said kicker Mike Nugent.  “That’s one thing that I’ve always noticed about very good teams – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a fake or anything like that, but when they get a tiny little opportunity they pounce on it.  Hopefully we’ll keep doing that as well.”

Between trick plays on special teams and Mohamed Sanu’s game-opening TD pass out of the “Wildcat” formation, the Bengals are creating uncertainty for the opposition.  As a result, future opponents are going to have to expect the unexpected while the Bengals look forward to seeing what the coaching staff conjures up next.

“If you’re on the sideline and you know what’s happening, it’s pretty exciting to watch,” said Nugent.

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