10-4-02, 6:50 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
One of the men rookie left tackle Levi Jones has to block Sunday in his first NFL start is the guy taken right behind him in last April's NFL Draft.
With the draftnicks still in an uproar over how the Bengals reached by taking Jones about five picks too high at No. 10, the Colts quietly picked Syracuse defensive end Dwight Freeney. That was an even bigger stretch since Freeney, a quick but tweenerish pass rusher, was supposed to go with one of the last picks in the first round.
But it was Tony Dungy's first pick as Indianapolis head coach and Dungy goes to the playoffs. The Bengals don't, so Jones got strafed and Freeney got praised as a bold, fresh choice.
"I'm the type of player that loves to do what people say I can't or shouldn't do," said Jones Thursday in a sit down with bengals.com on audio. "So anytime they call me out like that, I like to step up to the plate."
But the man Jones faces most of the time Sunday is Chad Bratzke, the Colts' veteran sackmaster who is one away from the 50th of his career. Throw in the noise of Indy's RCA Dome, the struggles of the Bengals' offense and a third starting quarterback in as many weeks, and welcome to the NFL kid.
"lf you're going to play the next 10, 12 years in this league, this is how it is every week at both tackles," said seven-year right tackle Willie Anderson. "The players change, but the league stays the same. Some might not be as
good as Bratzke, but every week the two ends are going to be pretty good. Really, this is just another game because it's what he'll see for the next 10 to 12 years. This is the starting point."
Anderson, a 10th pick six years before Jones, can illustrate his point with his own experience in his first two games. He made his first NFL start at left tackle in San Francisco in the season's seventh game and did a number on double-digit sack ace Chris Doleman
But it's his second game that Anderson wants Jones to remember.
"That first game was great," Anderson said. "I blocked the heck out of Doleman and I thought I was the man. Then the next week we played Jacksonville and Clyde Simmons fried me. Just kicked me all over. That's the game (Anthony) Munoz ripped me (on the radio). You can't make a big deal about one game. Every week it's somebody else."
Jones likes the fact he's playing two quick guys because he feels he is handling the speed players better than the bigger guys. The Bengals already feel Jones' athleticism and speed puts him a cut above in the running game with what they had with Richmond Webb. Anderson doesn't think he's getting rushed.
"He'll be fine," Anderson said. "He's always watching film. He watches film like (center) Richie Braham watches film. He's a tape guy."
This week, it's Bratzke and Jones has been watching his tape.
"He's been able to exploit a lot of left tackles in this league. He does a number of things," Jones said. "They basically take an angle of least resistance. They go where ever they feel the tackles aren't. If we play hard outside, they go inside. If they play hard inside, they go outside. He just tries to get the offensive linemen off balance and exploit them."
The Bengals' offensive line got a dose of the noise factor in Atlanta two weeks ago ("That didn't go so well," Jones said) when they got two false starts on the game's first series.
"Use all the senses," Jones said. "You can't hear, so you have to use your sight, basically trying to function with ear plugs in your ears. Watch the snap count at the moment with everybody else, and hopefully stay onside and communicate well enough. Point out our man and assignments and just go."
Anderson lockers next to Jones and is free and easy with advice. The kid is listening. Asked if the Bengals will help him out with chipping and double teaming, Jones smiled: "I guess we'll find out." Asked how the Bengals have prepared for the noise, Anderson didn't smile and said, "I don't want them reading about it."
"The main thing is to stay calm when it's loud," Anderson said. "The game has to be played in your mind before the snap. You can't sit there and say, 'OK, when I hear 'hike,' I'll go,' because you can't hear. You have to watch the ball and your man and you have to play the game in your head. It's so fast once the ball is snapped. If you don't know what you're going to do before the snap, you messed up."
Jones would like to show the Bengals didn't mess up when they drafted him. Anderson and quarterback Jon Kitna have basically been telling him the same thing. This is his time to shine.
There is the dome, the 50-sack man, the 11th pick, and the new quarterback. But Jones seems to understand what Anderson has been saying. Just another week in the NFL, kid.
"It's a chance to step up," Jones said. "What better chance than now?"
SCREENS AND DRAWS:** Neil Rackers is going to be the kicker again Sunday and head coach Dick LeBeau indicated he would be even if the shanked 45-yard field goal last week against Tampa Bay was his fault. It turned out that holder Nick Harris scooped up some grass along with the ball and had trouble placing the ball. By the time he got it done, Rackers ended up swiping part of Harris' hand with his foot. . .
Rookie tackle Reggie Coleman didn't groan or pitch a fit when he heard the
Bengals had signed him off the Redskins practice squad Tuesday.
"I was too focused on Washington because things weren't going too good there," said Coleman, who is now on the 53-man active roster. "You've got to be really impressed with the talent that is here. Corey Dillon, Willie Anderson, Takeo Spikes, Brian Simmons. To me, it's an opportunity I wouldn't have had."
The Bengals opted for Coleman instead of a veteran like John Jackson because of the upside. They feel the 6-5, 297-pound Coleman has a good future with the athleticism of a guy who played 22 games for Tennessee at left tackle: "I feel like I can dance with the 300-pounders," Coleman said.
Michael Munoz, the son of Bengals Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz, replaced Coleman this year at Tennessee. Two years ago, Munoz played right while Coleman played his first year at left.
"Not many freshman play tackle in the SEC, but he's a really good player," Coleman said. "No question that he's got the great bloodlines. I met his father when he came down and did chapel with us and that was a great experience. He's really a down-to-earth guy." . . .
It looks like Danny Farmer (knee) is ready to go. . .So are the banged-up members of the offensive line, which is everybody but RG Scott Rehberg. He's back in there because Mike Goff is still out with a nasty gash on his leg he received last month off the field. . .WR Ron Dugans (abdomen) has been upgraded to probable. . .This is the healthiest the six receivers have been all year. . .