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Bengals Add More Muscle To Team Strength

Posted by Dan Hoard on April 29, 2013 – 7:12 pm

This year, the Bengals not only had their scouts and coaches in Mobile, AL for the Senior Bowl – defensive end Wallace Gilberry took the opportunity to check out the best NFL draft prospects as well.

“They practice not too far from my house,” Wallace told me.  “So I like to go over and get involved.”

Hunt at senior bowl

As a result, when Cincinnati drafted DE Margus Hunt from SMU with the 21st pick of the second round (#53 overall), Gilberry knew exactly who – and what – the Bengals were getting.

“I saw him down in Mobile and the kid is huge,” said Gilberry with a laugh.  “He looks like he is out of place he’s so big.  Once I saw that we had drafted him, I was excited to get the kid in here.  He probably doesn’t remember me, but I definitely remember him.”

Andy Dalton remembers Hunt too.  He faced the 6’8”, 277 pound lineman with 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash in Dalton’s final two seasons at TCU.

“He’s a freak athletically,” said Dalton.  “To be so big, and so strong, and so fast – I think he is a great addition for us.”

But not exactly at a position of need.

“We knew that we didn’t have to push him in there right away,” said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.  “We have a good group of defensive lineman and he can learn from them and we can look for ways to incorporate him into the defense as we get going.”

Atkins sacks Roethlisberger (440x298)

Hunt joins a position group that is arguably the most dominant in the NFL.  Last year, the Bengals defensive line accounted for 40 of a franchise-record 51 sacks and all seven lineman who accounted for that total are under contract for this season.

“Why not add more weapons?” said Carlos Dunlap.  “The defensive line is the strong point of our team right now and why not bring in a guy who you think can add another aspect to it.”

“You can never have too many big men,” said Domata Peko.  “It’s hard to find quality defensive linemen so we’re going to welcome him with open arms to our group.”

“We’ve got a lot of different guys that are big, high-motor guys and drafting Hunt just adds to that,” Dalton told me.  “I guess you can’t have too many defensive linemen in the rotation.”

Margus Hunt isn’t the only promising addition up front.  Keep in mind that last year’s second round pick – Devon Still – and one of the team’s third round picks – Brandon Thompson – barely played as rookies.

Sanu, Thompson, Still (440x294)

“I can’t wait to see these kids get on the field,” said Gilberry.  “I got to practice the whole year with Devon and Brandon and just look at them – they’re hungry, they understand the game, and they’re ready to play.  I can’t wait to see what happens when they take the leash off of them.”

Hunt, Still, and Thompson give the Bengals young depth behind Geno Atkins, Robert Geathers, Michael Johnson, Peko, Gilberry, and Dunlap.  The battle for playing time should be fierce.

“We’ve got a strong rotation,” Dunlap told me.  “Everybody plays and everybody gets to eat.

“This year we want to raise it up another level.  I don’t feel like I contributed as much as I could have last year (6 sacks), so I’m challenging myself to get up there with Mike (11.5 sacks) and Geno (12.5 sacks).”

Dunlap and Atkins are entering the final season of their four-year contracts, and the Bengals kept Johnson this year by using an $11.175 million franchise tag.  By continuing to spend high draft picks on defensive lineman, the Bengals protect themselves against the possibility of losing somebody in free agency.

“You’ve got to understand where the front office is coming from too,” said Gilberry.  “The only thing we can do down here is take care of ourselves and play football.”

“You can’t worry about who they are going to bring in.  Hell, I could be gone tomorrow.  It’s just that kind of business.”

Gilberry and Geathers don’t appear to be going anywhere after signing three-year extensions in March.  The only significant contributor on the defensive line who isn’t back is run-stopper Pat Sims who signed a one-year deal with Oakland.

“Defensive line is one of the strengths of the team, so we’re really excited that they were able to keep us together and add a little more firepower to it,” said Peko.

“When I first got here, guys wanted to get out of this locker room,” said Geathers.  “Now guys want to stick around and we like the direction of the team.  Guys want to be a Bengal and want to retire as a Bengal.”

Andy Dalton is a long way from retirement – and happy that the only time he has to face the Bengals defensive line is at practice.

“I get to wear a different colored jersey so I don’t have to worry about these guys coming after me,” he said.

