Rex looks at DL; Tackling Tez eyes Jets; Hawkins back; Whit sells pitch as tix remain

Posted Oct 23, 2013 has Bengals WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict with a league-best 74 tackles, but you can understand why he's not concerned about tackling stats.

Vontaze Burfict

Updated: 4:30 p.m.

What can get lost in all the Rex Ryan New York tabloid stuff, much of which he brings on himself, is that the guy can coach.

Whether it is as the Ravens defensive line coach under Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis or as the Ravens defensive coordinator or as the Jets head coach going 3-0 against Lewis, the guy can coach defense.

And on Wednesday's conference call with the Cincinnati media, Ryan raved about two defensive linemen in Sunday's 4:05 p.m. game at Paul Brown Stadium. His own, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Cincinnati's Geno Atkins. Wilkerson, a first-round pick out of Temple in 2011 who has yet to play against the Bengals, has a sack in three straight games and 10 in his last 14 and Ryan is pushing him for the Pro Bowl rather hard.

“This guy is phenomenal, similar to Atkins. Really a dominant player in the interior. He’s 6-5, 315 pounds and great length," Ryan said. "He can beat you over the center, guard or tackle. The thing I look at with him is that he’s really consistent. He’s got six sacks on the season but a sack in every game but one. He missed (Ben) Roethlisberger three different times. He’s a good tackler. He’s an all-around guy. They shouldn’t even have a Pro Bowl if he doesn’t go this year. Without question, he should be a first-team All-Pro. Don’t even have the game if he’s not going.”

Ryan has high regard for the Bengals defensive line, even if he doesn't know all of their names. But he knows Atkins.

“The thing I love about him is he has a great motor. Has a great skill set, strong hands but I love his motor," Ryan said. "He keeps going and he’s got a whole complement of moves. He’s full of energy. He’s an outstanding player. When you have the two big bookends outside of them. (Carlos) Dunlap is playing extremely well and then (Michael) Johnson as a right end and then the big dude (Domata Peko) with the hair inside, this is a great group."

Ryan does know the names of the two Bengals tight ends, but as a guy that schemed for the Patriots tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez six times since 2010, he doesn't see much of the same in Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert.

“I see them different. Certainly I can understand the Gresham and Gronk comparisons but I don’t see Eifert being Hernandez," Ryan said. "He’s a good receiver but just a different body type. Eifert is more length while Hernandez was more explosive. I think they’re different that way.”

TACKLING TEZ: has Bengals WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict with a league-best 74 tackles, but you can understand why he's not concerned about tackling stats. The Bengals have him for 93 tackles. Plus, last week's press-box stats had him with 13 tackles in the win over Detroit. But the coaches awarded 17.

"That's why I really don't care about it," Burfict said before Wednesday's practice. The NFL gave me 10 tackles (in Detroit). The coach checks the film and says, 'I got you for 17 tackles.' How did they miss seven tackles? I can tell you there are other players they don't miss tackles, I can tell you that."

A Rex Ryan team loves to run the ball and this Jets team is no different. New York is 11th in the league in rushing and pounded it 52 times in the win over New England last week. But Burfict says he doubts the Jets will try it as much this Sunday.

"They're probably going to find out in the first 15 to 20 snaps that the run is going to be pretty hard against our front seven," Burfict said. "I was telling Rey (Maualuga), 'Man, I hope it rains. They'll be forced to run.' "

By the way, Burfict is follwoing in the footsteps of his locker mate, SAM linebacker James Harrison, and is getting a weekly dose of acupuncture. Tough?

"I feel like I just played a game," he said.

HAWK BACK: Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins says he's back practicing Wednesday, his first workout since he severely sprained his ankle in the first week of training camp a total of 83 days ago.

He's on injured reserve-recall, meaning the Bengals have three weeks from Wednesday to decide how to proceed with him the rest of the season. He's eligible to return to the active roster for the next game (Miami on Halloween Night) after the Bengals play the Jets this Sunday.

It's believed that cornerback Leon Hall undergoes surgery for his torn Achilles on Monday, but the Bengals didn't seem in a hurry to fill that 53rd slot Wednesday. Backup defensive tackle Devon Still (elbow) has been ruled out of Sunday's game.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones (shoulder) and cornerback Terence Newman (ankle) worked on the side Wednesday. Jones had a huge 18-yard catch on third-and-12 last Sunday on the first drive of the second hallf after falling on his left shoulder while catching a 12-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the first half. Newman didn't work Wednesday and Thursday last week with a hip-abdomen issue but played Sunday after practicing Friday. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (hamstring) was dressed but working on the side. Running back Rex Burkhead (calf) was limited.

TIX LEFT: There are still tickets available for Sunday's game, some in the lower level. No sellout announcement is expected Wednesday in anticipation of Thursday's 72-hour sellout deadline for local TV.

The fans who are going will be watching a Bengals team trying to go 4-0 at home for the first time since the 1988 AFC champs went undefeated at Riverfront Stadium. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who has played more games at Paul Brown Stadium than anyone on offense, says the last two games against Green Bay and New England were as loud as he's ever heard it.

"It has been as loud and as great an environment since I've been here," Whitworth said. "I can still remember kicking a field goal against Buffalo (to win) and there were about 10 people in the stands. We've had some ugly shows and enough to where sometimes the other team's got more fans in the stands than we do. We're starting to create that environment. Hopefully we can continue."

Back on Oct. 2, 2011 the Green-Dalton era won its first PBS game before 41,142 on Mike Nugent's 43-yard field goal at the gun. The Bengals have been to the playoffs twice since then and are working on a five-game sellout skein, and as they go all out to sell out at the deadline despite currently being the AFC's No. 2 seed and being 3-0 at home, Whitworth says the players hope to keep it going.

"It's tough; we're used to it," Whitworth said. "We have to continue to try and create that environment so people buy in and want to come and want to be a part of it. That's all we can do. All we can do is go out there and play and try to win. This is an entertainment business and the end of the day to us it's about winning and hopefully that will entertain the fans and they'll come out and support us."


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