Notes: Green limited; Fan vote; Pressley return should ease short yardage; Cards QB up in air

Posted Dec 21, 2011

Chris Pressley

Updated: 6:50 p.m.

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green went through the early stages of Wednesday morning’s practice on the Paul Brown Stadium field, indicating his sprained shoulder won’t keep him out of Saturday’s game (1 p.m.-WLW-700) against the Cardinals at PBS, and he was listed as limited.

Third-down back Brian Leonard (knee) returned for the first time in a couple of weeks and put the backfield at full strength with fullback Chris Pressley (knee) working for a second straight day and running back Ceric Benson working after getting Tuesday off. Leonard and Pressley were listed as limited, as was safety Chris Crocker (knee).

The only regulars not practicing were wide receiver Andre Caldwell (groin) and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee). Whitworth, not working for the second straight day, said he's just getting some rest to "heal" some ailments and he'll be ready. Caldwell’s status is not as clear.

Also working for a second straight day was right tackle Andre Smith (ankle) after he missed the last two games, and he was listed as limited. Outside linebacker Dontay Moch, limited of late with migraines, went full go Wednesday.

PRO BOWL VOTE: The Pro Bowl fan voting, which closed this week, is only one-third of the process that yields the AFC and NFC teams for Tuesday’s 7 p.m. announcement on NFL Network. The players and coaches voted Wednesday and they’ll decide it.

The only Bengal who made it by the fan vote was Bengals rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, who took the third and final AFC spot behind New England's Wes Welker and Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace with 599,955 votes, good for a 212,138 pad on San Diego’s Vincent Jackson and 285,841 on Miami’s Brandon Marshall.

Geno Atkins, who tied the Bengals record with eight sacks by a defensive tackle last Sunday, finished fourth, just 22,789 votes away from New England’s Vince Wilfork and nearly 325,000 votes shy of leader Haloti Ngata of the Ravens.

Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton came in fifth with 333,553 votes, nearly 300,000 votes shy of the third-place total of Denver’s Tim Tebow and more than 1 million off Tom Brady’s number.

Those were the only Bengals in the top five. Bengals kicker Mike Nugent has the league’s top field-goal percentage at .931, but didn’t make a cut of Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski (.889), Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff  (.750), New England’s Stephen Gostkowski (.857), Denver’s Matt Pater (.750) and Houston’s Neil Rackers (.813).

PRESSLEY HOPES TO GO: Bengals fullback Chris Pressley doesn’t know who the best teams in the NFL are in short yardage this season. But he knows this:

“I’m sure who is ever doing it the best understands the importance of it and every man is on his man and the back has to make a play,” Pressley said this week. ”That’s the bottom line. Sometimes it’s not going to be perfect. You’ve just got to stuff it in. Do what you have to do. From the linemen, the guys blocking the edge, the tight end. Everybody has to be on.”

Without Pressley and backup Brian Leonard, out with knee injuries, the Bengals found out just how costly short-yardage can be went it nearly cost them a playoff spot in last Sunday’s tight 20-13 win over the Rams. Three failed short yardage plays (two third-and-ones and one fourth-and-one) led directly to a 6-6 game early in the third quarter when two failures led to a Rams field goal and the other forced the Bengals to kick a field goal.

Pressley says it has been emphasized this week by head coach Marvin Lewis, as well as his staff.

“Coach has talked to us about the importance of it; of everybody knowing who they have to have,” said Presley, who thinks he can play Sunday and is back to practice in limited fashion.

“One of the first ones, there was some misunderstanding by one or two of the guys. We understand the fire of third-and-ones and goal line. We’ve been bad in the red zone and some of those things just have to change. It’s an emphasis this week.”

On Tuesday, running back Cedric Benson said the conversion rate on those key plays has to be in the upper 70s and he’s right.

According to Elias, the Bengals are 12th in the league at converting third-and-two or less at 20-for-32 for 62.5 percent, slightly different than the figure of 20-for-34. The top three are the Chargers at 85.7 percent (36-for-42), the Panthers at 78.6 (22-for-28), and the Texans at 77.8 (28-for-36). Before Sunday, the Bengals were 68.9 at 20-for-29.

“It’s surprising because it seems like when we most need it, we’re not getting it done,” Benson said of the numbers. “We’re not executing it like we should be. That should be in the high 70s, obviously. It’s a mindset. It’s just one yard.

“I can’t speak on other guys. I know what it takes to get one yard. You can’t do a lot of reading. You have to go get it, find a crease and jump in there. The defense has to have better calls or want it more than we do.”

After Wednesday’s practice, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said he thought the Bengals had a handle on it this season up until Sunday. Indeed, with Pressley playing fullback as compared to tight ends playing fullback last year, the Bengals converted less than 50 percent of third third-and-twos or less in 2010.

Gruden took a lot of the blame for Sunday by opting to use rookie tight end Colin Cochart at fullback on the three plays. The coaches are extremely excited about Cochart’s future as a blocker, but they admit the position switch was too much too soon. Gruden now says he just shouldn’t have gone with a fullback on those plays.

“We’ve been pretty good at it; obviously last week we stumbled,” Gruden said. “Went to the wrong guy a couple of times. Hopefully with Chris back we’ll be better.

“Nothing against Colin. Hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have put him in that position to do that in a key play. Maybe later on, if the game was in our favor we’d give him a shot and let him lead on some plays, but third-and-one, and fourth-and-one is not quite his cup of tea yet.”

But Gruden loves how Pressley approaches it.

“Short yardage is all about an attitude by the offensive line, the fullback and the halfback,” he said. “Fullbacks have to be a little different in the head. He doesn’t get any carries, poor guy. He’s got a couple of passes, but he’s got to go up in there, buckle up his chin strap, put his mouthpiece in and go up into another guy. Just run into him, Chris. Now run into him.

“He does a great job cleaning up and sometimes he cleans up guys that aren’t his. He’s got a pretty good feel for the outside zone, the inside zone, the (isolation), for all of them. He’s got good vision and every once in a while he gets too high but for the most part he’s done a good job this year.”

KOLB LIMITED: Even though Kevin Kolb was limited in Wednesday's practice in Arizona, the Cardinals QB on Saturday is still undecided. Kolb told the media out there that John Skelton took a few more snaps than he did and head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he wants to see how Kolb responds Thursday after being shelved with a concussion. Whisenhunt had said the QB that practices the most will play, but if Kolb reacts well he may be the guy.


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