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Zimmer vows better, tighter D; Standeford's strange trip

Posted Aug 15, 2011


Mike Zimmer

Updated: 5:15 p.m.

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — Coming off a game in which four Lions quarterbacks led scoring drives, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer insisted his unit isn't panicking and called on all of his 18 years in the NFL to hammer into his players that they are a lot better than that.

Tackle Domata Peko urged patience to a fan base furious with the 34-3 loss in Detroit that has come on the heels of the retirement of quarterback Carson Palmer and the loss of top free agent priority Johnathan Joseph.

"My message to the fans is to keep the faith, believe," Peko said. "It's just one game. We're going to fix things. That's what the preseason is for: To learn from the mistakes and keep getting better. Keep being excited because we're going to have a good season."

Peko was buoyed by the Bengals holding the Lions to just 2.1 yards per 33 rushes and Zimmer praised their run fits and the lack of mental mistakes.

"That's what we're going to have to do in the AFC North; stop the run," Peko said.

But Zimmer fumed about Detroit quarterbacks completing 22 of 32 passes, so he came back breathing fire about contesting every pass and tightening up coverage, which is what he arrived saying in 2008 when he took the Bengals from No. 27 to No. 12 in the NFL rankings.

"I may be an idiot," Zimmer said after Monday morning's practice. "But I know a good defense and a bad defense and we have a chance to be a good defense. I'm more convinced after I watched the tape. That's OK. I like to be doubted."

On Monday here at Georgetown College in the first workout since the game, his team responded by draping themselves on receivers and sending the offense through a miserable session. The quick, short passes that rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has completed so often here were suddenly getting batted down or not thrown at all. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was heard to bark during the morning, "Somebody has to do something to stop the bleeding over here."

Zimmer has heard the critics railing about the pass rush with no sacks and all of three quarterback hits, but he saw something else.

"We weren't rushing the passer. That's what everybody says. We didn't have the chance to rush the passer because we didn't cover anybody," Zimmer said. "We've been emphasizing not so much getting tight on everything, but we've been emphasizing being in the right place. Teaching concepts. Everybody's (mad). We have a sense of urgency, too, but we're not panicking.

"We were soft. We didn't cover. I was more embarrassed about how we didn't challenge receivers. That's more my fault than their fault. They'll do what you ask."

They certainly did Monday when the first offensive unit, quarterbacked by backup Bruce Gradkowski, was ordered to run a lap by head coach Marvin Lewis when it went offsides. The defense also had to run a lap after it moved early, but they clearly won the day. About 75 minutes into the practice, Lewis called everybody up to get things in order.

"It was a slow day. We had some ups and downs," Dalton said. "We had some offsides penalties, fumbled snaps. Little things we can't have if we're going to be good. If we're going to win ball games, we can't have these mistakes. We've got to take this and learn from it, and come out tomorrow and be ready to go."

"That's what he was saying," Dalton said of Lewis' rant. "It didn’t start how we wanted to, but how are we going to respond? I think that's the attitude we have to have, especially after the first preseason game."

FROM OCHO TO OFFICIALS: John Standeford hadn't been in a football uniform since last November until Friday night's crazy-quilted debut with the Bengals. With the Bengals decimated at receivers, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden reached into his UFL depth chart and pulled out the 29-year-old Standeford, the Big Ten's all-time leading receiver at Purdue that caught 16 balls for the 2008-2009 Lions and played for him last year in Florida.

It's a good thing he was close, about two hours away from Cincinnati, in his hometown of Monrovia, Ind. Standeford was able to jump in the car, sign the deal in Cincinnati, drive to Georgetown to get on the team bus after the walkthrough, and fly to Detroit.

"I say I'm from Indianapolis because (Monrovia) is a pretty small town," he said.

The Bengals wanted to know if he was in shape and since he had planned to play in the UFL again, Standeford told them he was ready. He wasn't as ready to wear No. 85, but the unassuming education major from a town of 1,000 people who has been working at a friend's company didn't mind wearing the number of the most famous Bengal in history.

