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April 15 kicks off big week at PBS

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

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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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Of QBs and The Process

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on March 28, 2013 – 7:42 pm

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There’s no question that the Bengals are going to scout the top quarterbacks in the April 25-27 draft.

The question is, are they going to draft him on April 26 or April 27?

They continue the process Friday, when Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Bengals will work out Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel in Tallahassee. And it would be no surprise if Manuel is one of the 30 prospects they’ve scheduled for a Paul Brown Stadium visit before the draft.

There isn’t anybody the Bengals are not checking out at this stage. At any position. Anybody, at least, that’s got a shot of being drafted and they’re also looking at guys they’ll end up signing after the draft in the mold of Vontaze Burfict, Emmanuel Lamur and Jeromy Miles.

The Bengals have somebody at every pro day. While head coach Marvin Lewis stalked the North Carolina sidelines with East Coast scout Greg Seamon this week, the same day new assistant secondary coach Adam Zimmer was at the University of Connecticut.

(Odds are the Bengals won’t draft a guy from either place, but here’s where we’ll make our pitch for Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard.)

But the only way the Bengals would get Manuel is if he free-falls into the third round.

No one thinks the Bengals are going to take a quarterback with one of their first three picks in the first two rounds, knowing how they have felt about those picks in the past. They’re going to want those guys to come in and start. Or, at the very least, play regularly.

The third round figures to the first time the Bengals start even gazing at the QBs and given they are usually over-drafted, particularly in a lean year, it could be fairly picked over.

But the Bengals aren’t looking for a Manuel-type to come in and eventually be a starter. They’re looking to support Andy Dalton with better competition and a young guy talented enough that they can develop who can come in and win games off the bench if need be. A future Ryan Fitzpatrick, perhaps, a seventh-rounder in 2005.

If the Bengals draft a guy that’s not ready, then they could go back to keeping three QBs instead of two to develop him without fear of him getting plucked from the practice squad and keep up the hunt for a veteran that began with the Josh Johnson signing.

But Dalton himself is part of that influx the past two seasons that shows rookie QBs don’t have to be treated like some delicate experiment in a Petri dish that can’t be exposed to harsh light for a year. The Redskins got two wins off the bench from fourth-rounder Kirk Cousins just this past season.

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy is trade bait now, but it’s highly doubtful the Bengals would give up a draft pick for him. If he gets released it could be interesting, but they’ve also been cautious with players that have a history of concussions and he has a storied one.

So we know the Bengals will work them out, but when will they take him? April 26 ends with the third round, April 27 has all the rest.


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Dhani tackles Bengals training camp

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 8, 2012 – 9:11 pm

Mike Brown offered Dhani Jones a ride in his golf cart Wednesday during practice so he could get close to his old mates  and say hello.  Jones eyed the Bengals president with a mischievous smile.

“I’ve never sat in that golf cart. I’ve seen other people in that golf cart, but I’ve never been in it,” said Jones, never carted off the practice field in four seasons as a Bengal. “Do you have a license to drive this thing?”

Jones, 34, is in his second year of retirement since playing his last NFL game as the Bengals middle linebacker in 2010, and he continues to traverse the globe in all sorts of vehicles. But Wednesday was the first time in Mike Brown’s golf cart  and yet it wasn’t their first conversation by a longshot.

” I’d barge into his office from time to time,” Jones said. “Mike’s a driven man. He’s got great intentions for the team and he’s got high expectations for the team.”

They talked about, in no particular order, Brown’s health, his family, maps, and his aspirations.

“I don’t think there’s any NFL owner who doesn’t want to win it all,” Jones said.

One of the reasons Brown no doubt feels so comfortable with Jones is that he’s the embodiment  of the player Paul Brown coveted. Smart, prepared, and a plan for life after football.

Jones is busier than ever with seven shows on channels ranging from The Big Ten to Spike TV, where he’s got two. His Bow Tie foundation for charity also continues to expand with more than 80 organizations involved and the designs just keep coming.