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

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Brian Kelly Gives Bengals And Eifert A Rave Review

Posted by Dan Hoard on April 26, 2013 – 4:38 pm

When Brian Kelly was still the head coach at Cincinnati, he tried to convince Tyler Eifert to play for the Bearcats.  The tight end chose Notre Dame instead, only to have Kelly take over as head coach when Charlie Weis was fired before Tyler’s sophomore year.

Eifert leaping (440x307)

“We were looking for this kind of player in our offense at Cincinnati and it just worked out that when I took the job at Notre Dame, he and Kyle Rudolph fell in my lap,” Kelly told me.  “They made me look pretty good.”

Rudolph was named the MVP of the Pro Bowl this year following his second season with the Minnesota Vikings.  The former Elder High School star was one year ahead of Eifert at Notre Dame and a more obvious NFL prospect.

“He came in his freshman year ready to play,” said Eifert.  “I came in at 210 pounds just happy to have a scholarship.  I obviously knew that there was a lot of work that I had to do.”

But Kelly could see Eifert’s pro potential.

“Obviously some kids have to grow and mature and he certainly did,” said Kelly.  “You knew that Kyle was a sure-fire NFL player and then you saw Tyler Eifert and some of the things that he did – I knew immediately that he was going to be a special player.”

Despite not having a catch as a freshman, Eifert left Notre Dame with the school’s all-time record for receptions by a tight end with 140.  When the Bengals contacted Kelly to discuss his tight end before the draft, they received a rave review.

“We was kind of glowing in talking about Tyler and what Tyler meant to their football team,” said Marvin Lewis.  “He really felt like he was able to use him in a lot of ways in a mismatch against the defense and that he would give us a lot of flexibility.”

“I told the Bengals that Tyler is smart – he got his degree from Notre Dame in three-and-a-half years,” said Kelly.  “He’s physically and mentally tough.  And he’s the best pass catcher that I’ve coached – whether it be a wide receiver or a tight end.

“I would think that making the contested catch is probably his strength when you come to all of the intangibles at the tight end position.  He will take the ball away from you when the ball is in the air.  He turns field goals into touchdowns in the red zone.”

Adding a red zone weapon is obviously one of the reasons why the Bengals used their first round draft pick on a tight end despite already having two-time Pro Bowler Jermaine Gresham on the roster.

Eifert catch (301x440)

“I think the Bengals are going to have so many different opportunities with Gresham as the other tight end,” said Kelly.  “Now you force teams to drop down to single safety and single coverage because they have to defend the run.  I think that tight end package is something that a lot of NFL teams have looked at and found that they can get some favorable matchups.  At Notre Dame, we used that a lot last year and really think that it gave us some great opportunities.”

In addition to thinking that Eifert will be a good fit for the Bengals offense, the Notre Dame Coach says that the 22-year-old from Fort Wayne, IN will fit in nicely in Cincinnati.

“He loves country music and will golf every day if he can,” said Kelly with a laugh.  “I told him, ‘You’re a perfect fit for Cincinnati.  If those two things are on your wish list, you can’t get a better city than Cincinnati.’  He’s a pretty casual guy.  Flip-flops and shorts is generally how he is seen around campus.  He’s got a great personality, big smile, but he’s really a laid-back kind of guy.”

And while Eifert hasn’t spent much time talking about Cincinnati with his former college coach, he did discuss his new home with Kyle Rudolph.

“He said, ‘Welcome to the Nasty ‘Nati’ or something like that,” said Eifert.  “He was telling me about the hangouts and he said that his parents live here if I need anything.  I told him that I might just rent from his parents and stay in his room.”

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

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Harrison Brings Reputation And Rings To Cincinnati Defense

Posted by Dan Hoard on April 22, 2013 – 12:56 pm

Bengals defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry is like a lot of us:  He learned that five-time Pro Bowler James Harrison had agreed to a contract with Cincinnati on Friday while surfing the internet.

ProFootballTalk.com,” said Gilberry with a laugh.  “That’s where I get my NFL news – that and Ian Rapoport who I follow on Twitter.  I was excited because at first, they were reporting that the talks weren’t going well and he wasn’t leaning towards here and then the next thing you know we had signed him.”

Andrew Whitworth was at a Reds game on Friday night when he got the news, and the Bengals left tackle said that he expected it.

“I was pretty confident that it was going to happen,” said Whitworth.  “It seemed like a good fit and one that made sense for us and for him.”

