10-28-01, 1:00 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
PONTIAC, Mich. _ The Bengals arrived here for Sunday's game looking to end a grinding sojourn in which they have lost their last six road games and 11 of the last 12.
In fact, the last time they beat a non-AFC Central foe on the road was here in the Silverdome three years ago.
But even though the Lions are winless, Cincinnati's injury problems at cornerback made them underdogs to hot Detroit quarterback Charlie Batch. Batch didn't throw this week because of a sore shoulder, but his offense is rolling from averaging 385 yards the past three games.
The Lions put injured running back James Stewart on the shelf before the game, more evidence Detroit would come out passing because they like to throw to backup running back Lamont Warren.
The Bengals expected to get back defensive end Vaughn Booker in the starting lineup Sunday after he missed last week's 24-0 loss to the Bears with a sore ankle.
But they have problems on defense. With Robert Bean (hamstring) and Tom Carter (knee) not dressed, the Bengals were down to two rookie cornerbacks in Bo Jennings and Kevin Kaesviharn after being forced to cut sixth-round pick, linebacker Riall Johnson, to make room for Kaesviharn Saturday morning. It could be a short stint for Kaesviharn, since the upcoming bye week figures to get Bean and Carter ready for the next game, which is Nov. 11 in Jacksonville.
Bengals President Mike Brown indicated Sunday the club could try to add Johnson again this week if Bean and Carter show improvement.
"I can't remember one
position getting hit like we've been hit there," Brown said. "We had to make the move because you just can't go into game with only three cornerbacks."
Cornerbacks coach Kevin Coyle spent some extra time Saturday night with Jennings and Kaesviharn. Every Saturday night, Coyle has his group go through an entire game on tape and directs them to make the correct calls as the offense reveals its formation. Then he had Jennings and Kaesviharn do some more work after the others left the meeting.
"I just told them to play like they've played their entire careers," Coyle said.
Kaesviharn came to the Bengals via the Arena league and XFL at the urging of Bengals scout Duke Tobin. Tobin liked his 6-1, 185-pound frame and smarts. Not to mention his 14 indoor interceptions.
"It's hard to get 14 interceptions in arena ball," Tobin said. "It's a quick game and it's primarily man-to-man where they get a running start at you. You have to have some alertness, awareness and quick hands."
The Bengals also liked that Kaesviharn spent a season coaching his alma mater's secondary at Augustana College in South Dakota and was substitute teaching in Sioux Falls when the Bengals called last week.
"He's a highly intelligent kid with very good ball skills who has a lot of range and good size," Tobin said."Plus, he's been productive in pro leagues."
After picking off three passes for the San Francisco Demons in the XFL this past spring, Kaesviharn spent all of training camp with the Packers before getting released on his 25th birthday. The Bengals were also impressed how he played for Green Bay against Cleveland when he played most of the pre-season game.