Updated: 8 p.m.
GEORGETOWN, Ky. - After rookie cornerback Brandon Ghee cut under wide receiver Chad Ochocinco to pick off quarterback Carson Palmer's bomb during Friday's practice, head coach Marvin Lewis called "Brandon" over to the sidelines and motioned for his third-round pick to join him.
"He said the last three days I've been going to the ball a lot and making a few plays," Ghee said later. "He told me to keep doing it and to do it Sunday against the Cowboys."
Ghee is finding the going tough behind the first four corners as he battles with veteran David Jones and free-agent rookie Johnny Sears in a scramble that hasn't yielded much separation. Also making a lot of noise is second-year man Rico Murray with his ability to play some safety. He has definitely showed up and the coaches know he's a good special teams player, but is there any room?
The knock on Ghee coming out of Wake Forest with his one career interception is his ability to play the ball. But he did a nice job breaking off The Ocho and finding it in the air.
"Just go get the ball," Ghee said. "It doesn't matter if it's underthrown, overthrown or to the side. Get to the ball. I'm not worried (about the knock). That was college. This is the NFL and I'm just worried about getting better. It's always good to hear good things. But I know I've got to improve on everything."
But for one day, anyway, the boss approved.
GOOD TEST: Earlier in the week offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski shared his concerns about the Bengals pass protection, particularly from the rookie-riddled second offensive line, but he also said he wanted to see improvement from the first-teamers.
The first-teamers may only play something like eight snaps Sunday, but it is against a very good Cowboys 3-4 front that can get to the quarterback. Dallas was fifth in the NFC in sacks last season and boasts two superb pass rushing outside linebackers. DeMarcus Ware, the man that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer mentored to 19.5 sacks in his first two seasons in the league, has since had a 20-sack season and is coming off 11 last year.
Then on the other side is Anthony Spencer, who had six last season and should play Sunday after missing a few days with a bruised heel. He'll usually be working on right tackle Dennis Roland and left tackle Andrew Whitworth is on Ware, but they'll switch according to the strength of the offense.
"This is a good test for us because they're very similar to the defenses we play in the division," Whitworth said. "A 3-4 team with outside guys that can get to the quarterback. What, Ware is averaging something like 18, 19 sacks the last couple of years, right? It's a heck of a way to start the year. It will give us a good gauge."
Whitworth agrees that it's hard to look good when so many guys are moving in and out against Zimmer's endless stream of pressures.
"Especially with younger players," he said. "They're getting used to the scheme and then here come all these blitzes from everywhere."
Center Kyle Cook is also looking at a formidable bunch in the middle. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff had six sacks and defensive end Stephen Bowen had three and he'll be getting more snaps now that Marcus Spears is out four to six weeks with a sprained knee.
"They've got pass rushers all across the front," Cook said. "You prepare like you're going to play the whole game and then go from there."
PROUD FAN: As the University of Cincinnati's associate head coach in charge of the secondary, when Kerry Combs comes to Bengals practices he is here with one notepad and infinite questions. But Friday was a little different. He was more like the kid that went to Nippert Stadium and the Riverfront Stadium opener as well as The Freezer Bowl.
Sharing the sidelines with him was his son, Brayden, fresh out of Miami University and beginning his career as a Bengals defensive quality control coach and an assistant in the personnel department.
"It's like the best thing you can ever have as a dad," Combs said. "For me, it's like a dream come true. You've got to understand, I've always been such a big Bengals fan since they came here and to see your kid out there…"
Brayden played for his dad on Cincinnati Colerain High School's 2004 Division I state title team, but has yet to flash the father's well-known intensity.
"I think what he's doing is finding his way; he knows his place," Combs said with a laugh. "I don't think they have any interest in him being intense out here. If they see him acting like me, they'd put him on the first bus back home."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Lewis capped the most high-profile first eight days of a Bengals training camp at Georgetown College on Friday when he put his team through its final practice before Sunday's 8 p.m. game against Dallas.
The club looked fairly healthy, but starters SLB Rey Maualuga (hamstring), CB Johnathan Joseph (calf), and RE Antwan Odom (illness) sat out the work with mild problems. So did backup CB Morgan Trent (unknown), but Odom and Trent look like they might be able to go. WR Antonio Bryant, RT Andre Smith and FB Fui Vakapuna have been ruled out and Maualuga and Joseph, along with two other guys that sat out Friday, RB Cedric Peerman and DE Carlos Dunlap (concussion) figure to end up joining them.
» A big Friday afternoon crowd of 3,100 looked on, jacking the camp attendance to between 30-35,000 with three days left. The Bengals return Tuesday for a 3 p.m. workout before 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. sessions Wednesday and a final public workout at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, giving the college a shot at one of the three biggest years in the 14 camps the Bengals have held here.
Because the Hall of Fame Game cut the camp short to 12 days, the college has no shot at the 2006 record of more than 50,000. But school officials have been pleasantly surprised after what looked to be a bleak year when they learned there would be no intrasquad scrimmage and Mock Game and not the usual 15 or 16 days.
They may be in range of a daily average record. The record for parking revenue is $125,000 and they are already over $100,000. Plus, they already matched their expenses earlier this week.
» Lewis canceled meetings Friday morning and the team went to the movies, where they had their choice of "Salt" or "Invictus."