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Quick hits: Tinkering with pass; Simpson's good reviews

Posted May 25, 2010


Antonio Bryant prepares to run a route during Tuesday's OTA session.

Updated: 5:30 p.m.

It was a busy day Tuesday for the offense as the Bengals try to raise their passing game to the level of its ninth-ranked running game and fourth-ranked defense. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski threw a plethora of schemes at his guys to start the third week of voluntary workouts on the field and quarterback Carson Palmer wasn’t unhappy when things came out a little mismatched.

“We’re trying to do different things and we’re moving guys around trying to create mismatches by alignment; that’s new to us,” Palmer said after practice. “And something our defense has struggled with trying to cover us.”

After going through two-minute, no-huddle, red zone and unbalanced line, Palmer figured the Bengals offense is trying to sift through about 40 plays that get whittled to 20 for training camp with the idea of trying to keep the defense guessing. For instance, it could be tall and speedy Matt Jones lined up in the slot against a small cornerback.

“Getting a big guy that is supposed to be on the outside on the inside,” Palmer said. “Or moving Antonio (Bryant) around all over the place. No. 2, No. 3, No. 1. You don’t want them to know where he’s going to be every time. It’s not so much getting him on a mismatch. We don’t think it matters if it’s going to be a nickel (corner), linebacker, or starting corner. We think it’s going to be a mismatch. But just getting him in a spot where the defense isn’t sure where he’s going to be once we break the huddle.”

Exhibit A is that Bryant is playing the Z (strong side) as well as the F (the slot) when he has usually only played the X (the weak side).

“I like it. I like playing different spots,” said Bryant, who caught a career-high 83 balls in 2008 when Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden had him at the Z. “It allows you to use all of your talent.”

Bryant says the toughest part of his transition in his free-agency move has been a day like Tuesday, the first day of the week for on-field sessions when the players receive new information. It gets easier as the week goes on, and Bratkowski understands.

“It was a little bit of a rough day because we had two-minute, we had no-huddle, red zone and we had some of our unbalanced line stuff in there,” Bratkowski said. “It was a major learning day and we weren’t as sharp, but we exposed them to a lot.”

» Bratkowski says the Bengals may use more no-huddle this year. It was an element the Bengals pretty much had to shelve in ’09 when their two regular tight ends were lost for the season in the first week of training camp to go along with four new starters on the offensive line.

“I think that is yet to be determined, but I can see us maybe doing a little more,” he said. “For the guys up front they have to think quick and react quick so experience certainly helps.” 

» Bratkowski, by the way, won the closest-to-the-pin celebrity challenge that opened the Marvin Lewis Golf Classic Presented by Cincinnati Bell Sunday morning at Shaker Run Golf Course. A 130-yard nine iron that “might have been my last good shot of the day; I’m usually up and down," he said. "More up than down." His team shot 8-under.

» Chad Ochocinco returns to his X spot for the June 15-17 mandatory minicamp. He'll be in town June 12, which is about the time he got here last year. He films his dating show starting next week and he'll be done in about 10 days.

» Safety Roy Williams, who has been limited to seven games the past two years with a broken forearm, is wearing a new light brace to protect it during practice. Williams wasn’t wearing his pad last year in the first week of October when he got caught by surprise and got run into hard during practice and re-broke it. He smiled and said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer got on him for not wearing the pad “after the fact.” 

» So much for cornerback Morgan Trent playing some safety. He said he did it one day last week, Wednesday, and the coaches told him to forget it for now and just get settled into corner and the nickel corner.

“I think we’re going to go back to it at some point,” Trent said. “They said it wasn’t because of how I played, but they just want to concentrate on those two right now.”

» Catch of the day: In the red zone, wide receiver Jerome Simpson stretching out in a dive to the sidelines to pluck a ball from Palmer. Palmer says Simpson, with his one career catch, has improved more since the end of last season until now than he has during his two previous seasons. 

“The one thing you want to see Jerome do is make plays consistently,” Palmer said. “He’s consistently made plays every practice. If he can keep doing that from now until training camp and from training camp into the preseason and from the preseason into the regular season, the sky’s the limit for him.”

The 6-2, 195-pound Simpson is gamely battling to shed the label of second-round bust. He possesses tremendous athleticism, leaping ability and fairly sticky hands. But he has frustrated the coaches with his inability to hone his skills with technique. Bratkowski says it’s not so much assignment error, but the imprecision of his routes that “fools the quarterback.”

“He’s got a little more confidence in himself,” Bratkowski said. “Sometimes he reverts to old habits, but he has made a lot of nice, spectacular plays. He just needs to keep being in a position where he doesn’t fool the quarterback. He isn’t quite the same he should be every time, but he’s gotten a lot better at that.

“The assignments (have) not been the (big) issue. It’s just been consistent. Running the same route the same way every time. Don’t fool the quarterback. Either getting the depths wrong on it, being way short, or way deep on a route. Or an extra move in the top (of the route) that we don’t teach. He’s kind of clearing those things out of him and it’s leading to a little more consistency.”

Palmer thinks the fact Simpson is taking the X reps in place of The Ocho has given Simpson more confidence because “he’s not standing and watching somebody else do it; he’s doing it himself,” he said.    

» Kicker Mike Nugent lined up a field goal for the first time in a team drill and was 4-for-6, missing left from 38 and short and right from 48, but he hit the 44-yarder solid.

"I knew right away on both of them when they went off the foot," Nugent said. "Not strong, solid hits. A little bit of it is (rust), it's the first time we lined up in team, but we've been doing snap and holds for a long time. It's a little different than being on the side. But you don't want it to be (rusty). You want to be able to hit every single one. I'll watch the film and make sure I make the corrections."

» Don't expect the Bengals to vote for a New York Super Bowl. They've always gone with the best site for fans, and that doesn't seem to fit their model. Palmer said Tuesday he'd prefer a warm weather site, but he thought the Bengals would have the edge in the cold weather because they practice in it as well as play in it.

“It would definitely be an advantage for our team because we’re used to being outside no matter what the weather is,” Palmer said. “But just from a fan’s perspective, I’d much rather go and sit in shorts and a T-shirt and watch a football game than with hand warmers and boots and a snow cap.”

Palmer says a lot of his teammates are preparing for a lockout in 2011 "because we're assuming it's going to happen." But it's not exactly a daily discussion. He says it is brought up every couple of weeks by the players that are talking to the NFL Players Association but he says he's more concentrated on getting through a day like Tuesday with all the different packages that are getting installed. 

» Rehabbing on the side: Rookie wide receiver Dez Briscoe (groin), right end Antwan Odom and tight end Reggie Kelly (Achilles) defensive tackle Pat Sims (arm), safety Chris Crocker (ankle), safety Tom Nelson (knee) right tackle Andre Smith (foot), kicker Dave Rayner (hip).

 

        

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