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Pre-Game Notebook: Munoz Seeks Striped Company In Hall; Big Night For Bengals O-Line With Return Of D'Ante Smith

D'Ante Smith looks healthy.
D'Ante Smith looks healthy.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. _ Anthony Munoz, the lone Bengal in Canton, agrees with a great way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first-ballot election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame next summer:

The election of not only senior nominee and Super Bowl XVI teammate Ken Riley, but modern-era candidate and fellow tackle in the franchise Ring of Honor Willie Anderson.

"And get all those Bengals fans to Canton," said Munoz Sunday morning, preparing to work that night's preseason game against the Giants as Cincinnati's Local 12 analyst.

"I've been waiting like this," said Munoz, the massive left tackle wingspan of the greatest offensive lineman who ever lived extended for an embrace. "I'm getting lonelier every year."

Like everyone else in Bengaldom, Munoz is elated with word that the Riley, the late cornerback who is the fifth greatest interceptor of all-time, is one of three senior players who has been nominated to go to January's final vote. And disappointed that quarterback Ken Anderson, the NFL MVP that Super Bowl XVI season, didn't make it.

"You know how I feel about Ken Anderson, but I'm very pleased for Kenny and the Riley family. It means so much to them. It always gets back to, man, I wish he was with us," Munoz said. "It's always very emotional. When I've experienced when the family is there and their (relative) has passed, it's crazy over the top emotion. I'm excited and I'll be even more excited when they say No. 13 is in."

The last obstacle for Riley in January as well as former Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko and former Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley, is the 49-member board of selectors. They'll be presented before the board and then voted on individually and must be approved by 80 percent of a panel that includes Bengals.com. The last time a senior nominee didn't win induction was ten years ago.

Munoz, who played against Klecko and is a supporter, says he turned down a chance to endorse him in a Zoom call.

"I'm a Klecko guy," Munoz said. "But I told them my campaign is for my guys. I think Kenny Anderson is a head scratcher. When he and I were at the Super Bowl in Minnesota where they were honoring past Walter Payton Man of the Years, Roger Staubach looked at him and said, 'You should be in. Why aren't you in?'

"I agree. To have two guys from the same team in the same era probably didn't help. Hopefully that now frees it up for Kenny Anderson."

Another Bengals Anderson could get his day as soon as Riley. Willie Anderson, the franchise's all-time right tackle, was a modern era finalist last year for the first time when he made a list of 15 players who had been retired at least five years but not longer than 25.

Munoz would welcome it. There have been too many moments like this year at the annual Ray Nitschke Luncheon. There were Hall-of-Famers from the Raiders or the Steelers or the Packers gathering for team photos and finally Munoz grabbed the old Patriot Andre Tipppett.

"I said, 'Hey Andre, here's my team picture,''' Munoz said, "And I took a selfie."

Those days look to be gone.

"I'm looking for company," he said.

BIG O-LINE NIGHT: Speaking of the offensive line, this one is a big one for the Bengals' current edition. They're expecting the Giants to roll out their defensive starters and the Bengals are a bit undermanned. They're not playing their starters, so they have only seven because of injuries and COVID.

And the only way the eighth would probably play is if a tackle went down. Nate Gilliam, a guard-center, just joined the club on Friday and it's probably too late to get him into the game. But he has apparently also played some tackle in his practice squad stints with the Chargers and Steelers and may be able to be an emergency.

With Isaiah Prince (bicep) out for what looks to be a couple of weeks, they're down to three backup tackles and it sounds like head coach Zac Taylor is going to flip sides with D'Ante Smith and Hakeem Adeniji during the game. Undrafted rookie Devin Cochran has played only right tackle.

They liked how Smith, a second-year player, looked Thursday in a padded practice after back problems knocked him out for about ten days. It looks like he'll start at right tackle and Adeniji at left, but Smith held up well at left tackle in last season's regular-season finale against all-world sacker Myles Garrett.

Those tackles are going to get tested by two young guns on the edge in the Giants talented 3-4 front. Defensive end Azeez Ojulari set the Giants rookie sack record with 8.5 last season and rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, the fifth pick in the draft, could break it.

With Jackson Carman sidelined by COVID, rookie Cordell Volson gets the start in the much scrutinized left guard derby. Lamont Gaillard figures to go at right guard and Trey Hill at center. They'll have their hands full with nose tackle Dexter Lawrence II, the 17th pick in the 2019 draft.

It's a nice shot for Hill, having a good enough camp to be praised by offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Plus, Hill figures to be the guy to replace Volson at left guard at some point.

LINE-UP LOOKS: Look for second-year punter Drue Chrisman to work the entire game against the Giants. Vet incumbent Kevin Huber had his best week of practice, but the Bengals have 13 seasons of watching him work. So they figure to get a long look at the second-year Chrisman.

No mystery here. Chrisman has been booming it, but special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons is looking for more hang time and direction …

Chrisman is expected to rotate Sunday's holding duties with Huber. Vet Clark Harris and rookie Cal Adomiotis also figure to each long snap a half …

It's a big night for sophomore defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin (wrist) after he played just one snap in the opener. They're happy with how he's controlled his weight (350ish) and are hoping to see him take a step forward with a bunch of work against the Giants …

After playing just a series nine days ago in Cincy before sustaining a concussion, Brandon Allen is slated to quarterback the first half, followed by Jake Browning with Drew Plitt maybe again getting the last series …

Vet Trent Taylor and rookie Kwamie Lassiter II also look to rotate punt returns again while playing wide receiver with vet receiver Trenton Irwin maybe getting a return …

The bulk of the carries are ticketed again for running backs Chris Evans and Trayveon Williams with Jacques Patrick maybe getting in late …

Evans, who had a 41-yard kick return in the preseason opener, figures to rotate with Lassiter back there …

They're trying to manage the back-up edgers who are coming back from injuries. Look for Joseph Ossai (knee, wrist), eased in during the opener with four snaps, to play from scrimmage and special teams in the first quarter. Same with edge Khalid Kareem (shoulder) after he didn't play in the opener …

A guy making a quiet roster run at defensive tackle is first-year and USFL product Domenique Davis …

With second-round Cam Taylor-Britt (core) out and Tre Flowers (knee) starting but not playing much, they're down at cornerback, too. They're pretty much down to undrafted rookies Allan George and Delonte Hood, as well as third-year man Jalen Davis. Davis, a slot by trade who rode last season's big preseason (seven tackles, two passes defensed) to a roster spot, picked up where he left off in the opener. He got his hand on another ball and had two tackles and probably also goes outside Sunday …

They're also thin at tight end with starter Hayden Hurst sitting and Drew Sample (knee) and Mitchell Wilcox (foot) out. That means plenty of work for Thaddeus Moss and Justin Rigg, the rookie out of Springboro, Ohio and Kentucky …

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