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Notes: Gannon on Dalton; Bengals wary of Campbell's experience; Zeitler out; Harrison questionable

Posted Nov 15, 2013

Sunday could be the first missed game of Kevin Zeitler's career.


Kevin Zeitler

Updated: 4:55 p.m.

Rich Gannon, who finished 20 games over .500 as a starting NFL quarterback (76-56), believes the Bengals have a winner in Andy Dalton that can win the biggest game of all.

"I know you can win with him. You can win a lot games of with him and I think you can win (a Super Bowl) with him," Gannon said after Friday's practice at Paul Brown Stadium. "You just have to realize he's not the kind of guy where you can rely on his right arm to win 14 games a year. And that doesn't mean you're still not special."

Gannon, in town to call Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Browns with Marv Albert on CBS, believes Dalton "has plenty of arm strength" to play in the NFL.

"I really like him a lot. I like his durability, I like his toughness, I like the fact he never misses starts, I like the fact he's very intelligent. I think he can make all the throws," Gannon said. "I think he has issues with the deep ball he still has to get worked out, but I don't overreact to that. I don't think it's a huge thing. It's a timing deal."

What does concern Gannon are the six interceptions in the last two weeks, particularly Dalton's red-zone mistake in Miami where he threw the ball behind wide receiver Marvin Jones for a pick-six.

"I think he's a good player, but he has get to the next level, the upper echelon," Gannon said, "When guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees throw three interceptions in a game, it's like 'What just happened?' He's got to eliminate those games to get to the next level."

But it's not all on Dalton, he says. Don't let someone else's mistake become your mistake, Gannon counsels.

"I think he has to realize his own strengths and limitations. What he does well and what he can get away with," Gannon said. "If the receiver is a hair out of his break early, can you make up for that by driving that thing in there? If you can, then do it. If you can't, throw it away or move off him.

"I think that's what has happened a little bit. He throws an out route and the guy is supposed to be 18 yards and the guy is 15, he's late and he's got to speed it up to get it in there. His mechanics are rushed, he puts it in there a little behind and the corner picks it off."

Gannon also says it's not helping Dalton that he's leading the NFL with 383 pass attempts. He thinks the Bengals have to get back to the formula of last month, which seems like a year ago, but Dalton was AFC Offensive Player of the Month and the Bengals won four straight.

"I know they were in overtime games, but throwing it over 50 times is not them," Gannon said. "That's not how they're built. They've got to get back to what they were doing. Rein him in a little bit, run the ball with those two backs, keep a fresh back on the field, the play-action game, and let him take shots and do his thing. When they get one-dimensional it's not good for anybody."

CAUTIOUS ON CAMPBELL: The Browns never beat Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer at Paul Brown Stadium and have yet to beat Andy Dalton at home as head coach Marvin Lewis holds an 8-2 advantage over Cleveland at home. The two Browns victories in Cincinnati against Lewis came against Jon Kitna in 2003 and Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2008.

But with Jason Campbell making his 74th NFL start, the Browns have their most experienced quarterback at the helm at PBS since Kelly Holcomb got bowled over in Cincinnati's 58-48 victory in 2004. Charlie Frye never had more than 20 starts when he played down here in 2005 and 2006, and Derek Anderson had less than 20 starts in 2007 and won his 22nd against Fitzpatrick the next season. Brady Quinn (2009), Colt McCoy (2010) and Brandon Weeden (2012) had less than 10 NFL starts when they lost at PBS.

The Browns are riding Campbell's calm demeanor and heady quarterbacking as if he's Johnny Unitas instead of a nine-year journeyman and why not? It's been so long since they had experience there. And the Bengals have high regard for the depth of Campbell's résumé. Bengals defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry saw it when he played for the Chiefs and Campbell worked for the Raiders a few years back.

"He's s checkdown king. He's not going to make any mistakes. He very seldom gets sacked because he's always throwing it away," Gilberry said this week. "Very smart in the pocket. We just have to take care of business on him.

"He's the same guy. He plays hard, he plays to win and he wants to win. He's not going to put his team in jeopardy. It is up to us to get around him and make him feel uncomfortable and take advantage of the mistakes he does make."

INJURY UPDATE: Nickel cornerback Chris Crocker (hamstring) is doubtful and right guard Kevin Zeitler (foot) is out after missing every day of practice this week.

And in a surprise SAM linebacker James Harrison (calf) surfaced on Friday's injury report after not practicing and was called questionable. That's another shot to an already undermanned defense. Michael Boley, (hamstring) who went full for the first time this week Friday and is probable, could replace Harrison. But Harrison gave the nickel package a lift last week when he rushed from end and tackle and came up with two pressures and a fumble recovery. He also has 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles against Cleveland since 2007.

Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) suited up for the first time since Oct. 27 and went limited, but he was called doubtful. Defensive tackle Devon Still (elbow) didn't work again and is out for the fourth straight game. Lewis did say everyone is going to be back for the Dec. 1 game in San Diego after next week's bye.

Crocker's injury may put cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick in the slot, although Brandon Ghee played inside last time the Bengals played the Browns because Kirkpatrick was injured. Ghee did get beaten on a third-down pass in the red zone back in September, but otherwise drew fairly solid praise for the most extensive scrimage work of his NFL career. That was Crocker's first game back after signing in mid-week and he has taken the most reps in the slot since.

It is the first miss of Zeitler's career. He has started all 26 games since arriving via the first round in 2012. Rookie Tanner Hawkinson, a fifth-rounder, is listed as the backup behind Zeitler. But backup left guard Mike Pollak, who played at right guard during some of his five previous seasons, is also an option with his 41 NFL starts.

Lewis sounded like he's going with Pollak even though he's played in just two games after missing the first month of the regular season with a knee injury. But Lewis says Pollak looks ready.

"He's done well in practice," Lewis said. "He's a smart guy and this is why we have him here. Back up the interior and he's getting a chance to do that."

Everyone else is probable. Cornerback Terence Newman (ankle) and center Kyle Cook (shoulder) were limited and were still probable.

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