His legacy with the Bengals is just as busy and connected. When the thing began to implode in the dog days of ’07 and ’08, Jones was one of the consummate professionals that kept head coach Marvin Lewis’ principles afloat and set the stage for the ’09 North title, the ’11 Wild Card and the high expectations of ’12.

It was a two-way street. On Wednesday Jones told Brown “The four years I spent here on the field as well as off the field were probably some of the best years I played the game.”

One of the players he watched Wednesday was his old roommate, Vincent Rey, the second-year linebacker who has modeled his life on and off the field after Jones. When Jones retired, Rey asked for and got Jones’ No. 57, and made the team as a special teams maven.  A free-agent from Duke, he’s still here.

“I like watching him play because I remember the things we talked about while we were rooming together and that translates into the way he plays,” Jones said. “My little brother.”

His influence is so directly felt on the man that replaced him in the middle, Rey Maualuga, that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had to tell him, “Stop trying to be like Dhani.” Jones not only knew what all 10 guys were doing, he desperately had to know.  Zimmer doesn’t think that fits Maualuga’s style of play.

Jones agrees and says he’s talked to him about it.

“I tell him the same thing. He has to be him. You can only be yourself  for that position,” Jones said. “Rey does a great job. He’s got his own style and everybody knows he’s good. He’s got to play like that.

“If he makes the mistake, he’s going make the mistake that might cost you but never cost him. At the same time, he’s a young player on the verge of being a better young player and continuing to get better and better and be a superior player.”

Maualuga’s style?

“Reckless with intent,” Jones said.

Jones didn’t have to tackle the globe Wednesday to view some of his accomplishments. The view was pretty good from Mike Brown’s golf cart.

 


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Jackson signing impresses T.J.

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on February 20, 2012 – 6:20 am

Count T.J. Houshmandzadeh as an interested bystander in the Hue Jackson signing.

“I saw that and I was thinking, ‘What are the Bengals doing? It’s like they’re putting together an all-star coaching staff,’ ” he said this weekend. “They’re stacked.”

Houshmandzadeh, who jump-started his career in his fourth season when Jackson became the Bengals wide receivers coach, thinks it makes plenty of sense to fit Jackson in on the defensive side of the ball as an assistant secondary coach. In a part-time role for him during the last half of 2011, Houshmandzadeh saw what Jackson did this past year in his only season as the Raiders head coach with an injury-riddled offense in transition.

With quarterback Carson Palmer not arriving until the sixth week of the regular season and No. 1 running back Darren McFadden missing the last nine games, the Raiders still finished ninth in offense and a win away from taking the AFC West title.

“Hue knows offense. He knows it as well as anyone in the league. He’s one of the best offensive coaches there is,” Houshmandzadeh said. “He can help the defense get ready for that. He can help the defense break that down and he can help the DBs with what to expect. And he’s got Mike Zimmer and I think he’s the best defensive coordinator. I was really impressed with him the one year I was there. And you’ve got Marvin (Lewis) on defense, too.”

Houshmandzadeh’s last season with the Bengals was 2008 and even though that was two playoff appearances ago, he thinks he’s still got a pretty good feel for the guys that he worked with, such as running backs coach Jim Anderson and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.

“I worked enough with Kenny to know he’s a good one and you know J.A. has to be good at what he does because he’s been doing it so long (29 years),” he said. “Obviously I wasn’t there with (offensive coordinator) Jay Gruden, but for them to do what he did in his first year, you know he’s got to be a good coach. And Darrin (Simmons) is one of the best special teams coaches in the league.”

Heading into his 10th season, Lewis not only has developed a young crop of players that has already made the playoffs, but he’s put together his biggest named staff. There is a former head coach (Jackson), a coach that interviewed for two head coaching jobs last month (Zimmer) and a coach that turned down two interviews for head coaching jobs (Gruden).

