12-7-01, 4:15 p.m. Updated:
12-7-01, 7:30 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Randy Chevrier's 72-hour Bengal career took a sudden turn Friday when he was promoted to the active roster and named long snapper for Sunday's game against Jacksonville.
Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau also said after Friday's practice that left guard Matt O'Dwyer (knee) looks to be a go for the first time in a month. But cornerback Artrell Hawkins and wide receiver Danny Farmer are doubtful with ankle sprains.
Chevrier, a rookie drafted by these same Jaguars in the seventh-round last April, takes the place of tight end Brad St. Louis after a season-ending torn groin muscle ended his streak of 27 straight games as the Bengals' long snapper.
Chevrier, who snapped for the Cowboys for eight games before getting cut after a bad field-goal snap Nov. 11 against the Falcons, took the bulk of Friday's snaps ahead of tight end Kirk McMullen. Although McMullen has worked all year with
kicker Neil Rackers and punter Nick Harris, LeBeau thinks he'll be better off concentrating on his first NFL start at tight end.
"He's snapped in the NFL. We like that," LeBeau said of Chevrier, a 290-pound defensive tackle. "He's got the most velocity, we like that. (McMullen) can focus in on what he has to get done."
LeBeau isn't too concerned about Rackers and Harris, doubling as the holder, getting timed up with a snapper that will have only four days of work with his kickers come Sunday.
"Randy's snap is very close to Brad's," LeBeau said. "Hopefully that will facilitate the equal timing situation. You've got the same holder, that's good."
Chevrier, out of McGill University in Montreal , actually worked with Harris at January's East-West Shrine Game when the teams practiced together.
"If I get the ball to them in a good area, I don't think there should be a timing problem," Chevrier said.
Harris: "It's not a big deal. It's the same ball coming back there. It's more of an adjustment for me when I'm holding and really not for Neil because I'm the one closest and have to catch it. It's not a big deal."
In Jacksonville, running back Fred Taylor (groin) and outside linebacker Kevin Hardy (knee) are projected as out for the Jags for Sunday. Starting cornerback Fernando Bryant and Hardy's backup, Danny Clark, are iffy.
Quarterback Mark Brunell (quad) worked all of Friday's practice and tight end Kyle Brady (ankle) returned to work.
MATCHUPS: Their sputtering running game gets a boost with the expected return of Bengals LG Matt O'Dwyer against a tackle tandem of Jags DTs Gary Walker and Seth Payne that held the Bengals to 43 yards rushing after O'Dwyer left early in the second quarter with a sprained knee back on Nov. 11. Another test on the offensive line features Bengals LT Richmond Webb vs. red-hot Jags DE Tony Brackens.
They didn't have their deep threats last month and send Bengals WRs Darnay Scott and Chad Johnson against banged-up Jags CBs Fernando Bryant and Aaron Beasley. Then again, Jacksonville's deep threats of Jags WRs Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell go against a banged-up secondary with Bengals CBs Mark Roman and Robert Bean.
Cincinnati is 0-4 against mobile quarterbacks and have to match Monday night's Green Bay pass rush with Bengals DEs Justin Smith and Reinard Wilson vs. Jags Ts Mo Williams and Todd Fordham. Jacksonville's no huddle is countered by athletic Bengals MLB Brian Simmons and his ability to cover diverse personnel, such as wide receivers and Jags TE Kyle Brady.
O'DWYER VS. WALKER, PAYNE:** The Bengals' running game went into last month's Jacksonville game No. 6 in the NFL. Since O'Dwyer left that game on Cincinnati's fourth scrimmage play in the second quarter with a sprained medial lateral knee ligament, the Bengals have slid to No. 19 on 3.1 yards per carry in the 3.5 games since.
O'Dwyer's absence isn't the only reason the running game has flagged. But it's interesting to note the Bengals averaged 4.2 yard per rush before O'Dwyer got hurt.
"He missed three games, he's our starting guard, and that hurt. Especially in the running game," said center Rich Braham. "Yeah, he's a mauler. He gets a lot of movement off the line of scrimmage."
Yes, this time around the Jags don't have two of their linebackers in Kevin Hardy and T.J. Slaughter, but they haven't been handing out rushing yardage. They've played Jerome Bettis twice, Eddie George twice, and Corey Dillon and Ahman Green once, and only Shaun Alexander has dented them for 100 yards.
WEBB VS. BRACKENS: Webb gave up his first two sacks of the season to Brackens (including a safety) last month and he's coming off a game where Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice got around the edge twice for sacks.
