Posted: 10 a.m.
GEORGETOWN, Ky. - After Friday night's intrasquad scrimmage, Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander saw someone who always raves that running the ball is the key to life.
At least life in the AFC North.
"You must be happy," said Alexander after the Bengals ran the ball nine more times than they threw it and averaged nearly six yards per rush doing it.
The emphasis will be on the pass game Saturday afternoon in the two-hand touch Mock Game played in shoulder pads. But the offseason's point of emphasis in offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's overhauled playbook had been clearly emphasized.
"Marvin has 'Sacrifice' on the back of the shirts and I think to be a good running team we need to be that way," said Alexander of Marvin Lewis' camp motto.
Before the game team doctor Angelo Colosimo asked him why he looked so mad and Alexander told him he didn't know what he was going to see. A couple of hours later the world still spun.
"So one day, at one small point in time, I was fairly satisfied," he said.
Center Kyle Cook, the symbol of his line as a first-year starter, noticed the hard-nosed call. Maybe even better than the 119 yards on 21 carries were the 3-for-3 on third-and-one conversions by fullbacks Jeremi Johnson and Fui Vakapuna and running back Brian Leonard.
"Big-time," Cook said of the way the line got physical. "We talked on the O-line out on the field that on that first play, no matter who's out there, we've got to hit them. We've got to set the tempo. There's going to be no three-and-outs this year. We're going to get a good drive going, we're going to hit them hard and we're going to set the tempo.
"In that first series we only had two plays that really got stopped and I think one of them was a formation error. Besides that we smashed it a little bit and hopefully tomorrow we come out and throw it a little bit."
It was, after all, only a drill. Yet offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski did call two more runs after running back Cedric Benson got jammed up on his first two runs before he shook loose on his final two runs for a combined 22 yards.
"I thought we were starting to get into sync and then that was kind of it," Benson said. "It's good to know we're getting there. They were running behind the (number) two line and the three line and they were opening up some holes for them."
Bratkowski, though, wanted to hold serve until he saw the film and how individual lineman finished. He thought there were too many busts in pass protection by the backups.
And while quarterback Carson Palmer remained spectacularly unimpressed by what had just unfolded ("We're not where we need to be when we open up against Denver but thankfully we don't open up next week against Denver," he said), he thought there were no surprises.
"That's been the mindset in the OTAs, minicamp and now training camp," Palmer said. "In the division we play in we have to go out and run the ball. We showed we're going to run the ball and hopefully throw off the running game."
Bratkowski hasn't allowed any hints about what he has called his most revised playbook in his nine seasons as the club's offensive coordinator. But it sure looked like there was a lot more play-action passing off the run, and Palmer used it liberally on his three completions (out of four passes) for 36 yards (a 13-yarder to wide receiver Andre Caldwell over the middle and a 17-yarder to fullback Jeremi Johnson in the flat) as well as freeing up wide receiver Chad Ochocinco on a long bomb down the middle in which an interference call was made against cornerback Leon Hall.
Palmer assured there are still plenty of drop-back passes in the arsenal, but the Bengals may have decided the best way to protect Palmer is to protect the run first.
The fact they did it 21 times Friday night at least gives some indication that's the direction they're headed.
MJ MANIA: Not a bad opener for the much ballyhooed third-rounder in defensive end Michael Johnson. You can say his two straight sacks came off newly-acquired left tackle Augustus Parrish, but when was the last time the Bengals had two straight sacks in anything?
What really had outside linebackers coach Paul Guenther pleased is that Johnson got used to rushing from a three-point stance on one third down and dropping into pass coverage on the next third down. It was Johnson's coverage that forced Palmer to lay out his pass a little bit farther than he wanted to rookie tight end Chase Coffman's back shoulder, forcing Coffman to make a diving catch barely out of the back of the end zone.
CROCK BACK: It's like Chris Crocker never left. The Bengals free safety ended last year making big plays and he's at it again, spoiling a red-zone drive with an interception at about the 5-yard line off of Palmer as well as coming up with four tackles.
And we didn't even see him play third cornerback. He's been doing a lot of that now that David Jones (foot) is out for about the next month and is likely to get a heavy does of it when the bullets start flying.
"I haven't done it the last two days. They wanted to give me some rest and I'm working on some stuff in the back end at safety," Crocker said. "And I think they want to see other guys."
It looked like sixth-round pick Morgan Trent took a lot of the snaps at third corner with the first group.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» No deal looming for No. 1 pick Andre Smith with the hangup reportedly the deal the Raiders struck at No. 7, the slot behind Smith.
» Some of those young receivers (Jerome Simpson, Maurice Purify and Quan Cosby) look like they'll get a shot to impress Saturday in the Mock Game because it appears wide receiver Antonio Chatman is going to be out judging by the way he hurt his lower leg Friday.
» Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was livid over the lack of tackling Friday and Crocker knows what's in store. "You hate the mistakes like missed tackles and things like that," Crocker said. "But at least they're easy and correctable. He's going to push until he thinks there's no more push in us. You have to expect him to be upset with the little things, the little mistakes."