NFL Team Report - Cincinnati Bengals - INSIDE SLANT
Jeremy Hill isn't going to supplant Giovani Bernard as the Cincinnati Bengals starting running back, but when the rookie entered the game after four unproductive series Sunday night in Arizona, he made an immediate impact.
And a prolonged one, which was even more encouraging for the Bengals.
Not only were Hill's 30 snaps nearly double the 16 he had the week before, but quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell put the ball in his direction on more than half of those plays with 12 handoffs and five targets.
Hill finished with 48 yards on 12 carries and two catches for 10 yards.
"He played well," Dalton said. "We moved the ball well and were able to get some runs there that helped keep the chains going, and he did a good job."
Following the offense's 0 for 4 start on third-down attempts, Hill entered the game and converted a third and 1 with a powerful 5-yard run behind right tackle Kevin Zeitler. The play enabled the Bengals to continue a 13-play, 73-yard drive for the offense's first points of the game on a Mike Nugent 48-yard foal.
Then with the Bengals backed up at their own 4, Hill kick-started the next possession with 5- and 10-yard runs on back-to-back plays, leading to another field goal following a 10-play, 88-yard march.
"There were some plays that I remember that were pretty decent, and some that I wish I could take back," Hill said. "All in all, I think it was an OK performance."
One he definitely wishes he had back was a drop in the fourth quarter. Crossing the middle wide open, Hill would have had time to turn his head after the catch and move into an open field.
"He had a couple of chances on balls he caught tonight, or that he didn't catch, that could've been big plays," Lewis said. "We've got to keep working on that."
The five targets were an indication the Bengals want Hill to be involved in the passing game the way Bernard is, but it's not something the rookie did much of at LSU with only 26 receptions last year.
Hill was denied another chance to make a play as a receiver when Arizona defensive end Alex Okafor batted down a screen at the line of scrimmage.
Bengals quarterbacks have targeted Hill eight times in the last two games to try to get him work as a receiver.
It was worth noting, however, that the Bengals re-entered Bernard when they got close the red zone on each of the long field-goal drives at the end of the first half.
That could be an indication that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson plans to use more of a play-by-play rotation to exploit matchups rather than giving Bernard entire series off at a time.
Bernard took the entire second half off against the Cardinals, and Hill had eight of his carries for 25 yards in the second half while running behind the second string offensive line.
"I really didn't put too much stock into that," Hill said. "I just wanted to go out there and do my job whether it was the first, second or third team. I just have to go out there, do my job and let everything else take care of itself. I want to go back and watch the film to see the good things I did, the bad things, and just work from there and keep getting better."
NFL Team Report - Cincinnati Bengals - NOTES, QUOTES
--Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton on the opening drive of Saturday's 25-17 loss to the New York Jets, marking the longest reception of his career.
Primarily used as a slot receiver his first two seasons, Sanu is expected to play more of an outside role while Marvin Jones recovers from a broken foot.
"It's encouraging what we've seen through this spring and training camp, where he can stretch the field a little bit," wide receivers coach James Urban said. "His urgency off the line of scrimmage and his tempo and speed have really improved. Just attacking leverage and getting on top the way he got on top, some of that takes a little time to get used to and he's been impressive."
Sanu was split wide almost exclusively for his 16 snaps against the Jets, finishing with two catches for 56 yards, but he's expected to move back inside for slot work as his playing time increases and the game plans get more creative in the regular season.
"It's been a lot of fun to see Mo's progression in the offense throughout his career," Dalton said. "He's a guy who is always in the right spot. He's got really strong hands, runs really good routes and just finds ways to get open. That's exactly what you want as a quarterback.
"I think you can see what he's able to do," Dalton added. "He wasn't just a possession receiver (Saturday) - he was downfield, and made a big play on the touchdown. He's capable of doing a lot of different things."
--Bengals coaches have made no secret about their desire for fourth-round pick Russell Bodine to win the starting job at center, and Monday offensive line coach Paul Alexander basically made it official Bodine will be out there for the opener in Baltimore on Sept. 7.
"Right now it's full speed ahead with Bodine," Alexander told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "That kid has so much talent. He's loaded with talent. He has a tough physical demeanor and he can block the big nose guards in our division. He's exactly the type of player we've been looking for."
Bodine has struggled with shotgun snaps through the spring and training camp, and the Bengals began giving guard Mike Pollak some work at center with the second-team offense last week.
But Pollak is still recovering from a knee injury and appears to be more of an insurance policy than a threat to win the job.
Bodine said he was surprised to see the Jets blitz as much as they did after starting quarterback Andy Dalton exited the game early in the second quarter, but the rookie said the experience was helpful.
"I'll take everything you can throw at me right now," he said. "My learning curve is still huge to try to pick things up. Seeing all the stuff, every rep I get definitely helps. I definitely think I'm getting on top of it, but at the same time it's never good enough. You can never be too ready. At least starting off we've got a few 3-4 teams in the preseason, so that will help with the quick turnaround to Baltimore."
--Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (calf), tight end Jermaine Gresham (back) and left guards Clint Boling (knee) and Mike Pollak (knee) made their preseason debuts Saturday against the Jets as the Bengals' overall team health continues to improve.
Gresham caught two passes for 13 yards, while Whitworth was in for all three scoring drives - two touchdowns and one field goal - to open the game.
"I wanted the chance to go out there and be on the field with those guys," Whitworth said. "I think sometimes as offensive linemen there are tendencies, not necessarily in guys when we're talking about finishers and things but in pass protection they try to play too fast and that usually gets them in more trouble than the other way around. You talk about blitzes and picking up great pass rushers and those kinds of deals honestly the calmest and slowest you can play but with great technique the better off you're going to be. More times than not freaking out and jumping out of your stance or playing too fast is what gets you in trouble. So being able to do that and help those guys out understand how that works is something I can help do."
--Cornerback Terence Newman was hit in the head from behind by Jets guard Willie Colon after intercepting a Geno Smith pass in the first quarter and said his first instinct was to square up.
"Then I realized I didn't have my helmet," he said.
Colon's penalties were one of seven personal fouls the Jets drew in the game, compared with zero for the Bengals.
"Some of the stuff that happened out there was kind of stupid if you ask me," Newman said. "They won the football game making the penalties, but I know their coach isn't going to be happy with the fact they got that many personal fouls. You're not going to win in the regular season like that."
--Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was not happy with the way his second- and third-team units played after being handed a 17-3 lead by the first teamers.
"We have 25 guys on defense and I need to find guys 19 to 25 right now who can help us out as a backup player," Guenther said. "We can't have a letdown as soon as those guys go in the game. There's some guys around that think they've made the team who are going to be shocked when this thing gets done if they keep playing like they're playing now."
Added head coach Marvin Lewis, "I realize it is a lot of young guys, but the development of this team has been because of developing depth. We have to realize we are going to have players getting injured during the season and guys have to respond and be able to step up, and the standard of play cannot get lowered.
"When guys come in they have to be able to carry the torch when it is their turn. We are getting a lot of guys out there to play and getting some good evaluations."
--Second-year wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who is in a battle with rookie James Wright for the final roster spot at that position, had a rough night against the Jets.
Despite being targeted 13 times, Hamilton finished with just two catches for 11 yards.
Many of the throws were off target as backup quarterbacks Matt Scott and Tyler Wilson struggled against a heavy dose of blitzes by Jets coach Rex Ryan's defense, but Hamilton also had a few drops, which is something that has been an ongoing issue since the Bengals drafted him in the sixth round last year.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Bengals coaches continue to pour praise on undrafted rookie Ryan Hewitt, who seems to have moved ahead of H-back/tight end/fullback Orson Charles.
"I think Ryan has really done a nice job for us," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said of Hewitt. "He's handled things well. He's playing tight end/H-back/fullback, whatever you want to call those positions we have, and he's handled it well both physically and mentally. I think as a receiver he's done a nice job. As an interior blocker he's done a good job. I really think he's got a bright future."
The Bengals drafted Charles as a tight end out of Georgia in the fourth round in 2012 and converted him to fullback last year. He appeared in 13 games in 2013 but played sparingly, finishing with one rush for eight yards and no receptions.
Charles played 25 snaps Saturday against the Jets while Hewitt was on the field for 16, but Lewis said Charles is in a "dogfight" for his job.
NFL Team Report - Cincinnati Bengals - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Bengals reached agreement Wednesday with Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict on a four-year, $20.05 million contract extension, according to reports. The deal has a $19 million base salary and additional incentives for Pro Bowl appearances, NFL.com reported.
Burfict's 2014 compensation will be $7.6 million.
Burfict had a breakout season in 2013, leading the NFL in tackles with 171. He has started 30 of 32 regular-season games the past two seasons for the Bengals.
Burfict signed a three-year, $1.441 million rookie contract in 2012 with the Bengals after he was undrafted because of concerns about his character and a subpar combine performance.
--CB R.J. Stanford had his contract terminated and was released immediately to free agency.
--WR Ryan Whalen was waived.
--DT Larry Black was waived.
--K Quinn Sharp was waived.
--S Isaiah Lewis was waived.
--G Chandler Burden was waived by the Bengals Monday (Aug. 18). Burden, a Cincinnati native (La Salle High School), spent time on the Miami and Kansas City practice squads as a rookie last season. He was signed by the Bengals as a free agent on June 3 of this year and played in the club's first two preseason games.
--Rookie CB Darqueze Dennard, the team's first-round pick, left Saturday's game with a hip injury.
--Rookie RB Jeremy Hill, the team's second-round pick, left Saturday night's game with a shoulder injury.
--RB Rex Burkhead left Saturday's game with a knee injury.
--Rookie LB Marquis Flowers, the team's sixth-round pick, left Saturday's game with an ankle injury.
--Rookie WR James Wright, the team's seventh-round pick, left Saturday's game with a hip injury.