There seems to be a hold on the Bengals punting competition between franchise all-timer Kevin Huber and first-year challenger Drue Chrisman.
But not really.
Chrisman has closed the gap so closely on the holding duties for kicker Evan McPherson that special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons can't use holding to evaluate who is going be his Opening Day punter.
"A year ago in practice there was a big difference in Evan's effectiveness between Kevin and Drue," Simmons said before Thursday's joint practice with the Rams at the Kettering Health Practice Fields.
"He was much more effective with Kevin with a higher percentage than Drue," Simmons said. "This year it's a dead heat …. They've been statistically identical as far as makes and misses."
The competition seems like it's a dead heat, too. But maybe not.
"That's for me to know and for you to find out," said Simmons, when asked who has the edge.
If Simmons wants power, he'll choose Chrisman. If Simmons wants direction and hang time, he'll opt for the 14-year vet Huber.
"I want both," Simmons said. "Drue has to learn the balance between power and accuracy … Right now, Drue is a power punter. We'll continue to work on accuracy and to limit the space the returner has. The returners have had too much space between the coverage. We don't have any fair catches. (Chrisman's) first one (Sunday night in New York) was plus-50 and they still brought it out."
Meanwhile, Huber, 37, hasn't hit it downfield as consistently as Chrisman. Although after charting Wednesday's punts against the Rams, Jay Morrison of The Athletic said Huber had the longest punt of the two they each took.
The fact Huber is one game shy of breaking the Bengals record he shares with Ken Riley with 207 Bengals games has "zero," to do with the decision.
"Best player. I want the best punter," Simmons said. "For me, yeah, it's (tough), but it's part of my job. That's what I signed up for. I don't mean to sound harsh. I have a lot of great feeling for Kevin and I have high respect for him. But I have a responsibility to this team to put the best punter and holder on the roster."
_Even Simmons is shaking his head over McPherson, he of the 6-for-7 preseason. Three of them are field goals 50 yards and beyond after the most prolific rookie kicking season in history.
Simmons, an NFL coach for a quarter of a century, says he's been around no one who makes the sound of McPherson's toe hitting the ball.
"I've fallen into it, too," Simmons said. "We talk about 57- and 58-yarders now like they're 45 and 46."
_Jessie Bates III learned well from Shawn Williams, the veteran who helped show him the ropes at safety when he was breaking as a second-round pick in 2018 and played with him for three seasons. Before practice Thursday, first-round Dax Hill, starting in Bates' place at free safety during his 27-day holdout, said Bates took him aside once he reported.
"Cool guy," said Hill, who met Bates for the first time Tuesday when he came in. "He just told me just go out there and do my thing and have fun out there."
Hill admitted he got a bit of a boost when Bates told him, "whatever you need.' Or, "The coaches can only do so much." And, "The veterans are here to help out as well."
"He gave me words of advice," Hill said. "He's here to help me out. He's been loving the way I've been playing. He said, "Just keep up the good work. You've been playing well.'"
_Rookie left guard Cordell Volson came out of his scrum with Rams future Hall-of-Fame three technique Aaron Donald impressed and intact.
"He didn't have much to say. He just went about his business," Volson said. "He's a great player. One of the best to ever do it. He's got it all. He's really explosive, really quick. And he's very strong. It was OK, but I have things to improve on."