With Migraines Sacked, Moch Takes Aim At QBs

Posted by Dan Hoard on August 21, 2013 – 2:07 pm

Dontay Moch had 30 sacks in college at Nevada and has 4.5 in seven NFL preseason games with the Bengals.

So for those of us who will never know, what does it feel like to blow by an offensive lineman and nail the quarterback?

“It’s the same feeling that you get when you finish a Thanksgiving meal,” said Moch with a grin.

In other words, total satisfaction.


But the 25-year-old defensive end has rarely been able to enjoy that sensation in his first two years in Cincinnati.  Moch has only appeared in one regular season game due largely to chronic migraines.

“You can’t really see anything…you get a ringing noise in your head…all different types of things,” said Moch when asked to describe the symptoms.  “It brings you to your knees because of the pain.”

The good news is that the former third-round draft pick says that he hasn’t had a migraine in nine months.

“I’ve made a whole lifestyle change to take complete control over what I do and that seems to have fixed the problem,” Dontay told me.  “Dietary stuff, supplements, prescriptions if I have to take them…preventative things.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people.  I went out of my circle to get other opinions – different doctors and different routes and ways.  It took a little bit from everybody to figure out my situation because everyone is different.  It helps because it gives you a path toward understanding it better.”

Defensive end is one of Cincinnati’s deepest positions with Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers, Wallace Gilberry, and second-round draft pick Margus Hunt all likely to make the 53-man roster.  Moch’s path toward claiming one of the final spots lies in his ability as a situational pass rusher and as a special teams contributor.  Dontay is also eligible for the practice squad.

“We have a guy that got the franchise tag and a guy that just signed a six-year contract as well as a couple of vets behind them,” said Moch.  “Then we have a bunch of young guys that are nipping at their toes.  It’s a challenge, but I definitely feel like there is a place for me on the roster.  I’m going to show them that I can contribute and do my one-eleventh and be the man that they want me to be out there.  That’s all I can really do.”

“He has produced in these preseason games,” said Marvin Lewis.  “He had an opportunity.  As we’ve given opportunity other times, it hasn’t been the same.  Hopefully he continues to produce when it counts, against people that are more likely to be around on another club’s 53-man roster, to show proof that he can be productive on Sundays.”

Moch is a freakish athlete who set a record for defensive lineman at the NFL Scouting Combine by running a 4.44 40-yard dash (watch video here).  Now that the migraines are hopefully behind him, Dontay is trying to be a headache for opposing offensive lineman.

“My goal is to try to get penetration and get a sack or to try to force the quarterback to throw a bad ball,” said Moch.  “I’m healthy and I’m playing the best that I can.  This is going to be a great year to show what I can do because I’m 100% full-go now.”

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Johnson Has New Look, Big Contract, And Same Attitude

Posted by Dan Hoard on August 16, 2013 – 10:10 am

Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson is a spiritual person who includes a bible verse from Philippians at the top of his personal website (

But unlike the biblical character of Samson, Johnson is not concerned that his great strength comes from his long hair.  In the past week, Michael has gradually gone from having long braids to the completely bald look.

“It was time for a change,” said Johnson.  “It’s something that my mom has been petitioning for since I began to grow my hair.  It feels good to cut if off – I probably should have done it a long time ago.”

Johnson bald (248x440)

Unfortunately, Johnson’s new look has been on display at practice for several days because he hasn’t had his helmet on.  Michael has been sidelined with a sore back, but says his absence from drills is largely a matter of being cautious at this stage of training camp.

“Yes, I would say that,” Johnson told me.  “We’re really not supposed to say much about that type of stuff, but everything is going to be fine.

“I’m staying involved mentally.  I’m in all of the meetings, all of the practices, and making sure that I’m doing all of the walkthroughs.  I’m trying to make sure that I get mental reps and keep my focus on this team and make sure that everything is going in the right direction on the field and with my rehab as well.”

Johnson sack (339x440)

The 26-year-old is coming off of his best season as Johnson tied for ninth in the NFL with 11.5 sacks.  He was scheduled to become a free agent, but the Bengals used their franchise tag rights to retain his services for $11.1 million for this year.

It’s not uncommon for players to openly gripe when they are “tagged” instead of being given long-term extensions, but Johnson is not complaining.

“That’s just not the way I was taught,” said Johnson.  “I was raised to believe that you show up for work, you go to work, and you do your best.  You don’t gripe about stuff that you don’t have control over.  I’m going to go out and work and we’ll see how things play out.  I pray on the situation – me and my family – that things will work out for the best and obviously this is the best situation for both sides.