Harrison sacks Dalton (440x352)

Harrison is likely to replace Manny Lawson as the “Sam” or strong side linebacker in the Cincinnati’s 4-3 defense.  It’s different from the role he played in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme in Pittsburgh, but Harrison’s new teammates are confident that Mike Zimmer will find a way to make good use the veteran’s skills.

“People keep coming up to me any saying, ‘Man, are you happy that you don’t have to play that guy in the division anymore?’” said Whitworth.  “And I tell them, ‘No, because now I’m going to have to deal with him every day at practice when Zimmer is coming up with some concoction in the way that they’re bringing him.’  I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m sure Zimmer is excited about having another little piece to add to the stuff that he does.”

Gilberry is a good example of Zimmer’s ability to maximize a player’s ability.  The six-year veteran joined the Bengals in week three last year after he was released by Tampa Bay and he had an immediate impact in Cincinnati.  Wallace finished third on the team with 6.5 sacks, forced a fumble, and recovered three fumbles including one that he returned for a touchdown against the Eagles.

“I think he’ll be fine because he has a lot of talent,” said Gilberry.  “If Coach Zimmer can get me to play at that level in a short period of time – James Harrison will have a full off-season so the sky is definitely the limit for what Coach Zimmer can do with him.”

At the age of 35, Harrison isn’t likely to be the dominant force that earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008.  But ESPN’s AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley makes a compelling case that the former Steeler will add a mean streak to the Cincinnati defense.

“What the Bengals never had on defense was an edge, or at least I never sensed one,” wrote Hensley.  “That won’t be the case now with Harrison, who is carrying a chip on his shoulder as large as a Primanti Brothers sandwich (or whatever the Cincinnati equivalent would be).  Harrison carries grudges.  Just ask the Baltimore Ravens who once cut Harrison and got some of his best efforts each season.”

Harrison intimidates (440x298)

While the Bengals don’t necessarily agree they lacked “an edge” on defense, they welcome Harrison’s tough-guy persona.

“He has a little swagger to him,” said Robert Geathers.  “I think that will help us a lot.

“I think that everybody goes about their business in different ways.  With James, obviously some of the things over the years you can see with your own eyes.  We’ve been a top defense over the last few years, so I think we have nastiness in us.”

“We have a couple of guys in here that play that way and hopefully he can enhance it and bring it out of some other guys,” said Gilberry.  “I think he’s going to bring a lot of attitude – definitely a lot of veteran leadership.  I’m excited to get him in here and get to working with him.”

“I grew up a Steelers fan so I’ve watched him a lot,” said Devon Still.  “I think he’s a player that goes out there and gives it his all.  He’s definitely a big impact player.”

Harrison joins the Bengals with 64 sacks, 29 forced fumbles, and 5 INT on his resume – not to mention two Super Bowl rings.

“He’s been to the top and any time you can add a guy like that to a locker room that hasn’t – we’re young, we’re talented, but we haven’t been there,” said Whitworth.  “It’s a great leadership thing, it’s a great example thing, and it’s something that we can all learn from.”

“It will be good to have another veteran guy and a guy that’s been where we want to go,” said Geathers.  “He’s been to Super Bowls and he knows how to get there.

“He’s definitely one of the great defense players that I’m going to be fortunate enough to play with.”

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

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Jones Hopes For “Monster” Second Season In Cincy

Posted by Dan Hoard on April 20, 2013 – 6:22 pm

In two games as a rookie against Pittsburgh, Marvin Jones never got leveled by Steelers linebacker James Harrison.  Still, the Bengals wide receiver is happy that he won’t have to face the five-time Pro Bowler again after Harrison agreed to a two-year deal with Cincinnati on Friday.

Harrison sack (440x397)

“Shoot, he’s a monster,” Jones said with a laugh.  “Whenever you add a monster to your defense you can’t go anywhere but up.”

But even without Harrison, the Bengals defense was among the best in the NFL last season.  The Cincinnati offense, on the other hand, has considerable room for growth in 2013 and Jones hopes to have a significant impact.

After being drafted in the fifth round last year, the former Cal standout had a limited role in the first 11 games of the season – in part because of a knee injury that kept him out of three games.  But following a late-season injury to fellow rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu, Jones moved into the starting lineup and finished strong.  In the Bengals final three games against Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Houston, Marvin had 13 catches for 144 yards including his first NFL touchdown against the Ravens (see the highlight here).