Houshmandzadeh thought Jackson had the Raiders on the verge of big things with the acquisition of Palmer, but he wasn’t all that surprised when new general manager Reggie McKenzie fired Jackson.

“Hue did a great job in one year and you have to figure it was only going to get better on offense,” Houshmandzadeh said. “But at the same time I can understand that the guy wants to be comfortable with his head coach and wants to make sure he gets a guy that’s on the same page.”

Houshmandzadeh, who turns 35 the third week of this season, says he wants to keep playing and is looking. If not, expect him announcing for somebody.


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Ocho check: Better late than…

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on February 1, 2012 – 11:23 am

INDIANAPOLIS  — Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco  arrived nearly 30 minutes late for his press availability Wednesday morning, but he still offered a pretty good 23 minutes as the Pats prepared for Sunday’s Super Bowl (6:30 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 5)  against the Giants

Here are a few highlights with more to come:

On his 10 seasons in Cincinnati and Bengals president Mike Brown, head coach Marvin Lewis, and former offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski:

“They gave me life. … Mike was good to me, the city was good to me, the media—we had our ups and downs—it made it fun. The fans were epic 10 straight years. Of course, I had my rifs, my raffs. I’m like any other human being.  I’m not perfect. There’s nothing bad I can actually say.”

On his future:

“I want to be back (in New England) … (I can play) 10 more years. I’m Brett Favre. Without the pictures.”

On making the Super Bowl while having the worst season of his career:

“It’s a blessing to be on the stage to get to the stage. So many players play this game for such a long time. The greats. The (Dan) Marinos. Barry Sanders. I don’t think he was ever able to break the stage. Just to be able to be here is a blessing …

“Being here is like watching porn. There’s nothing bad about it at all.”

If the Patriots win, will you feel a part of it?

“I’ll feel a part of it … I learned three, four, five years ago to stop fussing about things that are out of your control. That’s what I’ve done. That’s why I was quiet this year. When my number was called, I did my best.”


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Bengals had Marshall Plan; Taylor being made

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on December 18, 2011 – 9:08 am

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?


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I Think I Believe

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on October 19, 2011 – 5:14 pm

Again, in honor of Lance McLaRussa and Peter The King, Things I Think I Believe, The Carson Edition.

I Think I Believe Tuesday was a very weird day in Bengaldom. It’s a happy day with the Church of Paul Brown’s bells pealing and the pundits singing and the team resting at 4-2.

And let’s lift a glass to a first-round pick in 2012 and at least a second-round pick in 2013. Right guard Bobbie Williams heard the compensation for Carson Palmer and his eyes went wider than Shayne Graham against the Steelers.

“The gift,” Bobbie said, “that keeps on giving.”

But there should be some sadness here. Palmer is one of the great all-time Bengals and even though he’s been good and gone nine months now in the hearts and minds of Bengaldom, the trade closes a significant chapter in its history.

What’s that you say? He’s a quitter, a coward, a wimp?

If that’s how you see it. I see it that he’s a good guy and a hell of a quarterback who made a mistake when he let the frustration and competitiveness get the better of him and would any of us be any better?

Even if I disagree with how he went about it at the end or wish at times he could have been a more passionate leader or more engaged in the community, that doesn’t change the fact he was one of the more courageous, talented and nicest guys to play here. He remained true to himself. Not warm and fuzzy. But private, polite, laid-back, resolute.

I Think I Believe so did Mike Brown stay true to himself. Tough, patient, trying to fit today into the big picture. Not as inflexible as you think.

And that says something for both guys in this age of TwitterFacebookNFLNetworkTeamCamsTeaPartyOccupationWallStreet with the world screaming at you at 235 miles per hour red, angry and mean like some boil on the neck to be just like them.

I Think I Believe I’m biased. Not 15 minutes after Palmer walked out of his first Raiders news conference he was on the horn Tuesday night. Not with SI or PFT or PTI or Shefty or Mort or the Dannetes or Rome, but with Bengals.com. Given what has transpired since his Mobile Manifesto at the Senior Bowl back in January, you wouldn’t exactly figure that would be an outlet on his list.