“Man, I’m from Selma, Alabama.  I didn’t have everything that I wanted, but I had everything that I needed.  It taught me that you don’t have to have the world to be happy and blessed.  Sure you want to get as much as you can out of this game, but I’m thankful for the opportunity and I’m going to go out and do what I love to do and make the most of it.  It’s a nice sum for one year and a whole of people don’t see something like that in their whole lifetime.  I’m going to continue to work my tail off.”

Johnson’s work ethic extends to the classroom as he returned to Georgia Tech this winter.  He’s three classes away from earning a degree in Business Administration.

“When you say that you went to Georgia Tech, people’s eyes light up,” Michael told me.  “It’s like, ‘You weren’t playing around.’  It’s a great school and when I’m finished, I’ll be one of the select few who have earned a degree from there.

“It will feel better when I go out to talk to kids about the importance of education.  I can say, ‘Look.  I’m in the NFL and I went back to school and finished.  It’s not something that I’m just saying; it’s something that I really believe in.’ I put my actions behind my words and kids enjoy when you actually do the stuff that you’re talking about.”

Whether he is bald or has braids, wearing a mortarboard at graduation will be Johnson’s best look yet.

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After Trying To Make “Idol”, Stephens Aims For NFL

Posted by Dan Hoard on August 13, 2013 – 9:29 am

Like all of the rookies in training camp, defensive tackle Terrence Stephens is hoping to impress Marvin.

Roughly six years ago, his goal was to impress Simon.

Terrence Stephens (440x294)

The undrafted free agent out of Stanford is undoubtedly the only member of the Bengals who has auditioned for American Idol.

“I was 16 and it was something that I had always wanted to do,” Stephens told me.  “I didn’t get as far as I wanted to, but it was an interesting experience to say the least.”

Terrence auditioned in front of producers for the show but didn’t advance far enough to sing for Simon, Paula, and Randy.  But last week while the Bengals were practicing in Atlanta, he belted out the Luther Vandross hit “Superstar” (most famously performed by The Carpenters) for a different group of judges.

“I guess Coach Lewis found out that I can sing from word of mouth,” said Stephens.  “So he called me up at the beginning of a team meeting and put me on the spot.”

“Everybody was looking for somebody to make fun of or to rip on, but he impressed everybody,” said wide receiver Ryan Whalen.  “He got a standing ovation.”

The “standing O” came as no surprise to a pair of former Stanford teammates.

“Everybody has the ability to sing, but he can SING – you know what I’m saying?” said rookie cornerback Terrence Brown.  “In our freshman year in college, he came out and sang at a talent show and that’s what everybody knew him for – the person on the team that could sing.”

“He’s always singing to himself in the locker room,” said Whalen.  “I think he was in an a capella group at Stanford and really likes to sing.”

“I did some things during college that allowed me to keep up with the craft,” Stephens told me.  “You can ask these guys – I pretty much sing all of the time.  I’ve had fun with it.”

Stephens started 20 games at Stanford and earned a contract with the Bengals after an impressive tryout in the team’s rookie minicamp.  My broadcast partner Dave Lapham was impressed with his play in the preseason opener in Atlanta, but Terrence wasn’t satisfied.

“I’m really hard on myself,” said Stephens.  “I graded out OK for being in my first NFL game, but at the end of the day I was not happy with my performance.  I’m looking forward to this week’s game and getting a chance to dominate.  I think that’s what is expected out of me.  Even being an undrafted rookie guy, I’m looking to be a force in the middle.”

The Bengals have one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines in the NFL, so barring injuries, Stephens best chance to stick with the team is probably as one of eight members of the practice squad.

“I’m blessed because this is such an experience to be here around people who really care for you individually,” said Stephens.  “From Michael Johnson to AC (Anthony Collins) to Andre Smith to Domata (Peko), these guys really take care of you.  I feel like it’s a big family.  It’s probably a bit premature, but I’m looking forward to being part of it.”

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A Bengals Wide Receiver Is Juicing…But Don’t Worry

Posted by Dan Hoard on August 12, 2013 – 8:55 pm

Marvin Jones is juicing…and it’s perfectly legal.

Marvin Jones practice (293x440)

The second year wide receiver was suffering from muscle cramps in his legs early in training camp when assistant coach Brayden Coombs recommended a home remedy that he used to cure the same problem while playing high school football at Colerain.

The magic elixir?  Pickle juice.

“I’m not going to take too much credit for it because as far as I knew, this was common knowledge,” said Coombs.  “He was cramping for three days in a row or something like that, so I mentioned pickle juice to him and he said, ‘Nah…I’m eating bananas and drinking Gatorade.’  Finally, one day they pulled him out of practice and he was so frustrated because Marvin can’t stand to not be out there that he was willing to try anything.