“I felt good about my rookie season,” said Jones.  “I got some experience and was in on quite a few plays.  Obviously there are things that I can improve on and I think that will come with maturity and being comfortable out there.  But I think that I finished strong and I want to build upon that.

“Now there are no nerves where you’re like, ‘Oh man, what is going to happen?’  I have a year within this offense, I know all of the positions very well, and I’m familiar with Andy (Dalton).”

Marvin Jones vs Houston (440x297)

Following his first NFL season, Jones took three weeks off before beginning a Monday-through-Thursday training regimen.  The highlight of his off-season was a vacation to Central America.

“I went out to Belize,” said Jones.  “That’s where my fiancé’s grandparents are from, so we went out there for about 10 days and did everything – swim, blue hole, hiked the Mayan ruins, snorkeling, and zip lining.  It was a pretty full vacation and I proposed to her while we were there as well.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better than that.”

Now that he’s taken care of the engagement ring, Marvin has his sights set on a Super Bowl ring, and the 23-year-old was happy to be reunited with his teammates when the Bengals returned to town for off-season workouts this week.

“The first thing you do is smile and laugh when you see everybody again,” Marvin told me.  “It reminds me of the first day of school.

“In college you have like, a week-and-a-half or two weeks off and then you’re right back in the thick of things.  At this level, you can go on vacation and do other stuff and then you’re like, ‘Dang, now what do I do?’  It was fun but I was definitely ready to come back here and get back at it.”

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

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Still and Thompson Ready For Action After “Redshirt” Year

Posted by Dan Hoard on April 18, 2013 – 7:14 pm

If the NFL played by college eligibility rules, the Bengals would probably have the best group of “redshirt freshman” in the country.

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Due to a knee injury, last year’s top draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick – the 17th overall selection – was limited to 43 defensive snaps at cornerback all season.

Second round pick Devon Still, the former Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year, was inactive for the last eight games of the regular season and the Wild Card playoff game after veteran defensive tackle Pat Sims returned from the injury list.  And third round pick Brandon Thompson, one of the most powerful defensive tackles in last year’s draft, only appeared in three games all year due to the team’s depth on the defensive line.

Additionally, fifth round pick Shaun Prater, who flashed NFL potential at cornerback before suffering an August knee injury, missed the entire season.

That means four of the Bengals top seven draft picks last year are almost like additional members of this year’s upcoming rookie crop.

“In a sense it was a redshirt year,” said Still.  “It definitely wasn’t what I expected.  It definitely humbled me and let me how hard I have to work to stay on the field.”

Sanu, Thompson, Still (440x294)

Still and Thompson will definitely be in the mix for more playing time this year following the departure of Sims as a free agent to the Oakland Raiders.

“Now that Pat is gone, it opens that door wide open for a third man in the rotation on the inside of the defensive line,” Still told me.  “I’m going to go as hard as I can to get that spot.”

“Even before Pat left, I came in thinking that I had an opportunity,” said Thompson.  “I want to come in, play hard, and work myself into a role.”

Both defensive linemen say their first year with the Bengals was beneficial even though much of it was spent on the sidelines.

“It was tough, but I had to do my role which was to watch and learn,” said Thompson.  “Hopefully I can use what I learned last year to have a great year.  Having a year under my belt to learn the system and find out where I fit in really helps me out.”

“When you’re going against eight and nine year veterans, they have their technique down pat,” said Still.  “You have to hurry up and learn as much as possible.  Now we have an understanding of how the season goes and what the coaches expect from us.”

Still spent five years at Penn State (including a redshirt season) and Thompson spent four at Clemson.  That meant their first off-seasons as professionals were a welcome break.

“I’ve never had this much time off before – especially coming from college where everything was such a routine,” said Still.  “It’s been quite an experience to be able to travel, spend time with family, and do things that I haven’t been able to do during the last five years when I was in school.”

“This has been the most time that I’ve had off in years,” said Thompson.  “I really enjoyed it.  I got to spend a lot of time with my family and friends and that’s what really matters.  I also had a lot of time to train and work on my craft.”

With the Bengals returning to town this week for off-season workouts, the bulk of their vacation time is history, but the second year defensive lineman say they are ready to get back to work.

“There’s a huge opportunity now that Pat left the team,” said Still.  “Me and Brandon want to work as hard as possible this off-season to prove to the coaches that we belong on the field and we can make an impact on the defensive line.”

