The Bengals' punting competition still looks like one of those kicks authored Saturday night by Kevin Huber and Drue Chrisman in their roster showdown during the 16-7 win over the Rams in the preseason finale at Paycor Stadium.
Up in the air with Tuesday's final cut to 53 players looming.
"Both of us hung it up better tonight,' said Chrisman, the first-year challenger to Huber, the Bengals all-time punter.
With special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons facing one of the biggest calls of his 20 seasons running the Bengals kicking game, Huber and Chrisman reinforced their strengths.
"I don't envy Darrin. I can tell you that," Chrisman said. "It's been fun. I think Kevin and I made each other better. It's out of my hands at this point.
"If you look at the stats, it's a dead heat."
Huber, 37, a 14-year vet who has been to a Pro Bowl, forced two fair catches inside the Rams 20. While tying the Bengals record with 207 games, Huber has dropped 337 punts inside-the-20 for the 12th most of all-time in NFL history.
Chrisman, 25, the ranked the fourth best punter in Ohio State history, also had a fair catch on his first punt of the night. But he's known for his booming leg and he didn't disappoint with his second and last punt of the night, a 65-yarder that hit inside the 5 and bounced into the end zone for a touchback.
And there you have Simmons' dilemma because both held flawlessly on Evan McPherson's three field goals and an extra point. Holding was one of the things that knocked Chrisman out of the derby last year. But he closed the gap so closely that Simmons said earlier this week it's not part of the decision because they're so close in that category.
"I probably did holding more this summer than punting," Chrisman said. "Overall I felt pretty happy with this training camp."
Chrisman said it would have been nice if the 65-yarder had checked up and bounced the other way or if he had hung it up just a little more for a fair catch inside the 10. But it was still a net punt of 45 yards. And on the fair catches Chrisman sensed the Rams were calling them to get off the field because of injury.
Still, "They were a sight for sore eyes."
On a night Bengals head coach Zac Taylor named five Cincinnatians game captains and their only touchdown was scored by tight end Justin Rigg from nearby Springboro, Ohio, Chrisman, a Lawrenceburg, Ind., product who played at Cincinnati's LaSalle High School, also got into the act.
"This is what I've been dreaming of," said Chrisman, who knew last year he was getting cut. "Hopefully I can stay here and if not hopefully put some things on film that somebody else would pick me up … We'll see what Darrin says.
"It's indescribable," said Chrisman of how close he is to being the Bengals punter. "I was looking out at the stands today and I saw high school friends, and people that work at my dad's store who came to the stadium. Obviously my family — they had a whole row to themselves. It would mean a lot to be able to stay home and be local, and I think it would mean a lot to my family as well."
"SACK," CARTER: That's what fellow rookie D-linemen Jeff Gunter was calling to his buddy as defensive tackle Zach Carter held court with the media after his sack-strip. Gunter, the seventh-rounder from Coastal Carolina who completed his active preseason with four tackles and a quarterback hit against the Rams, says he hopes he's shown enough to stay.
He knows Carter, the third-rounder from Florida, has.
"That's the guy. He's going to be the guy for a few years," said Gunter, an edge who just missed his second sack of the preseason on Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins' scrambling touchdown. "That's my dog. We have a little chemistry. I hope it lasts for a few years."
It looks like they've both made it. Certainly Carter has established himself as the backup three technique to B.J. Hill after a preseason he had that sack and forced fumble, a tipped pass, a few quarterback hits and six tackles.
"I thought Zach has made some plays for us. He's got the right mentality," Taylor said. "He's played a lot of snaps in these preseason games. None of our defensive tackles play that many snaps in a real game. I think it has been a really good experience for him, and I think it's going to serve him well when he plays a role for us this upcoming year. I think he's got the right stuff, and that's good to see."
Carter really wanted that sack and he brought out his club-rip move.
"That's my go-to," Carter said.
"He's been talking about getting a sack," Gunter said, "and at halftime we were saying, 'Got to get one, got to get one.' Then three plays later I'm saying, 'Ball's out.'"
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Left guard Jackson Carman, who missed the Giants game with COVID, did Saturday night what rookie Cordell Volson did in New York last Sunday and took all the snaps.
That would seem to suggest Volson, who dressed only in emergency Saturday, is the Opening Day starter. After Carman was called for holding and allowed a sack, Taylor wasn't saying that.
"This was Jackson's opportunity," Taylor said. "He had missed a couple days. He didn't get to play last week, so we thought we gave him a great opportunity to show himself today."
In his outing, Volson was charged with giving up a sack (on a blitz by Pro Football Focus) and a false start penalty. But Taylor is high on the North Dakota State pedigree.
""He's hungry. He's always asking for meeting time and asking good questions to the vets, so you can just tell when a guy's got a great mentality like that," Taylor said. "He's a multi-time national champion. He comes from a winning culture, winning program. You can just tell he exudes that as you're around him." …
Quarterback Jake Browning looks to be headed to the practice squad. He had better numbers this preseason than backup Brandon Allen, but Allen goes back a ways with Taylor and his offense.
"We've got a lot of confidence in Brandon. He's got years in the system," Taylor said. "He does a real good job operating our team. I think those guys have both done a nice job and done what we needed them to do." …
Remember Thursday's dustup that wiped out the last part of the two-day Bengals-Rams joint practices? Taylor and Rams head coach Seam McVay don't. In fact, sounds like they took all the coaches out to dinner.
"We put it behind us. We went to dinner … that night actually," Taylor said. "We've got a great relationship with that coaching staff. It was good to see a lot of those guys." …
Taylor said free safety Jessie Bates III is back to full practice Wednesday, eight days after his return …
Here's why Taylor went with the five Cincy captains (Carman, Huber, Sam Hubbard, Tegray Scales and Desmond Noel):
"We're fortunate to have such great high school football here in the state of Ohio. Great tremendous, tremendous college football in the state of Ohio," Taylor said. "Those guys have represented us well. It's not like we seek out and let's go sign three local Cincinnati guys to be on our roster. We don't go about it that way. They've earned the right to be here and there happened to be five of them on this team. There was six with Drew Plitt last week. We're proud of the football culture we have here in the state and thought those guys represented us well at the coin toss." …