"I don't really talk about other players," said Standeford, who brushed elbows with Pro Bowl receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in some Colts camps. "He performed on the field. At least he got his job done."

While the 6-4, 205-pound Standeford worked out, he helped out his friends' sports officiating business. He characterized it as "We communicate, organize and grow officiating. It's kind of a LinkedIn for officials." But he couldn't draw an interference penalty on his first play, a post from Dalton that was knocked down at the goal line by Lions cornerback Brandon McDonald late in the first half.

Naturally, Standeford wasn't supposed to be out there but rookie receiver A.J. Green lost his shoe and was catching his breath and suddenly No. 85 was in the huddle.

It was the first time Standeford had been in the huddle and he couldn't remember if he had even caught a ball from Dalton during warmups. Of course, in the second half Standeford caught what would be the Bengals' longest play of the night, an 18-yarder from Gradkowski. But then he also fell victim to the WR injury hex.

"I don't know if I had the wrong type of shoes or what," he said. "But both my (big) toes were bleeding and both my big toenails are going to fall off. Fight through it."

It didn't stop Standeford from lining up Monday morning and joining him were three receivers that didn't play Friday in Andre Caldwell, Quan Cosby and Jamere Holland. Still out with what are believed to be muscle pulls were Ryan Whalen, Andrew Hawkins and Landon Cox.

Gruden's playbook has pretty much the same verbiage Standeford had in Florida, so the transition hasn't been all painful.

"It's pretty much the same; a couple of things are different," Standeford said. "It's just knocking the rust off a little bit."

MORE INJURIES: The Bengals had 14 players out of practice Monday, but got some guys back besides Scott and the three receivers. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap (knee), cornerback Jonathan Wade (shoulder) and tight end Garrett Mills (foot) were back after long absences. But the Bengals also had a new, unknown injury to rookie running back Jay Finley. Tight end Jermaine Gresham was also but it didn't appear to be serious.

It's believed that backup SAM linebacker Dontay Moch (broken foot) and backup guard Otis Hudson (knee) will be back soon enough in the regular season that they won't need to go on injured reserve.

Backup WILL backer Vincent Rey was forced to play backup SAM in Moch's place, but he's a bit undersized for that. Zimmer needs the other backup WILL backer, Brandon Johnson, as well as backup MLB Dan Skuta to play over there until Moch gets back, which could be for the home opener in the third game of the season.

SLANTS AND SCREENS

» Defensive lineman Jon Fanene officially signed Monday morning after getting his physical and gets on the field for the first time at Tuesday's 7 p.m. practice. But since he has arrived more than two weeks in, Lewis said not to expect to see much of him for awhile.

» Running back Bernard Scott (hamstring) worked for the first time since the first practice July 30 and did everything but 11-on-11. He says he'll play Sunday against the Jets. He says this offense is much better suited for his pass catching and when he dropped one in 7-on-7 he went to the Jugs machine after practice and caught about 30. He said he thinks he came up lame right away because he overtrained during the lockout. 

» Defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who missed Friday's game and has been pretty much alternating practice days, practiced Monday. Geno Atkins took snaps with the first team, but Johnson is still listed No. 1 on the depth chart. All other 21 spots lined up like last Friday's Game Day depth chart.

» Cornerback Leon Hall, usually the Bengals right cornerback in his four seasons with Joseph, started out at left corner Friday night. But he and Nate Clements switched after the first two series, something they've been doing after pretty much every series at camp.

Since Hall often played on the left when Joseph wasn't in the game (which was 48 percent of last year's snaps), Zimmer doesn't think it's that big of a switch. Hall says it's OK as long as he gets the reps now because the footwork is different. And he likes it because "it opens up the playbook," he said.

But he says that's not why Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson beat him one-on-one for TDs within 1:29 early in Friday's game down the Bengals' left side. Hall says he got beat off the line of scrimmage both times, dooming what he did at the end.

"He gave up three catches in the game, his technique has to get better," Zimmer said. "He knows it. He's a great kid. He works his butt off. He's smart, he's tough, he's dependable, he's everything you really want. He just needs to work on technique things and I think he'll be fine."

 

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