Bengals Notebook: Wilcox's First NFL Scrimmage Snap One For The Books

Mitchell Wilcox gets a memorable first snap.
Mitchell Wilcox gets a memorable first snap.

Mitchell Wilcox had been waiting about a year, a season on the practice squad, four months, 21 days, 69 minutes and 21 seconds to get the call to go in on offense during his first NFL game on Sunday. When he got the nod to give the Bengals a three tight-end set for the first time all day against the Vikings, he was in on the biggest play of the game.

"You definitely have to stay warm," said Wilcox this week and he had no problem doing that on the 90-degree Paul Brown Stadium surface. "And just to remember to lock in knowing the opportunity could be called at any time."

Wilcox had been told from the kickoff to be ready at any time for the three-tight end look, known as 13 personnel. It just so happened to come in the last minute of overtime. Such is life behind starting tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Drew Sample.

But in between in his NFL debut he kept busy on 17 kicking game snaps. Then on fourth-and-one with 39 seconds left he lined up opposite Uzomah and Sample on quarterback Joe Burrow's left, ran a crossing pattern tight past Uzomah going in the other direction and helped free Uzomah for the 32-yard play that set up Evan McPherson's winning field goal.

"Staying true to technique and how I'm coached and just playing with confidence," said Wilcox, who had 100 career catches at South Florida, where he set every tight end record. "I'm still alive on that route. It t felt like the ball was in the air for a while. I was on the back side. I was like, if (Uzomah) breaks a tackle, I got to get over there and get a block on somebody. Big-time call."

The Bengals didn't go much 13, but they used 12 (two tight ends) more than they usually do under head coach Zac Taylor. Last year it was 15 percent. On Sunday, Uzomah and Sample were on the field slightly more than a quarter of the time.

On Thursday, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan indicated that could be a trend, along with more snaps under center, in the effort to give Burrow's play-action fakes "more teeth." With the Vikings defense known to make life difficult for opposing passers, the Bengals made certain they were going to cut down on Burrow's exposure and double tight ends. We'll see if that continues Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) in Chicago.

He also gave hope for Wilcox being called before the bitter end.

"We have tight ends that can do a lot things," Callahan said. "Drew is excellent at the point of attack. I think he's one of the best blocking tight ends in football. C.J. is a Swiss army knife. He's big and strong, he can block, he can run, he catches the ball well. He's a weapon for us. We tried to use them more together on the field in this first game because we like what they brought to the table.

"There's a place for Mitch, too. Mitch is a young player that's developing. He's got a role on special teams. Some of these games coming up we may need do more 13 personnel and he's certainly up to the task. All three of those guys are super intelligent. They understand (football). They know how it works."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Left guard Quinton Spain missed practice Friday for personal reasons but is expected to play Sunday …

Punt returner Darius Phillips (thigh) went full Friday, but is questionable …Linebacker Markus Bailey (knee) was limited and is also questionable … Right guard Jackson Carman, who had cramps Thursday and went limited, went full Friday …

Bears ace defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (knee), who hasn't played since 2019, is doubtful. Left tackle Jason Peters (quad) and pass rusher Robert Quinn (back) are questionable. Peters was limited Friday while Quinn went full …

The Bears have won eight straight against the AFC North, sweeping the division in both 2013 and 2017 …

David Montgomery, the Bears running back from Mount Healthy on the outskirts of Cincinnati, had the second best day by an NFL running back in last Sunday's opener with 108 yards. That was behind only the Bengals' Joe Mixon.

Montgomery grew up in Cincinnati when Dalton was the quarterback and Dalton likes how the kid has grown up.

"I've appreciated him from the moment I got here," Dalton told Bears reporters this week. "To see the way he works, the way he prepares, the way he practices, then to see it in a game shows what he's able to do. It's been fun to just see his ability and how he keeps fighting, finding ways to get extra yards, make some explosive plays for us."

But Montgomery also has high regard for Dalton backup Justin Fields: "J-Fields is special. He already has a natural aura to himself that kind of changes the flow of how things go. He's a great kid." …

In Burrow's first 11 NFL starts, he's 3-7-1 with all his wins coming at The Paul. Back in 2011, Dalton went 7-4 and had road wins in Cleveland, Jacksonville, Seattle and Tennessee. But Burrow's career passer rating (92.3) is 11 points better than Dalton and while Dalton has one more TD pass (16-15), Burrow has seven fewer interceptions (5-12) …

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