Posted: 9:40 p.m.
With his kids playing like vets, coach Darrin Simmons' special teams are rapidly putting some age on the NFL's least experienced roster.
Forget for a moment rookie punter Kevin Huber and rookie punt returner Quan Cosby, who have led their units to top 10 showings in the NFL stats in the first two games. There is also rookie Morgan Trent, whose job is to block the all-important gunner on punt return in a two-man vise with fellow cornerback Leon Hall. They surfaced prominently Sunday with the Bengals clinging to a 28-21 late in the fourth quarter at Green Bay.
"He made a veteran move," Simmons said Wednesday of Trent. "The gunner was falling down and Morgan didn't want to get called for holding, so he let go of the guy and let him fall to the ground."
Cosby did the rest. He leaped over the fallen gunner and was off on a 32-yarder that set up the clinching field goal and bookended his give-me-second-wind 60-yarder that whisked the Bengals into good enough field position to tie the game at 14.
"He takes what's there. He isn't forcing it. He's not trying to do anything extraordinary," Simmons said. "The guys have a lot of confidence in him and he's got confidence in them. The guys are blocking really well."
Cosby, a free-agent out of Texas, may be small (5-8), isn't a burner and won't make a host of guys miss. But he shows that good, decisive decisions by the returner along with hustle blocking are a deadly combination. All week Simmons had been raving about the Packers gunners and how they were the best the Bengals coaching staff had seen.
"The key in any punt return are the gunners and our vise guys are holding them up and giving me an opportunity to catch the ball," Cosby said before Wednesday's practice, "It's always great as a returner when you see guys being knocked out of your vision."
But Cosby also knows the other key is for the returner to get vertical as quickly as possible. He thinks the long returns have been more of a lift for his blockers than anybody.
"You see the opposite color jersey," he said, "and you run from it. ... I think it helps everybody else's confidence. The whole time I was back there I was confident I could catch the ball and do my assignment and that's all I'm trying to do."
The vise tandems of Morgan and Hall along with safety Chinedum Ndukwe and cornerback Geoff Pope on the other side have squeezed opposing gunners enough that the Bengals are fifth in the league in punt return average as they meet a Steelers cover team that is seventh in the league.
On the flip side Huber has punted well enough to have the Bengals eighth in punt coverage, but where they have to be concerned is Steelers 5-6 kick return man Stefan Logan. He also returns punts, but his 39-yard return has put him sixth in the league.
As for Cosby, he's right where he wants to be, even though he was undrafted. But he says he wasn't disappointed he was passed. He agrees that it worked out as well as if he had been drafted.
"It is what it is," Cosby said. "I go into everything very optimistic knowing anything can happen. I wouldn't say I was really disappointed. I would liked to have had things go a little differently, but I'm happy with the way it worked out."