“I’m very eager for my second season,” said Thompson.  “I get to show the coaches what I can do and I’m ready.”

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

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Ode to Boston

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on April 16, 2013 – 4:52 am

The damndest thing is that a generation ago on Patriots Day I wrote a column for the Portland Press Herald about the nurse who ran the medical tent at the Boston Marathon.

She was a local, born and bred in southern Maine before she headed to make a life in Massachusetts. I have no idea where she is now. But if I had a buck for every time I thought of Joanie Casey this Patriots Day, I’d be richer than Andre Smith and James Harrison combined.

Not just Joanie Casey. But anybody else who ever left their heart on Heartbreak Hill. Or got on their tiptoes to cheer and glimpse them down Boylston Street. Or put a notepad in front of a euphoric finisher still shivering in that aluminum foil shawl in the heart of Copley Square.

Like Boston Billy Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson, who shocked the Boston course in a much different way only because they had the audacity to come out of anonymity and win it.

Or like Charles Pierce, the once and always great Boston sports columnist who wrote so beautifully and well Monday from a war zone in a dispatch that surfaced just after 5 p.m. that centered on his conversation with an EMT amid the devastation.  Which means from the time the bombs went off, incredibly, it took him about as long as a Boston Marathon winner to steady himself, reshuffle his thoughts, spill them into cyberspace, and post.

Just over two hours.

But mainly I thought of Nurse Casey.

That Patriots Day in the late ’80s, I called her the Hawkeye Pierce of the Boston Marathon. How could you know? How could you know that a generation later Copley Square would be turned into an honest to God MASH unit?

What was more horrific Monday? An ancient finish line sanctified as one of the most revered in sports with blood, sweat and tears, splattered with just blood? Or the agonizing words that crawled across the bottom of the killing zone?

Shrapnel. IEDs. Amputations.

Where did the runs, hits and errors go?

Joanie Casey’s medical tent brought limbs back to life. That’s what is supposed to happen at the end of marathons. Cramps not carnage. Blisters not bombs.

She had gallons of Gatorade at fingertips and wasn’t pleading for plasma. Her army pumped IVs into the most spent finishers, not taking blood from runners who had been transformed into donors once they reached the line. Muscle pulls were carefully kneaded out of calves instead of ball bearings and nails feverishly picked out of feet and thighs.

A marathon is supposed to be about the best of us, not the worst. Courage and competition, not cowardice. The purity of the clock and not the treachery of politics. Majesty, not madness.

The Revolutionary War ended with the British surrendering to the tune called “The World Turned Upside Down.” But didn’t the world turn upside down on this Patriots Day, the day we celebrate the start of the revolution?

Wasn’t there a kid about 13 years old taken to Boston Children’s Hospital on Monday and in ’72 didn’t you slump out of Fenway Park on Patriots Day after watching Cleveland’s Milt Wilcox two-hit the Red Sox? Duane Josephson got them both. Two moon shots off The Monster with the Marathon winner pulling into the finish about an hour later.

Wasn’t there a kid about 17 years old taken to Children’s on Monday and didn’t you make two errors at first base in a  road game in the same inning when you couldn’t resist watching the hottest Marathon run by you on Route 9 in 1976 in Wellesley?

The medical tent this Patriots Day turned out to be the surprise winner of the Boston Marathon they’ll never forget. God knows how many more would have died if the doctors and nurses and their equipment hadn’t already been poised. Even if it was for cramps instead of carnage.

And as Monday bled into Tuesday and the news kept coming like the runners coming into Copley until the finish line clock read 4:09:43, I still hadn’t heard the name of the winner. If I did, I didn’t remember.

But I thought of Joanie Casey again and felt a little better.

The world may be terribly upside down this morning. But the medical tent has already begun the healing.

We’ll know the winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon.


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Dalton Prepares For Third Year By Studying Top Pair

Posted by Dan Hoard on April 15, 2013 – 2:40 pm

When the football season ends, my wife and I catch up on the TV shows that we never have the opportunity to watch in the fall.

In case you’re interested, we’re currently watching season three of Breaking Bad.  Wow!  It’s definitely on the short list of my all-time favorite shows.

