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Bengals Notebook: High Grade Germaine; Lessons Of A Rookie CB; How Huber Helped; Ja'Marr Chase Due Back At Practice

Germaine Pratt (right) and Eli Apple say hello to Najee Harris.
Germaine Pratt (right) and Eli Apple say hello to Najee Harris.

And there are times the Pro Football Focus grades match the grades of the coaches.

Such is the case Monday when the Bengals reviewed the work of linebacker Germaine Pratt in Sunday's 37-30 victory in Pittsburgh.

PFF had him for 91.5, the top grade on a Bengals defense that won the game by shutting things down in the second half. Particularly after they held the Steelers to a field goal following T.J. Watt's immaculate interception at the Bengals 21 midway through the third quarter.

 Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, in his first season when the Bengals drafted Pratt in the 2019 third round, thought it could be called his best game as a Bengal.

He thought back to Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett's overthrow in the end zone on first down of that three-and-out.

"Just his communication, his overall awareness," Anarumo said. "That shot play after the turnover … that's forced by Germaine. Germaine got enough depth. He just saw the play. He's such a headsy guy that way. They tried to run a repeat run and he's in the backfield tackling. He knows the play before it happens. The jet sweep falls right in his lap. I can't say enough about how much he does and how he has really stepped up. He had a heck of a game."

MORE DEFENSE: Rookie cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt did what they thought he'd do in his first start in The Rivalry and came down hill hard and had the most tackles on the field with a dozen. Like his first start in Cleveland three weeks ago when he gambled and lost on an out route with no one behind him, there were several teachable moments.

Like when Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth broke a tackle for 27 yards when Taylor-Britt tried to get him high.

"It was the same coaching point as Cleveland. Don't ever do that again. Just everything is a wrap and roll for you. You're a corner," Anarumo said. "And that's how he tackled the rest of the night. And it was good.

"He's a coachable guy. He tackled really, really well (Sunday) on big guys. The back (Najee Harris) is a big (6-1, 232 pounds) kid … Every snap for him is a new snap. It's a new world. He made error like a lot of young and we're able to fix these errors while we're winning. And he's got to continue to step his game up in terms of pass coverage."

Anarumo had a good example of the leadership in the secondary that is bringing Taylor-Britt along in that pass coverage. Late in the game Steelers rookie receiver George Pickens had him beat for a 50-yard touchdown until he dropped it. Anarumo took note of the reaction of free safety Jessie Bates III

"Most safeties in the league would have had their hands up pointing at the corner that screwed up," Anarumo said. "And you saw Jessie Bates put his arm around Cam and told him what he did wrong. To me, that speaks volumes. That's palms up, point at somebody else. You saw Jessie just put his arm around him and say, well, I don't want to tell you what he said."

One thing Anarumo could say Monday is that with No. 1 cornerback Chidobe Awuzie out for the year with a torn ACL, no one is going to do what he did and move from side to side in what they call 'traveling," to cover the best receiver.

"Even some of the best guys don't like doing it," Anarumo said. "They just feel more comfortable on the right side or the left side just because their foot work is a little bit different. Chido is rare that way. He was able to do it. But these guys feel comfortable where they're at and they'll stay there."

HUBER HELPER: All-time Bengals punter Kevin Huber said Monday that it wasn't all that weird watching in sweats on the sidelines after being deactivated for the first time in 138 straight games in favor of Drue Chrisman's NFL debut.

"It was a little bit enjoyable in the sense I was able to help talk some things through," Huber said. "Give him whatever knowledge I had with experiences I had in first games, big games or that stadium. It was a different perspective. I noticed a lot more little things. Nothing that really surprised me. But things I just hadn't noticed before. It was a unique perspective."

For instance, Huber zeroed in on the Steelers' first punt and how effectively the Bengals vise players, wide receiver Michael Thomas and cornerback Tre Flowers, made enough room on the Steelers sideline for Trent Taylor to return it 11 yards.

Huber concurred that Chrisman had a solid debut.

"It's not like he just got here. He's been here two years and I feel like I've got a relationship with him," Huber said. "I'm sure there were a lot of things going through his mind. 'How many have they got coming? Where are they coming from? How's the wind?' I told him, worry about these few things, and just go punt. He did a good job and then you look at the cold and conditions."

Huber said he took Chrisman's first ball from the equipment guys after the game and gave it to him, a fairly easy proposition given that each team has its own kicking balls brightly marked. Huber says he's got the ball from his first punts in his first NFL game, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl.

Kicker Evan McPherson joked Monday that it was a good thing he didn't kick it into the stands during the course of the game.

No way that was happening Sunday. Money Mac was dead on field goals from 44, 45 and 54. Chrisman did something that Huber hasn't done in 14 seasons and a Bengals-record 216 games. He held for the Bengals' first 50-yard field goal in the 21-year history of Acrisure Stadium and the first one in Pittsburgh since Jim Breech's 50-yarder 40 years ago in Three Rivers Stadium.

INJURY UPDATE: Wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase returns to practice this week for the first time he injured his hip Oct. 23 against the Falcons. But that's all head coach Zac Taylor can say. He has no idea if he can play this Sunday in Tennessee.

"I don't want to make any predictions on that. Everything has gone according to plan so far. Now it's just a matter of getting him out there on the grass and seeing where he's at," Taylor said. "What's his comfort level? What's our comfort level? And so that will truly be a day-to-day process really starting today, tomorrow, Wednesday to figure out how he factors in on Sunday.

"We told him to stay off of it for four weeks which he did. And so now you get a chance these last couple of days to get him going a little bit. Really hard to make a prediction on it's a balance of soreness, pain, everything feels great, impossible to make those predictions today. "

Running back Joe Mixon, who missed most of Sunday's game, was in concussion protocol Monday.

One thing that can probably be expected is more roster news in the wake of the club activating tackle Isaiah Prince (elbow) from injured reserve, a stint that began Sept. 2. After wide receiver Trenton Irwin had a breakout game in his third and final practice squad elevation, they released wide receiver Mike Thomas.

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