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Five special questions

Posted: 7:15 a.m.



At his very first meeting with the rookies in his room back in May, Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons made them write it down on the first page of their playbooks: "Don't be surprised by the speed of the first preseason game."

With that game now hours away, Simmons, whose position is going to decide the last five or six roster spots and maybe more, fielded five questions.

Q: What are you looking for Sunday and even more importantly, who are you looking for? DS:
I'm really excited about seeing some of these young linebackers. It's a big night for them. Guys like Rashad Jeanty, Ahmad Brooks, A.J. Nicholson. You have to be able to play teams if you're going to back up at linebacker.

You're looking at how fast are they going to play. How do they respond, how do they react? Who goes into survival mode and who just plays? Who is going to stay with their technique that we've taught them?

Guys like Brooks and A.J. have played at big-time schools and done well in the big conferences. Where's Jeanty from, Central Florida? A smaller school, yet he's already played three years of pro ball in the Canadian Football League on a bigger field where the game is fast. I'm interested to see how these guys look. They're going to be out there on all the teams.

Q: You've also got some veteran linebackers who have been very solid for you and have been your best players for you the last couple of years. Between the rookies and those guys, they all can't make it, can they? DS:
I know how Marcus Wilkins is going to react. I know what Caleb Miller is going to do. Even though he's been hurt and hasn't been through a training camp with us, I pretty much know what Hannibal Navies is going to give us. That's why it's important for the rookies, but we're going to keep the best players, plain and simple. There are decisions that have to be made.

Q: Obviously the preseason games are huge for a guy like Ethan Kilmer, who is supposed to be a special teams specialist. Fans can probably find him out on the perimeter against the Redskins. (Kilmer, the first pick of the seventh round after a huge year at Penn State covering kicks, has been switched to safety.) DS:
Without giving away where he's going to line up, we're going to put him where a guy can make a play, run and cover, but he'll also be blocking on return teams. He's another guy that is going to be out there all the time. But making plays is what he did so effectively at Penn State. That's what we liked about him.

What is intriguing about him is that he's making this position switch after playing mostly wide receiver. First of all, he hasn't had much football experience, anyway, and that makes the position change tougher for him. What he brings to the table he's going to have to bring it to the forefront starting Sunday night.

Q: What do you have planned in the return game with punt returner Antonio Chatman down? DS:
We've got a couple of guys to look at. Certainly Keiwan Ratliff and we'd like to get a look at Tab Perry and get his feet wet returning punts. It's the regular guys on kick return. Tab. Kenny Watson. We're going to try and get the young guys in there. We'd like to see Bennie Brazell (hamstring), but we don't know yet about his health. Guys like Reggie McNeal, DeDe Dorsey, they're all going to get some kind of work back there.

Q: Punter Kyle Larson has had an outstanding camp. DS:
He's been pretty solid so far. Heading into his third year, he seems to be understanding the technique things he's been trying to get done for a long time and carrying it over on to the field. He's starting to capitalize on that and I'm happy for him and it's fun to watch. Now he has to bring it to the forefront in front of fans, in front of a lot of people in live situations.

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