BY GEOFF HOBSON - GEORGETOWN, Ky.
The Akili Smith-Peter Warrick combination got off on the right foot today when Smith threw 54 yards off the wrong foot to find a free-lancing Warrick for a touchdown that spiced the Bengals intrasquad scrimmage here at rainy Georgetown College.
"Kool Aid," said Warrick after the NFL Draft's top playmaker emerged with three catches for 64 yards.
But Smith swallowed disappoinment after his tentative outing helped the defense to a 24-13 victory in front of 5,188. He generated just 104 yards in six drives and got intercepted once. But what had both Smith and coach Bruce Coslet concerned was the three sacks he took while holding on to the ball in the pocket.
"I'm not satisfied. I feel I need work," Smith said. "I just didn't feel as comfortable as I could be back there. I'm always thinking about making the big play instead of throwing it away and cut my losses."
Offensive coordinator Ken Anderson, the Bengals' all-time leading passer, thought Smith was being too hard on himself. He did complete seven of 11 passes and Artrell Hawkins' interception came off fellow cornerback Tom Carter's tip.
"Akili worked so hard in the offseason and he worked so hard in training camp that I just think he wanted to come out here and be spectacular," Anderson said. "But he's just a part of it. He has to do his job. He can't do everybody else's job. He'll settle. Look at the big play he did make. He can do that. We just need the consistency."
The big play came on the offense's 46-yard line. Warrick ran a slant against rookie free agent cornerback Brian Gray and Gray "jumped," him in tight coverage. Smith saw the same thing happen a few days ago in practice and he dumped it to a back.
* Continued from Frontpage*
But this time, Warrick said his eyes met Smith's and, "he just looked at me like, 'Go ahead Pete,'" so Warrick buzzed the pattern up field past rookie free agent free safety Gary Thompkins and Smith double clutched at the last instant in lofting it to Warrick as he caught it a good five yards ahead of the field.
"That's nothing new," said rookie receiver Ron Dugans, Warrick's Florida State teammate. "That's Peter Warrick. It's all about making plays. Hopefully he'll rub off on everybody else."
He must have rubbed off on reserve quarterback Scott Covington and fifth-round pick Robert Bean, a backup cornerback. Covington set up his 19-yard touchdown pass to reserve tight end Steve Bush with a 45-yard sideline bomb to free agent rookie receiver Eddie Hardaway. But Bean sealed the defense's victory on the last play of the day when he stretched out over the middle to intercept Covington and earn the defense's second five-point turnover of the day.
Smith couldn't muster any consistency. On his pass before the touchdown, he badly overthrew wide receiver Craig Yeast in a bid to take advantage of a free play because the defense had 12 men on the field. Coslet would rather have him doing that than holding it, although Smith thought he could have got away from two of the three sacks.
"It's what you're going to see because he's young," Coslet said. "That's why (Browns rookie quarterback) Tim Couch took (56) sack last year. . .You've got to get back there and throw it. Get ready to take the good with the bad."
Smith didn't let his day interfere with his decision to make the huddle his own. On a third-and-nine, he hit Warrick over the middle for a four-yard gain. But Warrick failed to get the first down because he tried to make a move to get outside. Smith told him coming off the field to take it straight up the field.
"He could have got the extra four, five yards that way," Smith said. "He could do that (in college), but here when he turned back in there were big defensive linemen."
Warrick's tear-away jersey moves that left defenders leaning gave the first week of training camp some glitz. But he said today, "I've got a long way to go, learning the plays and learning the system. I'm learning day in and day out."
Dugans finished with one catch for four yards and observed, "It was a typical first scrimmage. The team comes out and doesn't look as good. We showed some good signs and some bad signs. That's what practice is for."
Anderson wasn't panicking about his quarterback with the preseason opener six nights away in Buffalo.
"One thing he does is learn from experience and he'll learn off this scrimmage," Anderson said. "And he'll be better his next time out."