Updated: 5:35 p.m.
REUNIONS: The FOX broadcasting crew of play-by-play man Thom Brennaman and analyst Brian Billick took in Friday’s practice. Brennaman, a Cincinnati product who grew up in Anderson Township, is loving the weekend on the river. The voice of the Reds on Fox Sports Ohio, Brennaman is headed for Game 3 of the NLDS Sunday night at Great American after he works the 1 p.m. game at PBS.
“Could it be any better? And look, the weather is phenomenal,” he said. “I’d love to see (the Reds) come back tied at 1-1. The electricity in that place will be unbelievable.”
It’s an important weekend from a family standpoint for Brennaman, the son of Reds Hall of Fame announcer Marty Brennaman. He remembers living it as a 12- and 13-year-old in ’75 and ’76, and so he made sure his wife, seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son have tickets for every game.
“They really don’t have a grasp of the playoffs, but it’s cool to see it beginning to click in,” he said of the kids. “We were watching the Reds-Phillies game Wednesday night and he saw everyone standing up with two out in the first inning and he knew it wasn’t the last inning. So you try to tell them it’s the playoffs. They’re very lucky kids to be going to those games.”
He's right about the weather. Sunday's forecast calls for perfection. The National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio says mostly sunny skies and a kickoff temperature of 80 degrees expected to rise to 84 during the day with a light breeze from the west at seven to eight miles per hour. It is not a record for Oct. 10. It looks like that will stand at 89 degrees.
Meanwhile, Billick, the former Ravens head coach who hired Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis as his defensive coordinator in 1999, says not to worry about the Bengals offense.
“They’ve got assets on the outside. Carson (Palmer) is healthy. It will come. I have no doubt about it,” Billick said. “I like what I’m seeing with Carson. He’s healthy. He’s delivering the ball just fine. He’s got some new parts in (Jermaine) Gresham and (Jordan) Shipley. It takes awhile to get the discipline. ‘This is 10 yards, not eight yards.’ They’ll get that. They’re not quite there as an offense, but they will be.”
Billick doesn’t buy they-need-an-identity theory.
“Every coach in America wants to be balanced. I’ve heard this argument and criticism a million times,” Billick said. “If you’re balanced, what’s your identity? Well you don’t have an identity because you don’t run the ball exclusively, or you don’t pass the ball (exclusively). If you’re really, really good and have balance, that’s a good identity but nobody can hang their hat on it. I think they can develop an identity. 'You’re a damn good balanced football team.' They have to get there. They’re not there yet. But they have the talent and the ability to do it.”
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» After the Bengals threw it 36 times and ran it 18 in Cleveland last week, Lewis said Friday he’s still emphasizing the run.
“It’s going to be what it’s going to be that particular week,” Lewis said. “I haven’t changed. I think there’s a public perception that all of a sudden we’re going to be a throwing football team. But it doesn’t matter. We have to keep doing what we do and keep doing it better.”
» The Bengals are last in the NFL in securing sacks per pass and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer says it simply comes down to not beating anyone one-on-one. The nickel line of ends
“We’ve got to play better as a unit; it’s going to come once we figure it out,” said Odom, still looking for his first sack after getting all eight of his last year by this game in ‘09. “When we get here, we have to take the extra step and finish it off and if we don’t get there we have to keep working hard to get there.”
Odom says the rushers have seen all sorts of schemes, ranging from max protection to one-on-one and “we just have to be able to adjust and we’ll do that.” Another factor not helping is that end/tackle rusher Jon Fanene, who had the second-most sacks on the team last season with six, is going to end up missing four straight games after injuring his hamstring in the opener. He should be back for the Oct. 24 game in Atlanta after next week’s bye.
After coming off the most serious of injuries for a speed rusher, a torn Achilles, Odom is now dealing with a sprained wrist that no doubt has inhibited his ability to work protectors with his hands. Conventional wisdom is that players coming back from tears of the ACL or Achilles tendon don’t regain their old form until two years after the injury. But Odom shakes his head and looks at his wrist.
“My ankle feels fine,” Odom said. “My one problem is the wrist. Once I get over that, I’ll be OK.”
Backup defensive end
“We just have to get the guy down,” Rucker said. “We’re a step away, or we don’t make the tackle. We can get there. We’ve done it before. We’ve been in this position before. We can get better. We will because we have no choice. We just have to finish.”
Johnson, a nickel right end who began the season playing some first- and second-down SAM linebacker, looks to be playing exclusively end. Probably until Fanene comes back.
“We just have to go and get off the ball,” he said, recalling what Zimmer has emphasized this week. “Be physical every chance we get. Play our style of football and have fun.”
The D-linemen are definitely going to have to realize when they get to Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman, the job is only half done because he’s 6-6, 250 pounds and doesn’t like to run. He does like to shed would-be tacklers long enough to throw it downfield.
“We have to make sure we bring our feet and wrap up,” Johnson said of bringing pressure. “And get as many hands on him as we can.”
» The Ocho talked this week about the double coverage he draws, but he says he expects it early in the season and from a division opponent. With the NFC Bucs in town Sunday, he says teams outside the division that the Bengals don’t play often are where he “makes his hay.”
True. In the 25 games against NFC teams since
Although, he did seem a little discouraged after work Friday while he watched some Tampa film, Ochocinco tweeted, “Man, this damn film bleeps, cover 2, cover 4 and 3 and fire zone here and there, i am going to starbucks."
The Ocho figures Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber is going to get help covering him, so he says it’s kind of a so-so matchup. “Like Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins,” he said.
He says he’s going to go to the Reds playoff game Sunday, but first he asked how they did in the first game in Philly and he wasn’t too sure what a no-hitter is.
“No hits at all?” he asked. “When you say, ‘No hits,’ that means they hit the ball, but somebody caught it?”
Right. When he asked if Philly’s Roy Halladay pitched the entire game, he was surprised to hear he did.
“So he’s on steroids, too, right?” joshed The Ocho.