No one doubts rookie left end Carlos Dunlap's enormous talent and he showed it last Sunday from his own 25 during the last few seconds of a first half the Bengals desperately needed to prevent a Colts touchdown. Given that quarterback Peyton Manning gets sacked about once every solar eclipse and Dunlap got his first NFL sack by simply bull-rushing veteran right tackle Ryan Diem into oblivion, it was a significant play by the second-round pick.
"We needed a big play," Dunlap said, "and I wanted to make it."
His coaches just wish he would show the same urgency during the practice week.
"I think I'm getting through to him. I need dynamite and a drill bit to get through that hard rock," said head coach Marvin Lewis after Friday's practice. "(He has to work on) the tempo and speed and how to practice." Lewis says he needs to see it Wednesday through Friday because "you have confidence putting him out there on Sunday and him doing it the right way (the confidence) is a little higher."
But Lewis likes what he's looking at from a 6-6, 285-pound guy that is still growing. "He's got all the skills and things you'd like to have," he said. "When you draw up a defensive lineman, that's what they look like."
It's just if he doesn't hear the motor, "He'll be standing next to me," Lewis said.
"He's young; he's a senior in college," said defensive line coach Jay Hayes. "He just has to keep working to get with our tempo in practice. He has come around and he's getting better. He needs to understand the more he does it, the better he'll be. And you've got to remember: he's still growing into his body."
Over the last month, Dunlap has been the left end in nickel, which he figures is getting him about 15 snaps per game on the pass rush. He also made a stop at the line on a stunt when he was able to adjust to the run. He thinks the Sunday results point to the work week.
"I have been working; it's getting a lot better," Dunlap said, "And I feel like it's showing up on the game field. If you see me, I must be practicing pretty decently to go make a play. I'm learning and understanding by watching how the vets practice and translating it to myself."
Hayes says Dunlap hasn't played over long stretches but he will once he stops flashing and gains more consistency, particularly on the run.
"He needs to keep working on his run fundamentals, that's where I have to do the most work with him," Hayes said. "He's got all the tools. He's got good burst. He's long. He's a massive guy and he's still growing. He'll be a big man and if he keeps running the way he's been running, I think he can have some versatility where he can also overpower you."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Asked how many times his team had committed five turnovers in his 123 games as Bengals coach before last Sunday, Lewis thought it was once. It was actually three times: Dec. 7, 2003 in Baltimore, Nov. 8, 2007 against Arizona here, and Sept. 28, 2008 against Cleveland here. All losses and different quarterbacks: Jon Kitna, Michael Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick, respectively.
» After a year and a half and a stint on the practice squad tight end Chase Coffman made his NFL debut last Sunday with four snaps. He blocked twice and went out on two routes and was so open in the end zone on one of them he was jumping up and down waving his arms. Palmer threw a checkdown to running back Clint Boling and the Bengals scored on the next play.
Coffman got in a few licks on his run blocks, a job he never had to do until the Bengals took him in the third round of the '09 draft.
But he does have some skills in the pass game.
"He has that way about him," Lewis said about Coffman's ability to get open. "And he's gotten better as a blocker. Every day we put on helmets and shoulder pads are days for him to get better. He has to block guys like (Rey) Maualuga and (Dan) Skuta and lead up in there on the inside. I couldn't wait to watch film (after practice) on Wednesday and Thursday when we were doing that to see if he was improving. Using a good base and the things he didn't get to do at Missouri with the way he was used. He's not shy and he proved that in the preseason. … He did a good job (blocking) in short yardage last week."