“Marvin said, ‘What do I need to do?’  I said, ‘Do you like pickles?’  He said, ‘No, I hate pickles.’  I said, ‘You’re not going to like this then.  Go get a big jar of them.  You can eat the pickles if you want.  If not, throw them out, pour the juice in a cup, and drink as much as you can stomach the night before practice.  Then drink some more in the morning.’  I actually like pickles so I never minded it.”

According to a 2010 story in the New York Times, research supports the notion that pickle juice prevents muscle cramps although there are a variety of scientific opinions for why it works.  Marvin Jones isn’t concerned about the reason – only the result.

“I hate pickles, but if they can take away cramps, then I’ll learn to love them,” said Jones with a smile.  “Now I have pickle jars in my locker, so I drink the juice and it’s helped.  One day I stopped doing it and I started to get a cramp at the end of practice so I decided that pickle juice was going to be my thing.”

Soon Marvin could even be endorsing them.

My friend and former Fox 19 colleague Joe Danneman recently did a story about Jones being on “the juice” that led to some surprising phone calls.

(You can watch Joe’s story here)

“I’ve actually heard from a couple of pickle companies,” said Jones.  “It’s funny how fast news travels.  It was on the news and I received contact from pickle companies.  I guess I’m going to start a new trend.”

“I’ve got to get at least 10 percent!” said Coombs when told that Jones had heard from pickle companies.  “But that’s good.  If it works and he gets a little extra benefit, I’m all for it.”

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Subs In, Game Over

Posted by Dan Hoard on August 9, 2013 – 12:04 pm

Everybody that has praised the Bengals for their roster depth looked like Nostradamus on Thursday night in Atlanta.

“We were talking about that on the sideline,” said quarterback Josh Johnson.  “We have a bunch of talented guys all over the roster – we can go four or five deep at some positions.”

Sanzenbacher in Atlanta (440x284)

When the starters were in, the game was basically even.  When it was subs vs. subs, it was no contest, resulting in Cincinnati’s 34-10 win.

“When the second string came in there really wasn’t much off a fall-off,” said rookie linebacker Jayson DiManche.  “The same intensity, the same techniques, and we were just out there playing as hard as we can.  That just shows how well everybody is coached and how solid of a team this is.”

DiManche, who signed with the Bengals as a free agent out of Southern Illinois, had a sack and two tackles for loss.  JK Schaffer, in his first training camp with the Bengals after an outstanding career at UC, led the team in tackles with six.  Both are currently listed as third-stringers on the depth chart.

“I feel like every guy on this team – especially the linebackers – could play for any team,” said Schaffer.  “It’s pretty crazy how much talent is on this team.  We have a lot of guys that have played good football and a lot of guys with upside too.”

Dane Sanzenbacher is also listed on the third string at wide receiver.  All he did in his first game in a Bengals uniform was catch two passes for 59 yards and a touchdown, and return a punt 71 yards for a TD.  The absence of injured receivers A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Andrew Hawkins did not cripple the Bengals passing attack.

“I don’t think that’s any real surprise for us,” said Sanzenbacher.  “We knew that we have a bunch of guys that can play.  Unfortunately, we have had some injuries early in camp, but thankfully they’re not that serious and it gives the rest of us an opportunity to get reps in games.”

“We can’t wait to get A.J. and Marvin and all of them back because those guys are great, but we’re pretty deep,” said cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

Unfortunately, it’s not college football and the Bengals won’t be able to keep everybody.

“The hard thing is that only 53 guys make it, but you never want to worry about that as a player,” said Johnson.  “All you want to do is keep going out there and put your best showing on the tape.”

“It’s a tough situation but you can’t really think about those things – especially this early in the preseason,” said Schaffer.  “You’ve got to put your head down and keep working.”

“It’s too early to worry about that,” said Sanzenbacher.  “Just go out and take advantage of your opportunities and stuff will fall into place.”

Last year at this time, even the biggest Bengals fans had barely heard of undrafted free agents Trevor Robinson and Emanuel Lamur and they both wound up starting games as rookies.  Thursday’s win in Atlanta showed that there are probably young players near the bottom of the current depth chart who will not only make the team but play key roles before the season is finished.

“We have a lot of guys fighting to stay, and a lot of guys fighting for more playing time,” said Marvin Lewis.

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Josh Johnson Making Progress In Backup Battle

Posted by Dan Hoard on August 6, 2013 – 11:13 am

I’ll be the first to admit that the passing stats I keep during training camp practices have limited value.  The quarterbacks can’t be hit, the numbers don’t specify if defensive starters are on the field, and a high completion percentage could simply be the result of screens and check-downs.

