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Eyes wide open

Another installment of rookie receiver Peter Warrick's diary with Geoff Hobson of as he prepares for this Sunday's game in Dallas.

WEDNESDAY, 10:57 a.m.

The Bengals have spent the morning digesting their game plans and Warrick is strolling to the practice field for the daily "walk through," where the coaches install this week's Xs and Os before the full-speed 1 p.m. practice.

Warrick is used to game plans working. He figures he's lost six football games in his life. Which means he's lost one more than that during his first nine NFL games.

"We lost four at Florida State," Warrick says of his four seasons as a Seminole. "When I was a junior (at Bradenton Southeast High School), we were 15-0 and then 14-1 when I was a senior and I didn't play in that game. We went 35-0 in basketball, too, when I was a senior.

"It's hard man," he says. "It's hard right after a game. You go home and you think, 'You're better than that other team.' Now I feel a little better. I'm breathing again."


Warrick isn't on special teams (except for the occasional punt return), so he spends the first 20 minutes or so of the walk through doing his "post drills," with wide receivers coach Steve Mooshagian.

Mooshagian, a youthful 41, played receiver at Fresno State and coached college ball until he came to Cincinnati before the '99 season. If he's got the easy manner of a confident college recruiting coordinator used to being around kids, it's because he was one for five years at Fresno State.

He whips passes at Warrick as he dances around the bottom of the goal post as Mooshagian tries to improve Warrick's hand-eye coordination. He stands about 20 feet from Warrick and tries to throw the ball as near the post as possible to make the catch tougher.

"Let's make it I owe you 100 bucks if I hit the post and you owe me $100 bucks if you drop one," Mooshagian says.

But he's kidding and it's a good thing because Mooshagian hits it three times and Warrick has one drop and two juggles out of about 75 to 80 throws.

Maybe the toughest series of catches is the warmup. Mooshagian has Warrick stand directly behind the post facing him with his hands out and has to catch it before it hits the post.

But when Warrick stands back a few feet and catches some long ones on either side, Mooshagian has him cover each of his eyes with a hand and catch the ball with the other hand.

He clearly has trouble when he covers his right eye.

"I've been telling you and I'm going to keep telling you," Mooshagian says, "you need contacts. I'm going to take you to the optometrist myself."

Warrick shakes his head. Later he'll say, "I really don't want to. I need to. Those drills help a lot, but I already know I need them."

Mooshagian and Warrick are trying to figure out why he's got 11 drops. They look at the stats and they know that would give him 37, which would be 20th in the AFC, first among rookie receivers.

"I think your eyes are OK when it's to the side of you," Mooshagian says. "But it's the ball right at you, from the chest to the belt I wonder about."

12:20 p.m.

While the rest of the receivers are finishing lunch, Warrick is in Michigan's office and the two are looking at tape of the past few Dallas games. Mooshagian say it's Warrick's favorite part of the day as they try to find the weaknesses of a secondary and the strength of the receivers working against it.

Mooshagian's relationship with Warrick isn't much different than those he might have had with a freshman receiver at Fresno State, . He's trying to make Warrick and the other young receivers feel at home, so he bases the relationship on more than football.

Mooshagian hosts Friday night dinners at his home for them once a month. So you might hear Craig Yeast in the office talking to, "Mama Moosh," telling Mooshagian's wife Rene what they want to eat.

"I don't care what it is," Warrick often says. "As long as it's chicken."

Warrick comes to the office straight from a conference call with the Dallas media and he tells Mooshagian he thinks the group was trying to bait him into saying something about Cowboys rookie cornerback Mario Edwards, Warrick's teammate at Florida State. So he said nothing.

"You're learning," Mooshagian says. "Don't take the bait. That's smart."

Warrick wants to see the Jacksonville-Dallas tape because he loves the versatility of Jags receiver Jimmy Smith. It's easy because Mooshagian can go to his computer and isolate the nine passes of 10 yards or more the Jags completed on Dallas.

The Arizona-Cowboys tape? There's no receivers Warrick is dying to see, but he says, "(David) Boston's big though, isn't he?"

Young NFL players aren't much different than Supermodels on the runway. They want to see what the other guy's got.

Warrick spends almost as much time watching the receivers as he does the defensive backs. Warrick has the clicker and Mooshagian wants him to run back a play of Jacksonville's Keenan McCardell caching a pass.

"See how his body was square to the ball?" Mooshagian asks of a route the Bengals have in the game plan.

"Look at how their safeties are playing. See what we can do?" Mooshagian says. "Run that back a second – see what the corners do with their hands when it's cover 6?"

Warrick makes sure how many yards he should be split out against that coverage before asking Mooshagian if they would run the same play out of another formation.

"Yes, run that back," he tells Warrick. "There's the backer. Look how the corner is playing. That will be a good play. Their linebackers are fast. Small, but athletic. Quick."

Warrick nods. "I know it," he says, lowering his voice to emphasize the names. (Dexter) Coakley. Dat Nguyen." Then McCardell pops out again on the screen going in motion and Warrick tells Mooshagian what he thinks he would do on that play.

"Yeah," Mooshagian says. "See where your hole would be? Who was that guy covering? Mario?"

""No," Warrick says. "Mario is No. 27. Goodrich (another rookie Dwayne) is 23. 25 is (Charlie) Williams."

Mooshagian thinks the Bengals' match up well with the Dallas secondary, which also has three rookie cornerbacks in Edwards, Goodrich and Kareem Larrimore.

Mooshagian flips to the Cowboys-Eagles game of last Sunday so they can get an idea how Dallas plays a rookie receiver. Philadelphia rookie Todd Pinkston lines up and Warrick asks, "if we run that formation, do I just look up?"

Mooshagian tells him, "Yes," and then wants him to look at how a Dallas cornerback takes on a block.

"He should have stayed outside," Mooshagian tells Warrick. "Run that back. Watch his head."

"Let me go," Warrick says, "get on this field."

4:05 PM

Now all the receivers are back in Mooshagian's office after practice and with six guys not more than 24 years old, it can get a little rowdy. They raid Mooshagian's stash of snacks and Warrick is sitting at a desk munching on one of his several Rice Crisps Treats of the day while sipping a juice.

"When we meet after practice, it's usually short and more relaxed," Mooshagian says. "I just go over a few things and then let them go."

They remember what they did against Dallas young corners if they played against them in college. Mooshagian says it's almost like scouting them all over again at the Senior Bowl.

"He made one play on me," says Warrick of Tennessee's Goodrich.

Warrick is a good student. He'll alternate chewing his snacks and fingernails, but his eyes are always on the screen.

"This my job. I study it," Warrick says. When he's asked what his main struggles have been as a rookie, he says it's simply catching the ball and not getting the ball when he's open.

Mooshagian thinks, for the most part Warrick runs good routes. And, because the flanker's responsibilities rarely change against a blitz, he hasn't had many problems with route adjustments on the blitz.

"I'm just trying to pick up what I can." Warrick says as he heads home. "I'm just trying to get better. You see what they do on first down. Do (the corners) back up? On second down, what coverage are they probably going to play? Do they usually blitz third down?"

Warrick may need contacts. But on another Game Plan Wednesday, he's got his eyes wide open.

"They're young," says Warrick of the Dallas secondary. "But so are we."

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