ST. LOUIS — The Rams are honoring Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk in Sunday’s game against the Bengals (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Local 12), the man Cincinnati could have had at the top of the 1994 draft instead of defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson.
The Bengals honored the concept of Faulk 10 years later when they opted for Chris Perry instead of Steven Jackson at running back in the first round of the 2004 draft. Perry wasn’t Faulk, of course, but they felt he would be a more versatile player than Jackson that could split out and cause matchup problems for defenses that only had to be concerned about wide receiver Chad Johnson’s speed.
(This was before the emergence of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and drafting of Chris Henry at wide receiver.)
But Perry was healthy only one year while Jackson became one of the top backs in the league year after year. Perry has been out of the league three years while on Sunday, Jackson can add another line to the Pro Bowl resume with 105 yards that would make him the seventh man to have seven straight 1,000-yard seasons.
It’s not exactly a grocery shop list with the names Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Eric Dickerson, Curtis Martin and LaDainian Tomlinson. At some point, all are going to be in Canton.
Jackson has piled up a steel-belted career 4.3 yards per carry on some brutal clubs and has pounded 4.4 per this season behind a patchwork offensive line that has won just two games. It makes you wonder what Jackson could have done with the Bengals running game enhanced by Carson Palmer and his receivers. Heading into Sunday’s game, Rudi Johnson and Cedric Benson have 3.8 per carry since ’04.
Faulk made his Rams debut in the ’99 opener against, of all people, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis when Lewis was the Ravens defensive coordinator. Lewis remembers it as Rams quarterback Kurt Warner’s coming out with 309 yards passing and three TDs rather than a Marshall Plan. Still, the versatility was on display in the Rams 27-10 win. Faulk had seven catches for 72 yards with 54 yards rushing on 19 carries.
“He was an awesome player. His versatility not only to run the ball but to catch the football out of the backfield or flanked out right. He caused you some adjustment issues,” Lewis said last week. “We were a pretty good defense but the thing you have a hard time replicating was the speed of that offense, the angles and cuts and how precise they are. We got a lot of pressure on Warner but he made a lot of big throws and we lost the game. That was the genesis of that offense. We played well on defense but not well enough to win.”
It was Faulk that was the X-factor, just the way the Bengals had hoped Perry would be.
“He gave them that third element that now you had to make sure the linebacker could win that matchup if you got put on him on the screens,” Lewis said.
TAYLOR MADE: Safety Taylor Mays took his most snaps as a Bengal last Sunday, his most encouraging day since he came over in the August trade with the 49ers. He took 23, almost as many as he took the week before in Pittsburgh, but they were pretty much in different situations.
Against the Steelers he played mainly in running downs while against the Texans he worked against tight end Owen Daniels in coverage and he can’t remember Daniels catching a ball on the six snaps he went against him during his100-yard day. The Bengals made the switch after Daniels had his way with the linebackers and some felt the 6-3, 230-pound Mays was the only defender that effectively got his hands on Daniels.
Mays is only listening to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and secondary coaches Kevin Coyle and Paul Guenther these days. He thinks he can be an all-round safety and not just a physical presence in the box.
“If Zim says I’m all right, then I know I’m all right,” Mays said last week. “We’ve been working on stuff like that the last couple of weeks. Playing downhill as well as working in coverage. I’m not singling anything out because I want to be the best and I’m working on everything. It was good to get out there and finally get it on film to show the coaches.”
As Mays says, “Daniels is a beast,” and gave him a lot to work on.
“He moved well off the line of scrimmage. He’s got quick feet and he uses his hands well,” he said. “He’s like a big wide receiver.”
Coyle is playing it cautiously. He calls Mays “a work in progress,” and says “he’s got some real potential.” Mays has been getting a lot of work in practice with starter Chris Crocker getting held out on at least Wednesdays and he got even more last week prepping for the Rams with Gibril Wilson also sitting out with a nick. But both are expected to play and Mays is primed again for special teams, where he’s got seven tackles.
But Coyle doesn’t look at just Mays, a 23-year-old second-year player. There is Jeromy Miles, 24, another second-year safety second in special teams tackles with 10 and fifth-rounder Robert Sands, who turned 22 last month and has been active for only one game.
“These young safeties have a lot of upside,” Coyle said.
And that’s one of the things to hammer out in the offseason. How much do you pay the other starting safety, Reggie Nelson, as he heads into free agency when balancing it against the youth?
Tags: Cedric Benson, Chris Perry, Kevin Coyle, Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Marvin Lewis, Mike Zimmer, Paul Guenther, Rudi Johnson, Steven Jackson, Taylor Mays
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 6 Comments »
Again, in honor of WLW talkmaster Lance McAlister with baseball back again, and in honor of Peter King, Sports Illustrated titan, as I shamelessly begin to lobby for another pair of his Red Sox tickets, another version of I Think I Believe:
I Think I Believe the American judicial system is the only thing on the planet that can render the NFL as numbingly boring as 30 minutes of watching public access television.
