Bengals believe in Webb

11-12-01, 7:30 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Bengals left tackle Richmond Webb gave up his first two sacks as a Bengal Sunday against a revived Tony Brackens. But offensive line coach Paul Alexander never blinked as the post-game buzz wondered about a lack of adjustments.

After all, didn't the Jaguars adjust in the second half by helping their tackles block Bengals defensive ends Reinard Wilson and Justin Smith?

"You can blame me," Alexander said Monday. "I didn't change a lot of the protection schemes because I believe in the guy. I believe he would block him and I think when you watch the film, it was a little glitch."

Alexander doesn't want to tip Tennessee on what the glitch is, but suffice to say he's confident that Webb, 34, a seven-time Pro Bowler, is going to be ready for Sunday's matchup against Titan bookends Jevon Kearse (six sacks) and Kevin Carter (two sacks). The Bengals have allowed the fifth fewest sacks in the NFL with 14, which is six below the league average.

But they are coming off a season-high of four.

"A couple of times, the line should have been on better procedure," Alexander said. "Our mechanics on the snap and the silent count and all that stuff. . . .We haven't given up many."

Alexander has the line charted for allowing 4.5 of the 14 sacks, with the rest going to running backs, tight ends, receivers, quarterback and coverages. Quarterback Jon Kitna

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said he didn't think Webb allowed any sacks to Brackens.

"The one for the safety was a coverage sack," Kitna said. "And the first one, Brackens just tipped the ball (out of Kitna's hands), but they called it a sack."

Alexander predicts that left guard Matt O'Dwyer will return sooner than the projected two to four weeks because of his track record. Trainer Paul Sparling said a magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI) on O'Dwyer's knee Sunday night showed he had a sprained medial collateral ligament that requires no surgery. Scott Rehberg makes his seventh start as a Bengal, 20th of his career and becomes the first Bengal backup lineman to get a start this year Sunday against Tennessee. But O'Dwyer, who has been fitted for a brace and started rehab Monday, could be back for the Cleveland game in 13 days. **

PRE-SEASON SKED:** The Bengals are set to play New Orleans and Atlanta of the new NFC South next season twice after the NFL released the 2002 pre-season schedule Tuesday.

The Bengals open the pre-season at Buffalo the weekend of Aug. 8-12 and then travel to Indianapolis the next week before the home opener against the Saints the weekend of Aug. 22-26. The Bengals then close the pre-season in a Paul Brown Stadium game against the Falcons the weekend of Aug. 29-31.

For the first time since 1970, the Bengals won't play the Lions in the pre-season. Katie Blackburn, the club's executive vice president, said they had to play at home the last two weekends because of baseball conflicts and the Lions had to play at home the same weekends because of logistics with their new stadium.

To coincide with the first year of re-alignment, the league is scheduling the pre-season games as well as the regular season. The Bengals also play the Saints at home in the '02 regular season, when they also travel to Atlanta.

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NO CAP MOVES:** Monday is the last day to sign players to contract extensions and getting money counted in the '01 salary cap. But with talks slow with potential free agents Reinard Wilson and Artrell Hawkins, and Peter Warrick and Justin Smith on pace to reach incentives that count against this year's cap, the Bengals held off making a move.

The club also appears sticking with the cornerbacks they have and not going after a veteran with Tom Carter (knee) out for the year.

CHAD WAITS CALL: Rookie receiver Chad Johnson gets his broken clavicle re-X-rayed Tuesday and with full range of motion and no symptoms, Sparling said it bodes well for a return this Sunday. But Sparling also cautioned the six-week injury just turned four weeks and there will have to be a meeting before "a sound judgement," on his availability.

"It's time to ease me into the lineup," Johnson said. "Not every down, but every third down. Catch a ball here and there."

Sparling has Johnson listed

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as questionable, which is 50-50. Johnson is so sure he can play, he says he's 70-50. The big incentive is to play his cousin, Samari Rolle, the Titans cornerback who has also been battling injury with a sore neck. As they do most days, Johnson plans to talk to Rolle after the Titans play the Ravens Monday night.

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