Judging by his Twitter feed, Andy and Jordan Dalton are Homeland viewers in the off-season:

But Carrie Mathison and Nicolas Brody are not the only on-screen duo that the Bengals quarterback has been watching.  Dalton has spent much of his off-season studying fellow QBs Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

Brees and Rodgers (440x248)

“I’ve watched a lot of Green Bay’s offense and I’ve watched a lot of the Saints’ offense because they have two of the best quarterbacks in the league,” said Dalton.  “To see what they’re doing – how they’re getting their completions and how they’re scoring their touchdowns, and what mistakes are they making.  Are they forcing the ball on their interceptions…are they taking chances…what are they doing?

“I’d love for my career to end up like their careers have ended up.  You want to study those guys and see what they’re doing right.  Not only mechanics-wise, footwork, whatever it is, but also offensively what are they doing.  Our offenses are similar – we’re doing a lot of the same stuff that they’re doing – it’s just how they’re putting points on the board.”

The Saints and Packers finished in the top five in the NFL in scoring last year (Cincinnati was 12th), but Dalton says he didn’t spend much time studying the league’s top scoring team – New England.

“I would say that Tom Brady and I are a little bit different,” said Dalton.  “The way that I play I would consider it to be more like a Drew Brees or an Aaron Rodgers – whether it be body type because I’m not 6’5” – and (the Patriots) do different stuff offensively than we do.  Obviously they do a lot of good stuff, but I think the makeup of their team is a little bit different as well.”

Like Dalton, Aaron Rodgers is listed at 6’2”.  Brees, on the other hand, is generously listed at 6’0”.

“It’s funny, before the draft I visited the Saints and they had Drew Brees and Chase Daniel,” said Dalton with a grin.  “They said I might be too tall to play there at 6’2”.

Dalton follow through (440x293)

It’s interesting to compare Dalton to Brees.  Andy’s statistics are far superior to the numbers that Drew posted in his first two years as a starter in the NFL.

Dalton:  629-for-1044 (60.2%), 7067 yards, 47 TD, 29 INT, 83.9 passer rating

Brees:  525-for-882 (59.5%), 5392 yards, 28 TD, 31 INT, 73.1 passer rating

Brees took a quantum leap in his third season as a starter in San Diego, leading the Chargers to an 11-4 record while posting a passer rating of 104.8 and going to his first Pro Bowl.  Dalton hopes to take similar strides in 2013 even though he isn’t ready to call himself an established veteran.

“I’ve played quite a bit so I don’t know what the term is that you use, but I’ve been around for a while and I think I’ve earned some respect,” said Dalton.  “I’m excited for this year.”

One reason for Andy’s excitement is his familiarity with his receiving corps.  He’ll enter his third season with A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, Andrew Hawkins, Brandon Tate, and Ryan Whalen and his second year with Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Orson Charles.

“I know how guys run routes,” said Dalton.  “I know what to expect from them, what type of person they are, and what type of worker they are.  We’ve got a great group that works really hard and it’s going to be nice to have everybody healthy at the same time.”

“There’s a big difference in confidence level,” said Marvin Jones.  “We have all of these young receivers that have experience now.  We’re ready to be a great force in this league.”

“It’s huge that there’s not a whole lot of teaching now,” said Dalton.  “It’s perfecting what we were doing.”

That includes continuing to find ways to utilize A.J. Green’s unique gifts.  Dalton did not throw Green a pass in the first half of the playoff loss in Houston, and only connected with A.J. once in a home loss to Pittsburgh.

“A.J. got a lot of cover two to his side,” said Dalton.  “They tried to take away some of the vertical throws and things like that.  With the type of player that A.J. is, we’re going to see that a lot.  The big thing with him is moving him around and finding ways to get him the ball.

“With a guy like A.J., the term ‘open’ is a little bit different.  There are times going back and looking at the film where I still probably could have thrown it to him on certain routes and different things where I tried to work somewhere else.  It just comes down to being smart with the ball and knowing when you can take those chances and when to move on.”

Those are undoubtedly some of the lessons that Dalton was hoping to learn by watching Rodgers and Brees in the off-season.  I asked Andy if it was his idea to study those two quarterbacks or if it came from the coaching staff.

“They’ve suggested it, but I was going to watch regardless,” Dalton told me.  “Those are two of the best quarterbacks in the league and you try to take little things from what they’re doing.  I think it will help me out.

“I think I’ve figured things out a little more.  I’ve watched a lot of tape and I’m ready to get back playing again.”

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

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April 15 kicks off big week at PBS

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on April 14, 2013 – 11:34 pm

harrison-steelers_440

Monday is kicking off a big week at Paul Brown Stadium, the last full one before the April 25-27 draft.