But the stats do indicate if a quarterback is finding open receivers and making accurate throws and by that measurement, Josh Johnson is making progress.  In the Bengals final two practices before leaving for Atlanta, I had Johnson completing 16-of-20 passes in 11-on-11 drills.

“I felt like I was seeing the field well and getting us in the right plays, and I was able to go out there and make those throws,” said Johnson.  “Day by day I’ve gotten more comfortable within this offense.  I’m learning the guys and I’m trying to take it up another level.”

“His biggest problem is that he just has to play with a little more poise,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.  “He’s so excited and hyper that he ‘shorts out’ sometimes.  But overall, from OTAs until now I think he’s come a long way.  His athletic ability is excellent and the mental side is coming along.”

Josh Johnson (440x310)

Gruden and Johnson have known each other since 2008 when Josh was a rookie with Tampa Bay and Jay was an offensive assistant on his brother Jon’s coaching staff.

“Jay has climbed the ranks a long way since then,” said Johnson with a laugh.  “His knowledge of the game was always there.  He knew everything that his brother was doing, but his role was certainly different than it is here.”

But the offense that Gruden is running is similar to the one Johnson learned in Tampa Bay.

“We focus on different things here and have a different personnel group from what we had in Tampa,” said Johnson.  “But I did understand the lingo a little bit.  There are some things that are different but a lot of it is similar and that is helpful.”

Johnson started four games for the Bucs in 2009 and another in 2011, but he hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game since.  He was among the 49ers final cuts after training camp last year and wound up playing in two games for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the seemingly defunct United Football League.

“He wants to be coached and he wants to have an opportunity,” said Gruden.  “He’s never really had a legitimate chance.  In Tampa he was a practice squad guy as a rookie and didn’t get many reps, and then they drafted Josh Freeman and he didn’t get any reps at all.  Then he went to San Francisco and they had drafted Kaepernick so he didn’t get any reps there.  This is a great chance for him to finally get the reps and the work and you can see how he is progressing because of it.”

The real test will be the preseason games.  In Thursday’s opener in Atlanta, Andy Dalton is certain to exit early, leaving the bulk of the snaps to Johnson and John Skelton.

“The preseason games are critical,” said Johnson.  “As a backup quarterback, that’s your regular season.  That’s when you are guaranteed to play and you have to go out there and show that you are progressing as a player – especially in this league or you won’t last long.”

“(A preseason game) doesn’t mean anything in the win/loss column, but it means a lot to the guys trying to make the team and it means a lot to us because we’re trying to find those guys,” said Gruden.  “We need to see how guys perform in a live setting because a lot of people can do well out here (in practice) and then fizzle in the games, and other guys look OK out here and then shine in the games.”

In the first depth chart released last week, Johnson was listed ahead of Skelton in the battle to be Dalton’s backup, but Josh says that he isn’t reading much into that.

“We haven’t even played a game yet,” Johnson told me.  “I need to keep the arrow going up.  I’ve been in this business going on six years and a lot happens.  I understand the situation that I’m in so I just try to take it day-by-day and keep making progress.”

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Kirkpatrick Standing Tall At Camp

Posted by Dan Hoard on August 3, 2013 – 11:30 am

When you watch the Bengals cornerbacks in training camp, Dre Kirkpatrick stands out for more than his long dreadlocks.  At 6’2”, the former Alabama star is two inches taller than any other corner on the roster.

“When I’m talking to Dre, we’re looking eye-to-eye to each other,” said wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.  “You don’t see that very often from cornerbacks.”


Kirkpatrick’s size and long wingspan are big reasons why the Bengals selected him with the 17th overall pick in last year’s draft, and now that his injured left knee is healthy, Dre is showing his NFL potential.

“He’s done really well – much better than I anticipated he would,” said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.  “He has long arms, he understands concepts now, and he’s buying in to coaching.

“He’s improved so much from where he was last year before he got hurt.  I figured that he’d start out kind of slow because he hadn’t done much because of the knee.  I figured that he would be a lot further behind than what he is.”

“Dre is looking good,” said Sanu.  “He’s big, physical, strong, fast, and he’s so rangy that it’s hard to get away from him sometimes.  He looks healthy and explosive and he’s going to be really good for us this year.”

After only appearing in five games during his injury-plagued rookie season, Kirkpatrick joked on the first day of training camp that he was probably the only player in the NFL looking forward to the pre-season grind.

After eight practices, Dre is still enjoying it.

“I’m just happy to be back out there with the team,” said Kirkpatrick.  “I’m getting coached up every day and I’m just giving it my all to be the best I can be.

“I feel like I’ve done alright.  There’s still room for improvement, but my goal was to cut down on my mental errors and I feel like I’ve done a good job of that.”

Kirkpatrick has had several nice pass breakups in the first week of camp, and can often be seen listening intently to one-on-one instruction from Zimmer.

“Zim is constantly in my ear – good or bad,” said Kirkpatrick.  “He’s constantly monitoring everything that I do.”

“He’s been really good about listening and learning and he’s having fun,” said Zimmer.  “One of the things that I like about him is that he loves to play.  He loves to compete and I can’t say anything bad about him right now.”

While many observers expected Kirkpatrick to be rusty after being sidelined for most of last season, Sanu says that hasn’t been the case.

“You don’t see much rust and he’s knocking a lot of it off – I can tell you that,” Mohamed told me.  “He’s always in the right position and I really haven’t seen many times where Dre was beat bad or there was a lot of separation away from him.”

With a tough rookie season behind him, the Bengals tallest cornerback is determined to stand out for his play.

“I had such high expectations for myself being the first pick for the Bengals that I felt like I let everybody down,” said Kirkpatrick.  “But God gave me another opportunity and I’m just trying to make the best of it.

“I have so much to prove.  I just want it so bad and I’m going to be ready no matter what.  I’m doing everything in my power to understand the game better, be in position, and eliminate my mental errors.”

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Iloka Aims For Starting Safety Spot

Posted by Dan Hoard on August 1, 2013 – 3:03 pm

Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer are not making it easy to guess who the Bengals “other” starting safety is going to be.

Through the first week of training camp, Taylor Mays, George Iloka, and rookie Shawn Williams have spent roughly the same amount of time practicing opposite of Reggie Nelson with the first-team defense.

“It’s wide open,” Zimmer told me.  “I don’t know how it’s going to end up but I do think that we have some guys to pick from.”

Iloka says the way to win the job is obvious.

“By going out there every day and consistently making plays, being in the right spot, and having no mental errors,” George told me.  “The first way to get off the field is making mental errors.  If a guy runs by you, you really can’t do much about that besides fixing your technique – but you can’t make mental errors.”

Iloka practice (341x440)

Iloka didn’t fully appreciate the mental side of his position until the Bengals signed veteran Chris Crocker off the street in week four last season to stabilize their secondary.

“I’ll be the first to admit that last year I didn’t grasp this defense as well as I needed to in order to contribute,” said Iloka.  “I didn’t realize that until I saw Crocker.  You can’t just rely purely on your athletic ability as this level – especially at the safety position in this defense.  You have to know the checks, and you have to be consistent because you’re not just playing for yourself out there.

“What really made me gravitate towards him was the fact that he got an interception in his first game back.  He was basically on the couch and didn’t go to training camp or anything.  It’s not like he did anything spectacular – he just did his job.  He made the right reads and did the things that Coach Zimmer taught him and the pick came right to him.  I said, ‘I’d better start watching this dude and picking his brain in order to learn as much as I can.’”

The 23-year-old out of Boise State did yoga, Pilates, and worked out with a personal trainer in order to drop about five pounds in the off-season, but more importantly, George says he devoted considerable time toward studying film and the Bengals defensive schemes.

“I really wanted to focus on the play book,” said Iloka.  “It helped me out a lot because in the spring when we were in OTAs and minicamp, I was able to go out there and react instead of thinking.

“Last year I was waiting for somebody to make the calls because I wasn’t confident.  You’re not going to yell something out if you’re not sure – even if you’re possibly right.  Now I know the calls and am 100% sure, so I can make the checks and get guys lined up.”

His teammates and coaches have noticed the difference.

“He’s taken huge steps,” said Terence Newman.  “His confidence right now is off the charts.  It should be because he’s had a hell of a camp.  I’m very proud of him because everybody has critics and he’s quieting his.”

“I definitely see more confidence in him,” said assistant defensive backs coach Adam Zimmer.  “He’s comfortable with what he’s doing and that’s the most important thing.  Last year I think he was probably feeling his way around.  Now he’s in a position where he can react to what he sees instead of thinking about it all of the time.”

Taylor Mays earned three starts at safety last season and the Bengals thought highly enough of Shawn Williams to select him in the third round of this year’s draft.  As a result, Iloka says he has to excel in training camp to win the starting job.

“If I want to beat out Taylor and Shawn, I have to make it obvious,” George told me.  “That’s the mindset that I have and that’s what I plan on doing.”

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