I Think I Believe that I never agreed with Peter’s report from two weeks ago that the Bengals will listen to trade offers for Carson Palmer. They’re not ready. At least not yet. And they really won’t be ready if they can’t trade until him after the draft. When all they’ll be able to get is God knows what in 2012. If God knows they could get Andrew Luck, maybe that would change things.
I Think I Believe I do agree with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. Mike Brown didn’t give quarterback Carson Palmer a subtle jab during his Saturday interview with Bengals.com and The Cincinnati Enquirer.
I asked Brown how the lockout impacts the Palmer situation and he said, “I don’t want to talk about specific players. We’re not allowed to deal with the players and I’m not looking to send messages through the media or to the player or the public about a player. That’s a step too far under the ground rules we have with the lockout.”
Like Florio, I disagree with Joe and don’t believe Brown was taking a “subtle jab” at Palmer. Far from it.
First of all, Brown is out of the old school and takes very few shots and even more rarely at players. And when he does, he ain’t subtle. But I’ve never heard him go after a player back when he was talking to the media. He went off on Carl Pickens after he underminded head coach Bruce Coslet, but that’s about it. And he still has high regard for Palmer despite this mess. So much so he wouldn’t take a shot at him publicly and probably not privately, either.
Two, we know Mike wants Carson back. Back in the Jan 24 Mobile Doctrine, he called him central to the team’s plans. Now, that may just be pie in the sky and Palmer has no intention of coming back, but Mike isn’t going to do anything to alienate him publicly.
And third, Brown is one of these guys who is a stickler for the rules. I legitimately think the answer came straight from the heart. The NFL isn’t exactly clear about what you can and can’t legally say about players during the lockout, so owners are literally treating each word as if each syllable is a booby trap.
Nah, it wasn’t a jab. With all due respect to Reedy, who does a hell of a job and grinds the beat like not many.
I Think I Believe Antwan Odom has paid the steepest price ever to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Month.
Look at what has happened to the guy since he had five sacks against the Packers on Sept 20, 2009 in Green Bay. After getting one sack in the next four games, he ripped up his Achilles to end his season. Then his next training camp was hobbled by a virus and sore knee. Then when the season got going, he broke his wrist and reaggravated the knee before he got suspended a month for violating the league’s drug policy despite his lawyer arguing Odom had merely taken one of his wife’s prescription weight-loss pills by accident. Then he ended the season IR with no sacks. Now in the middle of the night he lost his home in Mason, Ohio to a fire.
Thankfully, he and his family weren’t home and we’re thinking of him today. The guy is an immense talent who if he gets back to anywhere near that ’09 form, just think what they have with him, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson.
I Think I Believe the running backs, whoever they may be, are going to combine for something like 80 to 100 catches this season.
Jay Gruden’s West Coast scheme is perfect for backups Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard and by virtue of being The Bell Cow, Cedric Benson would probably grab 30 to 40 by himself. In his three seasons here, Benson’s high has been last season’s 28 catches, but they seemed more out of desperation and it didn’t look like the checkdowns were emphasized all that much. Benson may not be a scatback, but try tackling him in space when he’s got a running start. Remember late in the ’08 season when he burned the Redskins on a 79-yard screen that was the Bengals’ longest play of that season? And the clinching TD he caught against Carolina last year?
The Bengals haven’t always been infatuated with Scott’s attention to detail in the passing game, but if he’s heard about this playbook yet – and it’s anything like the usual West Coast – this thing is right down his alley out of the backfield. For whatever reason, he’s the most under-used guy on this roster. I’m not saying 15 to 20 touches a game, but how about between eight and 12? Or maybe even make him a bell cow for a couple of series like they were using him late in the year. In the coaches’ defense, he did get nicked up here and there and that cut down on his availability.
But they’ve got him for sure now with Benson and Leonard free agents.
I Think I Believe I see and hear more from former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton than when he actually played. (And listen my children, Thornton was a very solid player up and down the line and a great locker room guy.)
He’s all over. He’s media. He’s working with draft prospects and players. He’s blogging and tweeting. He’s unstoppable. You can only hope to contain him.
On Tuesday, Thornton reported he’s at the University of Pittsburgh pro day watching one of his clients, wide receiver Jon Baldwin, and Gruden and Bengals receivers coach James Urban are also there. Also on display is running back Dion Lewis. As we’ve noted, NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan has mocked Baldwin to the Bengals at No. 35 in the second round. And at 6-5, he does have the size the Bengals love at wideout. He’s as tall as the late Chris Henry, but he’s about 25 pounds heavier and not as fast, but he can still run very well for a big guy.
As T.J. Houshmandzadeh would say, “Interesting…”
I Think I Believe I will wear my “I Believe” T-shirt under my Tony C. Red Sox jersey for the Flying Pig 10K.
Tags: Antwan Odom, Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard, Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, Jon Baldwin, lockout, Mike Brown
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 23 Comments »
» Biggest thing to come out of Sunday’s win besides the pass rush was the eyebrows that were raised by the blocking of the young wide receivers in the run game. Running back Cedric Benson has been a sitting duck for unblocked safeties all year. It looks different when they get blocked, huh?
Head coach Marvin Lewis has been fuming about it for years. And that’s one thing that Laveranues Coles willingly did last year and what Antonio Bryant was ready to do this year. Terrell Owens was brilliant at times (Jordan Shipley’s 64-yard run-and-catch in Atlanta), but wouldn’t always bring it. Same with The Ocho. Sometimes. Not always. But Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson were willing participants every snap.
And you could tell.
» Per Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Chad Ochocinco is going to have some candid comments about his situation next year Tuesday night at 10:30 on the T.Ocho Show on Versus. Let me guess.
The Ocho has indicated recently he doesn’t think the Bengals will pick up his $6 million option in 2011 and when asked Monday if he thought this Sunday would be his last game as a Bengal at Paul Brown, he said to check the stories from 2008. That’s back when he wanted out via a trade.
He’s probably right about the option. Heck, he’s putting out a poll on Twitter asking fans if they would pick up the option if they were a GM.
But say this about the man: He’s never backed down from playing hurt and it’s going to be a long time before anyone else breaks his team records. He should get several standing ovations Sunday to say thank you if this is what it looks like and this is it.
Think of it this way: With 10,783 yards, he has 3,682 more yards than the incomparable Isaac Curtis, the most gifted receiver in Bengals history and the man whose record he broke.
That’s more than Dan Ross, the best Bengals tight end ever, caught in his career.
It’ s also more yards than wide receivers like Chip Myers (3,079) and Peter Warrick (2,811) had in their entire Bengals careers, as well as their top receiving back of all time, James Brooks, with 3,012.
It’s quite a run.
» Was anybody else wondering where that run on third-and-three with 1:55 left Sunday was against Tampa Bay on third-and-13 with 2:28 left back on Oct. 10?
» This is why special teams coach Darrin Simmons loves Quan Cosby: Smart. Reliable. Always on the ball, literally.
With 2:13 left Sunday, who in Bengaldom didn’t think the Browns would recover the onside kick and win it on Phil Dawson’s kick at the gun? Not Cosby, in the middle up front on the hands team.
“We saw them do it on film,” Cosby said. “If it was an onside kick, he put it on the ground in front of the tee. If he teed it up, it was either deep kick or a middle bunt and the middle bunt was going to come right at me.”
But the film they saw was of a surprise onside, not one that was expected late in the game. Yet Simmons had them schooled Cosby digested it. Lewis has been telling his team all year and did it last week, too: Smartest team wins. Cosby is that quintessential lunch-bucket reliable guy.
» It was emotional watching and listening to Benson get emotional like that after the game. How nice is it to see someone care that much about what he does and how much it means to succeed?
Reedy has a nice stat comparing Benson’s first 39 games to the first 39 of Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson, where his 3,004 yards and dozen 100-yard games trumped them. It did take Dillon half a season to get into the starting lineup his rookie year and Johnson played 22 games before he became the regular starter, but the point is made. Benson has been the heart of the team. As he goes, so they go.
Because these are my favorite Benson stats: In his 100-yard games, the Bengals are 10-2. In the games he carries it 20 or more times; they are 13-5-1. In games he started and he carried it less than 20, they are 3-15.
And that plus-20 stat really should be 15-3-1 because it includes the two losses this season the Bengals flat out gave away, Tampa Bay and Buffalo.
I agree with Reedy. The Bengals should try and re-sign Benson, but it will be a tough sell if there’s not at least some move back to the run-first philosophy of ’09.
» Watching the kids play up front on defense, Chris Pressley play fullback, and the young receivers run around, it makes you wonder how far this team is away.
This isn’t your 2002 roster.
There’s too much here to do a complete facelift on the field.
If it’s me, I re-sign cornerback Johnathan Joseph, draft a wide receiver that can fly in the first round, find out if Anthony Collins can play right tackle and think seriously about moving Andre Smith to right guard, and shore up safety. Whatever, the offensive line has to be a priority. If you decide Smith is too brittle, some bold things have to be done, but with those moves you’ve got a shot to get right back in it.
Would that be enough to salvage Carson Palmer? It would seem that he needs to be sold on what’s happening next. But Palmer is the guy that makes this all work if you’re looking for a quick turnaround, and they are. Say what you want. Palmer makes them dangerous. He is 22-14 in the NFL’s toughest division. He’s tough, smart, business-like, and disdains politics.
Give him a couple of kid receivers with Gresham and Shipley and let’s go.
Tags: bengals musings, Cedric Benson, Chad Ochocinco
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 22 Comments »