But it says something about him. It says everything about him. He’s a classy guy. Always has been. He didn’t say why he wanted out. We’ve all got guesses and we’re all probably a little right. Demanding a trade with the retirement card and four years left on a contract wasn’t the best thing to do, but this league, heck this team, has seen a lot worse. It could have got ugly. Palmer could have reported to force Brown’s hand. Brown could have offered to ship him to Washington. Tuesday could have been a two time-zone Jerry Springer, but you have to credit the civility of both guys.

I Think I Believe I disagree with Doc, although I’m assuming the “Mike Brown’s Finest Hour” column is largely tongue in cheek.

If you ask me, deciding to keep the Bengals in Cincinnati back in 1995 when everyone was telling him the smart money was in Baltimore was his finest hour. Published reports now put the Ravens revenue at $25 million more per year than the Bengals.

Other hours that trump the Palmer trade: Convincing Paul Brown to get back into pro football and doing it in Cincinnati, scouting and pushing the draft selections of Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason, building two Super Bowl teams in the ‘80s, hiring the AFC North’s first African-American head coach in Marvin Lewis.

I Think I Believe I liked Lewis’ answer when I asked about the consideration given to the same 4-2 records of the Bengals and Raiders. Say the Chargers win the AFC West and say the Bengals are trying to be one of two wild card teams that come out of the AFC North. Well, Cincinnati has beaten Buffalo head-to-head to win a tiebreaker. And if they had let Hue Jackson struggle with Kyle Boller for a while, you wouldn’t have had the Raiders to worry about for very long. Now you’ve given them air with a guy who has been to the Pro Bowl and won divisions.

But as Lewis said, “Once you make the choice and the decision, you can’t worry what happens on the other side. If you go through life that way, where are you going? You’d chase your tail all of the time and you’re not moving forward. Anytime a guy leaves this place and has put himself on the line for me like they have, I’m going to wish them well every chance I get. We love the chance to compete against people we’ve had here before. That’s part of it. That’s what any sport is about.”

I Think I Believe Palmer was worth the No. 1 pick in 2003. In the six seasons before he became the starter, the Bengals were 14-36 in division games. In his six seasons he didn’t miss a division game, they were 22-14. Enough said. And they had a shot every time he strapped it up after a decade of getting blown out and for eight years he said all the right things.

I Think I Believe I’ve said before that Palmer has a chance to be the Jim Plunkett of the early 21st century. A former Heisman Trophy winner and overall No. 1 pick; a battle-scarred veteran thought to be washed up leading another franchise to a Super Bowl title. Add now that both are returning to their native California for Al Davis’ team.

From 2004-06, only Brady and Manning were better than Palmer. And in ’09 he might not have had great stats, but he had the ultimate year for a quarterback with seven last drives at the end of a game or overtime that either won it, tied it, or gave the Bengals the lead. If he had performed that season in the NFC East there would be a statue of him.

Does he have anything left? I’d like to see him in an offense where the receivers don’t make it up as they go and the system doesn’t ask him to always drop back seven steps and make a great throw just to get eight yards. Then we’ll know.

I Think I Believe I disagree with Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated when he says that there is a double standard in granting Palmer a trade and not one to Chad Ochocinco when he demanded a trade in 2008. Which worries me because Trotter is one of the smartest guys out there and is very good at his craft.

But they are two different situations. The major thing is Ocho had a prohibitive salary cap hit of about $5-6 million if the Bengals traded him before the ’08 draft. Palmer had none. The Ocho reported to mandatory minicamp and training camp, Palmer didn’t report to anything.

And The Ocho went very public with his rant (he kept NFL Network on the air by himself that spring) that began at the Super Bowl and didn’t stop, really, until he got sent home in November the night before the Steelers game for insubordination. Palmer didn’t surface until Tuesday’s news conference.


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