Notes: More tough cuts; Lewis likes safety hits; Bruce bosses TD drives

Posted Aug 17, 2012

Devon Still

Updated: 8-18-12, 1:45 a.m.

The Jordan Shipley waiver means there are some more tough decisions on the way and head coach Marvin Lewis alluded to one in Friday's news conference.

Defensive tackle Pat Sims is one of the team's best run-stoppers and he has yet to practice after an offseason he dealt with ankle injuries. First the Bengals have to make a decision on keeping eight or nine defensive linemen and eight look pretty solid:

Starters Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap have backing them up Devon Still, Brandon Thompson, Robert Geathers and Jamaal Anderson. Complicating things is that tackle Nick Hayden has had an excellent camp.

“Pat is improving all the time and he's getting closer," Lewis said. "It's just a thing where you want to make sure a guy can withstand the rigors of practice and playing in a game before you take him off that list. We've only got two weeks to go. We've got to make a major decision on whether or not to do that. So they have to prove to us that they're ready.”

Lewis wouldn't tip his hand on when cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (leg) is going to be able to work. He looked like he's ready—if not close—with a vigorous workout on the field before Thursday's game in which he was covering wide receiver Ryan Whalen (hamstring).  

The Bengals had a walkthrough about 16 hours after Thursday night's win in Atlanta. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) walked through with the first team. Rookie middle backer Vontaze Burfict left the game after a hit to the head and during Friday's walkthrough he went to the sideline to take a knee and then was carted off.

Cornerbacks Jason Allen and Adam Jones didn't dress because of sore muscles, but Lewis said Allen would probably be back this week.

ROOKIES DRAW PRAISE ON LINE: If third-rounder Mohamed Sanu and fifth-rounder Marvin Jones are locks at wide receiver, so are second-rounder Still and third-rounder Thompson at defensive tackle.

“I’ve been really pleased with those guys. They’re what we expected and better. Every opportunity for them to get out there and get going will continue to help them help us for the regular season,” Lewis said. “It’s very important for us. Otherwise you’re looking for stopgap players. These guys are going to be players here for a while. The time invested in them is really good because it’s all the upside potential. You’re training your guys. You don't have to re-train a guy off the street with his own habits. So that’s been good. Jamaal Anderson has been terrific in that way. He’s a really good person, a really good guy. He’s smart, understands the game and has fit right in.”

MAYS DILEMMA: Lewis has yet to talk to safety Taylor Mays, feeling down Thursday night when for the second time in as many games he plowed into a teammate to make them iffy for the next game. Mays did it to Maualuga (sprained knee) in the opener and he missed Thursday's game, and on Thursday, Mays collided with Burfict on a tackle and hit him in the head.

Lewis is going to tell Mays to keep his head up as he finishes the play, but to keep playing aggressively.

“There’s only one way to play. Maybe there’s some things that he can keep working on in practice to make sure when he gets into the finish point of those plays that his head and eyes are staying up," Lewis said. "That would be the only thing that I would say he can continue to work at. That’s one thing that you can at least strive to work on in practice, to keep your head and eyes up when you get into those collision points, which really will help him down the line as part of being part of the adjustments in the rules. That will help him."

SAFETY SQUEEZE: But Lewis loves the way the safeties are hitting. Along with middle linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, Reggie Nelson stopped 250-pound Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez a yard shy of the first down on Thursday's first possession. Then on the next series Nelson unloaded on running back Jacquizz Rodgers for a seven-yard loss on a third-down pass. Not only did Jeromy Miles have an end-zone interception, but he added six tackles.

“(Mays) is playing a position, I would say, where our guys are knocking the tail off of folks right now. It’s evident on tape that when balls are getting caught, those guys are getting hit," Lewis said. "That’s a good thing. They’re playing very physical back there. We’ve got pretty good, tight coverage, and we’re running them into tight spaces. That’s what you want to have, because that will make a difference down the line. Last night we didn’t get those tipped balls. As you keep tipping balls in the air and getting your hands on balls, those will start to fall your way.”

BRUCE THE BOSS: Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has engineered touchdown drives in each of the two games. If the Bengals feel they can upgrade near the end of training camp with the waiver wire, they would probably mull bringing in a veteran to replace him. But it would take a lot for the coaches to give up on Gradkowski. They love the guy. Especially offensive coordinator Jay Gruden because he has won games coming off the bench.

"Bruce will drive you crazy," Gruden said. "He'll have some plays where you just want to choke him, and then he'll bounce back and take the team 80 yards in eight plays and have a great scramble and call a couple great audibles and you're like 'Way to go, Bruce. You're my man.' He's a good guy and a great leader and knows this system as good as anybody."

WHIT VS. ABRAHAM: Left tackle Andrew Whitworth thinks Falcons defensive end John Abraham is the best pass-rushing end in the NFL, so he's pleased he didn't allow a sack Thursday. The Bengals' first offensive line played the entire first half and allowed Dalton to get sacked only once and that was for no gain on the first play of the game.

But Gruden wasn't pleased with the O-line's work in the running game, which had just 11 yards on 10 carries.

"We had a bad day running the ball; we didn't get a lot of movement," Gruden said. "Sometimes their safeties got involved on our receivers and we had a couple schemes coaching-wise where we didn't do a good enough job getting our receivers in position to block both the safeties from time to time.

"But the negative plays on first down when you're running the ball are unacceptable. We can't have those. We've got to do a better job of opening up holes and our backs have got to do a better job of sticking their foot in the ground when there's nothing there and getting a yard or two."

It's unclear if the Bengals will get back running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot) for next Thursday night's game against the Packers at Paul Brown Stadium. Gruden said he didn't think the problem was with the two young guards, but not everyone was in unison.

"(Clint) Boling at left guard, of course, and now (Kevin) Zeitler at right guard. It's a little bit different," Gruden said. "They just have to get used to hearing the calls and the tempo of the game and what it's going to be like. When you play against a great Atlanta defense like they were, they were pretty solid all the way around, it was a great test for us. It's something we can really learn a lot from."

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