Hands-on experience

Posted: 5:55 a.m.

You can have a lot of fun with the numbers when you stack up the Bengals' baby secondary with graybeard Brett Favre.

The combination of safeties Chinedum Ndukwe and Marvin White and cornerbacks Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph have played in 93 NFL games. Favre has 95 losses next to his NFL record 162 victories as a starter.

He has thrown touchdown passes to 48 different players while the Bengals quartet has a total of 54 NFL starts.

Seven of Favre's NFL-record 292 interceptions have come against the Bengals. Hall has the most career interceptions of the group with five.

jackson_dexter.jpg

Jackson

But the Bengals have a guy that has actually intercepted Favre three times for two different teams. The problem is that safety Dexter Jackson's broken thumb in the opener has shelved him since he returned in limited form to practice this week.

He'd love another chance to pick the Hall of Famer again while playing for a third team, but after practice Thursday he looked down as his cast and admitted, "It's going to be hard to catch one with this."

"I've got the passion to play," Jackson said, "but it's why you go to professionals. Its going to be up the doctors."

Jackson isn't out to pasture yet. While Ndukwe and White are impressing with their physical skills, the number of big-play breakdowns suggest the Bengals still need his seasoning back there and they would love to have his hands-on experience against Favre this Sunday.

Until then, Jackson is letting the kids pick his brain about trying to get a Favre pick of their own.

"Dexter came in the same year Favre did," said the smiling, Ndukwe, the youngest of the four who was in second grade when Favre made his first start.

A gag, of course. Favre is 38 and Jackson is just a baby of 31. But Jackson played him twice a year during his six seasons in Tampa Bay. He picked him off twice for the Bucs, on Oct. 7, 2001 and Nov. 24, 2002 when Ndukwe was toiling for dear old Coffman High.

Jackson remembers the plays as deep passes down the sideline. He recalls that his back-of-the-end-zone interception of Favre on Sept. 21, 2003 sealed a victory for Arizona.

"I love playing Brett," Jackson said. "You like it because he's going to give you the chance to make a play. You love playing those passing quarterbacks. It's the only time you really can play deep safety down the middle of the field."

Jackson is telling the kids to be aware where their man is at all times because Favre will find him.

"The thing with playing a guy like Brett is you can never slack off because of that arm strength," Jackson said. "He can run around and still throw it 60 yards on the run when the receivers get down the field. He's going to make some plays and he's going to make some bad throws. When he makes a bad throw, you better catch the balls."

The thing is, Jackson says, you can't get too enraptured in covering your guy because you've got to make sure you're looking at what the crafty Favre is concocting back there.

"You can't jump too much shallow stuff until you know the ball has been released," he said. "Because he'll pump, pump, and still throw it deep. You've got to read his shoulder and where the ball is coming out. A lot of guys tear out of there on the pump-fake. They take one step and they can't get it back."

And the kids have seen that on tape because in the Jets' last game Favre got an easy touchdown for wide receiver Laveranues Coles on a pump-fake that put an Arizona corner in the hospital.

"You've got to read when that shoulder is coming up the ball is coming out," Jackson said. "(On the two picks for the Bucs) I was able to break from the middle of the field to the sideline and cut the receiver off because of my break on the ball."

More do's and don'ts?

"You've got to change up the covergaes on him," Jackson said. "Don't keep lining up in the same thing on him because he'll eat you alive."

Favre could eat the Bengals' young Sunday, but the kids sound excited instead of dreading it. Like they're going on a field trip instead of a final exam.

ndukwe_chinedum.jpg

Ndukwe

"I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't excited playing a guy like that that's been as great as he's been," Ndukwe said. "But I can't get lost in the mystique. We need a win more than anything."

White remembers watching Favre on SportsCenter run around and make those improbable throws and he admits, "He's the kind of guy you're going to tell your grandchildren you played against."

But he's also been taking meticulous notes from Jackson.

"The coaches have been telling us a lot of the same things," White said, "but it's great to hear from another player who has seen him play in game situations and what to expect."

One thing White is keeping his eyes on is Favre's eyes.

"Dexter's been saying that he likes to look you off," White said. "He likes to come back to you. He'll look one way and then fire it across the field. He's got that great attitude. He's not scared to make a bad play. He can make a bad play and then come back and make a great play. That's the type of guy he is. We've got to be extra cautious and make sure we're on our keys and reading them."

Ndukwe knows there will be chances.

"He's going to give you an opportunity to make plays. You've got to look forward to that," Ndukwe said. "He's been able to find open receivers by making throws a lot of quarterbacks don't do. He doesn't mind throwing it into coverage and most times he makes it and he's got receivers (Coles and Jerricho Cotchery) that can go up and get it."

Ndukwe also knows that the kind of big play that Favre can make is the big play that has killed the Bengals in the first five games. The Cincinnati defense has been more than decent, except for about eight long runs and deep passes.

"You can never let up," he said. "The one play has killed us and we've got to play every snap like we know that."

Meanwhile Jackson hopes the doctors don't intercept him. So he'll counsel until then.

"He'll make a throw," Jackson said, "and you'll think, 'Bad throw, bad throw, oh, good throw.' He believes in his arm."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising