PLAYER OF THE DAY: DT Geno Atkins
A crowd of 10,100 watched the Bengals practice during Family Night inside Paul Brown Stadium and while they saw two pick-sixes (Vontaze Burfict and Shawn Williams) and some long balls (two more John Skelton to Dane Sanzenbacher) on Sunday, they also saw the humdrum.
Atkins, the two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, keeps doing what he's been doing since he came into the NFL three years he ago. He fouls up more practices than rain and injuries put together. During 11-on-11, he keeps getting through, but since it's a practice and the quarterback is off limits and the play must go on, who knows?
"He had at least two sacks tonight; that's the norm," said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "The best in the business. He's an animal."
It doesn't matter what year or if it is against the first, second or third line. Or even what practice field because when the team went to Atlanta last week Atkins did the same thing against the Falcons. Or preseason or regular season. Or friend or foe.
"He doesn't discriminate," said defense line coach Jay Hayes. "He's like Popeye. 'I ams what I ams.' He's just trying to get better."
Atkins has no idea how many sacks he would have had Thursday night. "You'll have to ask the coaching staff," he says. Then turning to one of his locker mates he said, "Ask Peko."
Peko sticks with two. Atkins says the practice rules don't frustrate him.
"We don't touch 14. We don't go near him," Atkins said of quarterback Andy Dalton. "They preach that. I make sure I know where he is. Let him kind of move around and we make sure we keep him in the pocket.
"What I try to do is stay in my rush lane, try to beat my guy," he said. "If I win, I just veer off and run to the ball (after the pass)."
PLAY OF THE DAY:** This is another one that in real life might have been short-circuited by the pass rush. But the fact remains that backup quarterback Josh Johnson unleashed a 60-yard seed down the right sideline and rookie wide receiver Cobi Hamilton caught it in stride in the end zone getting past cornerback Terence Newman. That shared the biggest crowd applause with punter Kevin Huber's fake field goal pass to Peko.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Running backs coach Hue Jackson on if he'll give Rex Burkhead the same grief over his 2010 Mazda that he gave Giovani Bernard for his minivan: "I give them crap about everything, truth be told. The biggest crap I give them is about how they play. They have to play the game at a high level."
UGLY BEAUTY: Sometimes the making of an NFL offense is like making sausage. You just don't want to see it.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, along with offensive line coach Paul Alexander and Jackson and the rest of the staff are in the process of chopping up the running game and the passing game and packaging them together.
"The fun part is Paul Alexander is pushing these guys, we're pushing the running backs and sometimes it's an ugly push," Jackson said after Sunday's practice. "But the beautiful part is by the time you're ready to play, it looks good."
The Bengals got physical, productive games from their running backs and fullbacks in Atlanta and Jackson says that the emphasis on the physicality and the run is no different than it was when he was here on staff as the receivers coach a decade ago with bruising Rudi Johnson running the ball in a three-year stretch the Bengals won 27 games.
"You have to go by land and by air to be good in the National Football League. You can't be one-dimensional," Jackson said. "Paul Alexander has been here a long time and one of his goals has been to have one of the better running teams. That's where your masculinity is as a football team. I know I believe in it and Jay believes in it and we have those kinds of runners."
Jackson had some interesting things to say about the two draft picks, Bernard and Burkhead. The club tried out the 5-9, 205-poud Bernard on the goal line and got a TD in Atlanta.
"He's hard to see," Jackson said. "I don't like to compare him to anybody, but Ray Rice is like that. Those guys are hard to see. Maurice Jones-Drew. So you don't get a big lick on him."
Bernard was the first running back drafted. Burkhead was the 15th, taken in the sixth round, and Jackson says starting from the top and wheeling through scout Bill Tobin down to the position coach, the club looked past the stopwatch.
"Time speed and football speed are two different things. He's here for a reason. We've seen something in him we really liked," Jackson said. "The organization, from Mike Brown down through Bill Tobin, who really spent a lot of time watching him to me, watching him on tape. And Jay and all of us. We knew what we were getting.
"His timed speed was 4.7. He doesn't play 4.7. He plays a lot faster and a lot stronger. At the end of the day we've got the right guy."
Hard Knocks must think they have the right guy in Jackson because in the first episode they prominently displayed his practice banter with his players and the defense.
"I didn't watch the whole thing. I got calls and texts," Jackson said. "It's funny because people think my personality is different. This is who I am every day. That's how I coach. At the end of day, I'm here to do a job.
"I hope I don't offend anybody. I know I can get a little outlandish. That's just my nature."
NOTABLES:** During 11-on-11, Burfict, the WILL backer, dropped into coverage against Dalton and stepped in front of rookie wide receiver Jheraine Boyd for a pick-6. After getting dinged up enough that he walked off with a limp after telling the trainers he was OK, Williams, the rookie safety out of Georgia, stepped in front of a Johnson throw in the flat intended for tight end Alex Smith for another pick-6.
» Dalton had some good connections to tight Jermaine Gresham over the middle in the blitz period, one that just snuck over Burfict's coverage.
» On the first two plays of the last 11-on-11, Dalton found rookie tight end Tyler Eifert out of the double tight end set, each time working on rookie safety George Iloka.
» Skelton hit Sazenbacher for a 36-yard touchdown pass Thursday night in Atlanta and he hit him on two long ones again Sunday night against the backup secondary, one down the middle and one down the right side.
INJURY REPORT: Don't be surprised if wide receiver A.J. Green returns for some work Wednesday for the first time since he bruised his knee on the second day of camp, July 26. But he and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) didn't work again Sunday night. Also not practicing again is left end Carlos Dunlap, now working on two weeks out with a concussion.
None of the other injuries shelving players Sunday stemming from the Atlanta game looked serious. Cornerbacks Dre Kirpatrick (chest) and Brandon Ghee (head) were out again, as were fullback John Conner (foot) and right end Michael Johnson (unknown). Cornerback Troy Stoudermire looked to be nursing an unknown malady. Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (knee) and tackle Reid Fragel (knee) are thought to be close to returning.
UP NEXT: Bengals return to the PBS practice fields Monday for a 3-5 practice with gates opening at 2.