Skip to main content

Chad & Champ; Special match; Marshall alert

Updated: 7:30 p.m.

Like everyone else, Broncos perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey is getting a heavy dose of Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco's emerging vocabulary.

Asked in the Denver locker room Thursday if he knows what "Kiss the baby" means, Bailey admitted, "Whatever that means. I've been hearing that a lot lately, too.''

C'mon Champ. Even the most casual of Hard Knocks observers know it means, "It's over."

What's not over is the friendship the two have developed down through the years. On Sunday, Bengals fans get to see a future Hall of Famer in Bailey, whose eight Pro Bowls are only one shy of Hall of Famer Mike Haynes' record for a corner with nine. Bailey is currently tied with Deion Sanders and former Bengal Lemar Parrish.

"The funny thing is he has respect for me and I have respect for him," Bailey said Thursday. "He knows what he's capable of and I know what he's capable of. It's not like he's talking to belittle you. He's an entertainer. And he knows it. He uses that ability to talk to the fullest. He uses that to get to some people but he knows he can't get to me.''

On Wednesday, The Ocho mentioned Bailey in the same breath as Sanders.

"He's probably the best in the game; hands down," Ochocinco said. "When we talk about NFL corners, you talk about a complete corner, a defensive back coming out of college. If there's something you want to aim to be like, if it's not Deion, it's Champ. He's a complete corner. I really look forward to going against him every time we have an opportunity. The last time we played, I don't think I did so well, that previous time, I'm looking to redeem myself and making him kiss the baby. We all know what that means."

Everybody but Bailey.

The last time The Ocho went against Bailey back on Christmas Eve in '06, he had a crushing motion penalty on Chris Henry's 75-yard touchdown catch and caught just three balls for 32 yards.  Five years ago he baked Bailey on a 50-yard touchdown catch on a Monday night. Bailey has noticed the difference in '09.

"He's highly motivated this year and more ready to play," Bailey said in a conference call with Cincinnati media this week. "He didn't deal with any injuries like he did last year. He looks healthy just watching him on tape he looks like he's back to where he used to be.

"You would think at some point with T.J. getting all those catches that things would open up for Chad and they didn't. I was a little surprised by that. I didn't see a lot of him last year. I was amazed by that because Chad has been the top receiver on that team."

Clearly Bailey has not forgotten the Henry play from '06. And you have to believe that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan hasn't forgotten a Henry play from '07, when he was the head coach of the 49ers and Henry's 52-yard touchdown catch was his only reception of the night for the only Bengals touchdown in a Saturday night NFL Network loss in Frisco.

"When you take out a guy like T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) it changes it a little bit because he was so reliable," Bailey said. "But you've got a guy like Chris Henry with so much more experience coming off the bench. I'm sure he understands more how to run routes and how to get open than he did in the past because back in the day you know when he was coming into the game he was going deep. Now you really don't know."

But The Ocho and Bengals know just how good Bailey is.

"He's got a great feel for the game," said offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "He can see things. He pattern reads. He watches film so he knows when a guy goes underneath, it's this guy over the top. ... He can see back and through to what the quarterback is doing. And he's very talented athletically. You have that combo and you've got a Pro Bowler."

SPECIAL LINEMAN:Here's a sneak peek at one of Sunday's matchups to be discussed Friday by the roundtable of former NFL players and current NFL scouts:

DE Michael Johnson vs. Broncos LB Darrell Reid.

The downer about a 4-3 defensive team playing a 3-4 defense 11 times this season is that the opponent keeps seven - and many times eight - linebackers active while the 4-3 team has six. That can get to be a disadvantage for the 4-3 in a hurry in the kicking game.

Not only does Denver play a 3-4, but the Broncos signed Reid over the offseason, a former Colts special teams dynamo as a 6-2, 270-pound linebacker who wreaks havoc up and down the field on several special teams.

"We have to put everybody on this guy and you can't hit him high. You have to know where he is every kick, that's for sure," said Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons of the Broncos' No. 95. "He's a big guy who plays with great hustle and effort and a tough guy to block."

This is where Bengals rookie defensive end Michael Johnson comes in during his debut. At 6-7, 266 pounds, Johnson can counter the flood of special teams linebackers as a big body that can run. Simmons has never had a defensive lineman in seven seasons here who played consistently on cover teams. Defensive end Frostee Rucker did well, but injuries have curtailed his special teams snaps.

In Johnson, Simmons sees a valuable chess piece against the 3-4 teams.

"Mike is more athletic; Reid isn't quite as athletic," Simmons said. "Mike can run and has size. Both are defensive lineman type that can play in several phases of the kicking game. That can sure help when you're going against other big bodies. He's a nice guy to have."

MARSHALL ALERT: Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been both admiring and fearing Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall for the last month. "This kid's amazing on film," Zimmer would say and he puts him in the class with the NFL's best big receivers that now seem to be multiplying.

"He runs after the catch; he's physical," Zimmer said after Thursday's practice. "I think they're pretty systematic. But Marshall hasn't played in the offense in any of the preseason, so you're not exactly sure where he's going to be. He's like Fitzgerald, Owens, the guy in Detroit, Calvin Johnson. You can put him in that category. Big, strong, 230 pounds, 6-4."

Zimmer also says Marshall's supporting cast of Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley, Jabar Gaffney and tight end Tony Scheffler is a solid group that is going to test his guys. He won't say which of his starting cornerbacks, Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, are going to draw Marshall.

But Zimmer believes the hard-hitting safety tandem of Chris Crocker and Roy Williams has rubbed off on Joseph.

"Leon was always physical," Zimmer said. "We've got a little more physicality than we did a year ago. We've got some new guys like Tank (Johnson), he's a physical guy and Rashad Jeanty. And Keith Rivers being back, he has some physicality. And the two safeties. When we run onto the field, we look like a football team."

Zimmer thinks he's got a better grip on this offense because Denver head coach Josh McDaniels comes straight from running the New England offense and is now running it a Mile High.

"They're going to try and spread us out I would assume," Zimmer said. "I don't think they want to play smashmouth with us."

Zimmer didn't get the same sense from Baltimore in last year's opener, where Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had just come from the Dolphins head coaching job. The Bengals ended up allowing their two touchdowns on running reverses, one that was a broken play converted by rookie quarterback Joe Flacco on a 38-yard run and the other a double reverse by wide receiver Mark Clayton for a 42-yard touchdown.

Rivers, in his first NFL game, had the reverse responsibility on both plays, but Zimmer said, "It's just not one guy's fault when you score from 40, 50 yards like that."

By the way, after participating in his second Hard Knocks, Zimmer had to admit he couldn't remember how the first one went in Dallas several years ago and that he watched only one of this year's episodes.

"They were very respectful. There were times I unplugged my (microphone) and covered up the camera sometimes," Zimmer said, "I think they were really good. If we didn't want them in a meeting that day, they didn't come in. It turned out better than I anticipated ... as far as them being around."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.