For the 24th time as Bengals head coach, Marvin Lewis faces a rookie quarterback Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) in Cleveland, but never has there been a more anticipated matchup than first-round pick Johnny Manziel's debut of the NFL version of Johnny Football.
His clubs are 13-10 against the rooks, but Lewis says he never keeps track of it and never really thought about them as rookies. Maybe because in the late 1990s as the Ravens defensive coordinator he went against Peyton Manning as a rookie in his 12th NFL start and Kurt Warner in his first NFL start.
Warner's Rams put on a show that would go on to win the Super Bowl that season as he threw for three TDs and 309 yards when the Rams beat the Ravens, 27-10, in the 1999 opener. In the previous season Baltimore staved off Manning's Colts, 38-31, despite giving up 357 yards and three TDs to the prodigy.
"We hit him a bunch. He just kept completing the ball," Lewis said of Warner. "Obviously he went on to have what may be a Hall of Fame career. We hit him a bunch. He kept coming back and showed what kind of player he was.
"The quarterback is always charged with taking care of the football,' he said. "It starts there defensively… Defending the quarterback within the offense."
The bottom line? Not even the Bengals or Browns really know what's going to happen Sunday. Who could have called Warner? But there are some rookie trends.
"Younger quarterbacks are more apt to pull the ball down and run more often," Lewis said. "But that works for you and it works against you. The quarterback not looking down field, you want to defend that guy. When they start looking at the rush, now they're playing into your hands. Young quarterbacks, keeping their poise and things don't go their way, these are things that (can) play into your hands."
But who really knows? The thinking is that with Kyle Shanahan calling the plays like he did in Robert Griffin III's rookie season when the Bengals beat Washington in the third game of the 2012 season, the Bengals will see the zone read option. And the Bengals do know they'll have to respond on the fly.
"You can't be instinctive, it has to disciplined and sound in the defense," Lewis said of playing the option. "Robert Griffin was different in terms of how they were using him. We'll have to see. You make adjustments as you go and how they're responding schematically." INJURY UPDATE:The Bengals got good news when cornerback Adam Jones (chest) worked Friday morning for the first time this week in their last full-scale practice on the Paul Brown Stadium field before Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) in Cleveland. He went limited and was called questionable.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham (toe) didn't work for the second straight day, but head coach Marvin Lewis indicated he thought he could play. But they called him questionable, which has to make them uneasy. They've not only been down tight end Tyler Eifert and wide receiver Marvin Jones all year but Gresham is an integral part of their pass protection and run blocking.
Gresham didn't appear to be working on the side, but wide receiver James Wright (knee) and backup right end Margus Hunt (ankle) were in what may be a good sign for the next game on Dec. 22 against the Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium. But they have been called doubtful for the Browns. Cornerback Terence Newman (ankle) has gone limited all three days and has been called questionable, but he and Jones gutted out their injuries last Sunday against the Steelers.
In the wake of his father's sudden death Monday night, kicker Mike Nugent missed all the practices but is listed as probable. It's believed he came in after one of the practices to get in some work.
So here's what could be Sunday's inactive list if Gresham is out: Gresham, Hunt, Wright, quarterback A.J. McCarron, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris and offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson. If Gresham can play, maybe linebacker Chris Carter would be out.
The Bengals began practice in 31-degree weather Friday, but the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio said Sunday game is projected to be played in temperatures in the low 40s with not much wind under mostly cloudy skies and no chance of rain.
The Browns had a fly in the ointment Friday when kicker Billy Cundiff surfaced on the injury report with an issue with his kicking knee and was called day-to-day after he didn't practice. The Browns brought in three kickers to work out this week and didn't sign any of them. Punter Spencer Lanning has been an emergency in-game guy and made a field goal last year. Cundiff is a weapon kicking off and is tied for 11th in the league with 39 touchbacks.
Also, the Browns won't have the services of rookie nickel back K'waun Williams (hamstring), an undrafted player who has been a huge find. It means the Browns will do what they don't want and move Buster Skrine into the slot and put first-round pick Justin Gilbert on the outside in multi-receiver sets.