The toughest division in football just got tougher for the Bengals, thanks to one of their own.
Thirty years ago the Bengals drafted Washington cornerback Ray Horton in the second round, hired him 16 years ago as a secondary coach, and on Friday saw the Cleveland Browns hire him as their defensive coordinator. Horton, who played and coached for Dick LeBeau in Cincinnati and then later in Pittsburgh, brings two years of solid work as Arizona’s defensive coordinator, including this past season when the defense kept a quarterback-less franchise breathing.
And he apparently let new Cardinals general manager Steve Keim know it when they reportedly had a heated exchange after Arizona hired Bruce Arians to be the head coach instead of Horton.
Per a Browns press release via The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Horton’s unit this past season:
Led the NFL in passer rating allowed (71.2) and interception percentage (4.4), ranked second in the NFL in interceptions (22) and third-down efficiency (32.9 percent), third in red zone defense (44.4 percent) and fourth in takeaways (33). The defense also ranked fifth in passing defense (200.8 ypg), first downs allowed (288) and points allowed per drive (1.42).
That makes quite a trio in the AC North with LeBeau bringing back the NFL’s No. 1 defense, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer weighing in with the No. 6 unit and Horton, the LeBeau clone, bringing back elements of the zone blitz from the desert. Horton could also be bringing back secondary coach Louie Cioffi, the man he took to Arizona in 2011 after he worked for 14 seasons with the Bengals.
Horton interviewed for the Browns head coaching job back on Jan. 1 and told the Plain-Dealer he had a “fantastic” interview while predicting he would be a head coach this season. It sounds like he would have been if it wasn’t for Keim.
HUE UPDATE: The status of Bengals defensive assistant Hue Jackson is unclear. He interviewed for the Panthers offensive coordinator job that went on Friday to Carolina quarterbacks coach Mike Shula. At the moment, the Bengals don’t look like they’re making changes on offense.
SMITH ARRESTED: NFL discipline may await right tackle Andre Smith after he was arrested Thursday when Atlanta police say they found a loaded .380 pistol in Smith’s carry-on bag when he tried to board a plane at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. He appeared in court Friday morning and was issued a $3,000 bond. TV reports indicated that Smith wasn’t aware he had the gun with him.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Friday that former Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers was fined but not suspended for the same thing at the Cleveland airport in 2010. The league is saying that it is looking into the case to see if Smith, arrested for the first time, violated the personal conduct policy and reports that in the last three years seven players have been arrested in cases involving guns.
Tags: Andre Smith, Dick LeBeau, Hue Jackson, Mike Zimmer, Ray Horton
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All must be right in Bengaldom.
Andre Smith is back on the field.
Rey Maualuga is going to be on the field for the Sept. 12 opener in Foxboro.
And Mike Zimmer is fuming.
Smith and Maualuga, the Bengals’ first two picks in the 2009 draft, are big pieces in the Bengals puzzle of the future. Smith, the right tackle of that future plagued by foot and conditioning problems, ended his seventh-month exile from the field Tuesday. Maualuga, who started 15 games at SAM backer last season as a rookie, is going to start against the Patriots Opening Day after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced he faced only a fine for his DUI arrest in January.
The original decision was a one-game suspension and not the usual fine for a first-time offender, apparently because Maualuga hit some parked cars, making the circumstances more serious. Maualuga figures the suspension hung over him for a couple of months, but he was pleased with the appeals process.
He said he met with Goodell and is just thankful “I can move on, think about football, and play against New England with my teammates.”
It figures to be at SAM backer and not in the middle, even though he played about 20 of his 28 snaps at middle linebacker during Sunday’s win over Denver. Zimmer, the Bengals defensive coordinator, relies heavily on Dhani Jones’ experience and grasp of the calls, and he said Maualuga was “rusty” there after he played in all kinds of situations that ranged from base to third down. The idea, at the moment, doesn’t seem to be to replace Jones, but to see if Maualuga can be effective at the MIKE backer in certain packages.
“We have to see more of what he can do there. He was just getting back,” Zimmer said.
Maualuga, named the best linebacker in the country when he roamed the middle for USC two years ago, missed the opener in Canton because of a tweaked hamstring.
“It was like going back home,” Maualuga said of the middle. “I looked up and it was kind of weird. I’m thinking, ‘Hey, there’s a guy on both sides of me.’ But I’ve got a long way to go. I’m trying to get better a day at a time.”
Zimmer, by the way, is furious with his defense’s performance in the first two games. And while they would feel better if they were playing better, remember what linebacker Brandon Johnson said a few weeks ago:
“He’s better at fixing things.”
Well, Zimmer says he’s got a lot to fix after the Broncos threw for 257 yards.
“We’re not a very good defense right now,” Zimmer said. “Not good. Overrated. The things we do, we’re not paying attention. Believe me, there will be things emphasized.
Which may be a good sign in the world according to Zimmer.
Tags: Andre Smith, Maualuga, zimmer
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Checking in with Rey Maualuga on Monday to see where he is physically 10 days before the first practice and the starting SAM linebacker said he expects to be cleared by doctors Tuesday.
Maualuga had minor surgery in early June to clean out residue from last season’s broken fibula that flared up on the field in May and he missed the rest of the spring workouts. But on Monday he said he’s now working with rehab trainer Nick Cosgray back at Paul Brown Stadium and is close to 100 percent.
“I’m doing regular stuff,” Maualuga said. “I’m doing position drills. I’m running with Nick to make sure he sees what he wants to see. I’m ready to go. I’m done trying to hold back.”
Word on right tackle Andre Smith is that he’s on the road to being cleared for that July 29 practice. Smith hasn’t been on the field since the playoff game back in January while he recovers from February surgery to finish off the healing of the broken bone in his foot that wiped out the first 10 games of his rookie year.
The Bengals are overhauling their locker room and other player areas with new striped carpeting and paint schemes. They’ve also added several flat screen, high definition TVs in the locker room that have a variety of uses. Besides watching games and cutups, it can be used as a way of communicating the day’s schedule and important announcements.
Tags: Andre Smith, Maualuga, slants and screens
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