The Bengals begin their offseason workouts Monday and the first bevy of locker-room quotes since the players bagged their disappointment and belongings in the Jan. 7 Cleanout should start hitting cyberspace around 9:45 a.m.

Among the things we’ll hear is that left tackle Andrew Whitworth is recovering well from his knee surgery and expects to be back for the first day of training camp in late July and the same with rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. They may not be seen on the field during the spring, which is why the Bengals are looking for some bodies, particularly on the offensive line.

Also certain to be heard is that middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is in the best shape of his NFL career with the help of his MMA training in Los Angeles and that new SAM backer candidate Aaron Maybin is excited about the chance to join the lengthy list of players that have revived their careers under defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer: Safeties Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson, cornerbacks Terence Newman and Adam Jones, and linebackers Dhani Jones and Thomas Howard to name a few.

And franchise player Michael Johnson won’t be on the premises since he’s finishing up his semester’s work at Georgia Tech and is expected when the Bengals go on the field the week of May 20.

Also Monday, the Bengals should have a pretty good idea where the James Harrison thing is going. It’s believed the Bengals gave Harrison an offer over the weekend and that the sides have decided to talk about it Monday. It sounds like Harrison wants to be here and that head coach Marvin Lewis has already struck up a good relationship with him, and that means a lot in these parts and could very well bode well for a deal fairly quickly.

It looks like Harrison is Lewis’s kind of guy, a throwback to Lewis’s Greg Lloyd days in Pittsburgh when he loved coaching a deadly serious pro who had no fear, backed down from no one, and was all football. And it looks like Lewis has what Harrison wants, a top 10 defense that can win the AFC North.

(A snapshot to just how Lewis relates to players could be seen last week when he saw middle backer Vontaze Burfict for the first time since Jan. 7 and they wrestled around in a playful greeting. Then he promptly shot down Burfict’s request for a locker change.)

On Monday the Bengals are also expected to announce they’ve re-signed running back Bernard Scott and signed former Browns tight end Alex Smith.

Then on Tuesday morning the Bengals are hosting 31 college prospects that played high school or college in the metro Cincinnati area. It’s also the first Tuesday the NFL schedule could be released.

During the rest of the week the Bengals figure to entertain the last of their 30 draft prospects that each team is allowed to bring to its facility.


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Allen released

Posted by bengalsweb on April 10, 2013 – 2:40 pm

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The Bengals have terminated the contract of cornerback Jason Allen, releasing him to free agency.

Allen last season played his seventh NFL season and his first for the Bengals. He was limited by injuries and played in only four games for Cincinnati, with two tackles on defense and one on special teams.

 


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Here come the backers

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on April 9, 2013 – 5:00 pm

Tuesday’s visit of Akeem Jordan underlines Cincinnati’s interest in veteran linebackers with the Bengals apparently searching for a SAM backer to go along with an assortment of draft prospects. With the draft just two weeks away, more free-agent backer visits figure to be on the way.

The 6-1 Jordan, who has been listed anywhere from 225 to 230 pounds, would figure to be here what he was in Philadelphia the past six seasons, which was primarily a backup/special-teamer.

There’s not a lot of room left on the defense with head coach Marvin Lewis saying he’s going to stick with Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker while virtually all his starters and regulars are intact except for starting SAM backer Manny Lawson and safety Chris Crocker.

Lawson only played about a third of the snaps and this upcoming season Maualuga and starting WILL backer Vontaze Burfict figure to get the bulk of the plays again if the same alignment is used. Plus there is emerging WILL backer Emmanuel Lamur, who played well on nickel downs late in his rookie season.

But the Bengals look like they are kicking tires on veterans and college prospects to see if they can upgrade the SAM spot and maybe get a guy that can play more.

They have been looking at backers all offseason, starting when the Raiders were shopping 2010 first-rounder Rolando McClain before Oakland cut him. But the Bengals had no interest even before they re-signed Maualuga.

The one spot that is wide open is the safety opposite Reggie Nelson. With no plans as of yet to re-sign Crocker, the Bengals have dipped a toe into the veteran market but seem intent on getting younger there via the draft. They did visit with former Saint and Brown Usama Young last Friday, but word was Tuesday that Young opted to reunite with one of his New Orleans coaches and now the Oakland head coach, Dennis Allen.


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