Brackens, who also forced a fumble against the Bengals, has been on fire ever since. In his last three games, Brackens has three sacks, forced two fumbles that led to touchdowns, and recovered a fumble. Webb, who also had two false starts, should be helped by a home crowd.
Keep an eye on: If Webb needs help on Brackens, gone are the Bengals' top four tight ends with Kirk McMullen making his first career start. The Bengals are high on the first-year McMullen's blocking ability.
SCOTT, JOHNSON VS. BRYANT, BEASLEY: The Bengals' wideouts had their best day of the season in Jacksonville last month with five catches of 20-plus yards and Scott hardly played because he got a concussion on the first series and Johnson was back in Cincinnati with a broken collarbone.
The problem is, there has been just three 20-plus catches since. But Bryant is limping and may not play after Packers quarterback Brett Favre torched him Monday night.
Bryant, looking for his first interception in 20 games, has been lobbying Jags defensive coordinator Gary Moeller to play more man-to-man. But Monday night, he gave up passes of 63, 43 and 29 yards on what appeared to be tighter coverage. In the first half, he got called for two straight pass interference penalties, one of which had Jags coach Tom Coughlin grousing at the league as late as Thursday.
ROMAN, BEAN VS. SMITH, MCCARDELL: Of course, the Bengals know all about suspect pass-interference calls with the Jags. They believe the 38-yard flag on cornerback Artrell Hawkins against Smith in last month's 21-0 third quarter was bogus. Hawkins (ankle) most likely won't be in there, leaving it to Roman's and Bean's combined 14 NFL starts.
But last month, they helped Hawkins keep Smith (63 yards) and McCardell (61) in check. The tandem that holds the NFL record with nine games in which both have 100 yards didn't go long on Cincinnati, although McCardell caught a 20-yard touchdown off a blown coverage.
Smith, coming off a 116-yard Monday night and four 100-yard games against the Bengals, is going to probably find himself on Bean and rookie nickel corner Kevin Kaesviharn on the outside.
"Both receivers are smart and fast," Bean said. "They're the best combo in the league. You can't be intimidated by them. They hurt us with some short stuff last time, but I don't think you want to give them the long ones."
SMITH, WILSON VS. FORDHAM, WILLIAMS: The Jags' tackles struggled Monday night, with quarterback Mark Brunell getting in the face of Williams, the rookie right tackle from Michigan, after a sack. Williams also got hit for a key holding call in what Jags' observers called his worst outing of the year. Fordham, playing left tackle for injured Pro Bowler Tony Boselli, also struggled (his facemask penalty wiped out a big gain) as the Packers' ends had three of the five sacks.
But the Bengals have high regard for Williams and mulled drafting him in the second round before opting for Chad Johnson.
Both Smith and Wilson had two- sack games last week in an incentive-laden stretch run. Smith (4.5 sacks on the season) gets some major money each year he hits 8.5 sacks. Wilson (five sacks) gets $150,000 if he hits 8.5. Smith has forced at least one holding call in each of the last five games. **
SIMMONS VS. BRADY:Brady's ankle got nicked up Monday night, but he'll be ready. Last month, the Bengals held Brady without a catch for the second time in his career. Since his 11-tackle game in Jacksonville, Simmons has rung up 29 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
NUMBERS GAME:** All the numbers you need for this weekend, including 0-3 and 11-3. The first is just the Bengals' third winless November in history. The second is the Bengals' home record in December since 1995.
44 _ Sacks Bengals are on pace for this season, two off the 1976 club record.
299 _ If the Bengals can hold the Jacksonville offense to those yards or fewer, it will be the first time since 1973 that Cincinnati has gone six straight games holding a team to less than 300 yards.
6-3 _ Jags quarterback Mark Brunell's starting record against the Bengals.
33-18 _ Brunell's starting record against the AFC Central.
22-22 _ Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna's starting record.
57 _ Touchdown passes Brunell has thrown to Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell.
51 _ Combined NFL games played by the Bengals' four active cornerbacks.
4 _ Consecutive games Bengals running back Corey Dillon has rushed under 100 yards.
6_ Longest consecutive in-season game streak Dillon has rushed under 100 yards (1999).
3 _ Consecutive games Dillon hasn't rushed for 100 yards against Jacksonville.
200 _ Number of NFL games Bengals tackle and Cincinnati prep product John Jackson has appeared when he checks in Sunday against Jacksonville.
171 _ Total NFL players who have played in 200 games.