* BENGALS CB ADAM JONES VS. TEXANS QB BRIAN HOYER*
Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry says that Jones is such a tough, passionate teammate that "if there's a fight at 3 o'clock behind Wal-Mart, Pacman's a guy that I'm bringing with me. That's just being honest because I know I can count on him."
So can the rest of the Bengals' red-hot defense (two TDs in the last eight quarters) that continues to look for him to offer elite play at one of the game's elite positions, as he has for the past couple of years. But we'll have to switch up the time and place for Jones' next battle to Monday (8:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5 and ESPN) at Paul Brown Stadium against the Texans.
PBS has been a hard sell for all kinds of quarterbacks in the Bengals' last 24 regular-season games, from Wal-Mart to Wall Street. They've thrown 10 more interceptions (35) than TDs (25) and have completed just 58.6 percent of their passes for barely six yards per throw culled from a struggling passer rating of 69.5.
From Tom Brady to Johnny Manziel, it's just been a miserable place to throw for the opposition in the last 24 games. Where the Bengals have won 67 percent of the time on third down. Where quarterbacks have been sacked 64 times and at least four times in 11 of the 24 games. Where only three have won since Nov. 11, 2012 in Cincinnati's 20-3-1 home stretch.
And one of them is Hoyer, who did it for Cleveland last year in the Thursday night debacle the Bengals buried neatly last week to go to 8-0 on another defensive stand they gave up virtually nothing through the air. Only six opposing quarterbacks have had multiple TD pass games at PBS in the last 24 outings and one of them wasn't Hoyer, who didn't have to even throw a TD in a 152-yard rush effort. It should be an interesting matchup because Hoyer has a streak of five straight games with at least two TD passes. Only San Diego's Philip Rivers has thrown for two TD passes against the Bengals at PBS this season.
"Stuff happens. I know Thursday night we were banged up and we didn't come to play," Jones says. "I don't think it's too much of him. I think it's what we had going on when we played against him. We are aware of him beating us twice and everybody is eager for the challenge. I think he's pretty smart. We'll see."
Hoyer also carried the day in Cleveland against the Bengals in 2013 and, along with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, is the only quarterback to beat the Bengals twice in the last 37 regular-season games.
"Hoyer's a good quarterback. And I'm not saying this because we play him this week. The guy doesn't get the credit he deserves," Gilberry says. "When he was in Cleveland, he did some things none of those quarterbacks on their roster has done thus far, and that's beat us. You've got to take that into consideration. And you've got to respect it. You've got to give him much respect. He's earned it. We're definitely not disrespecting him or his talents. We're approaching him like we would approach any other quarterback. May the best man win."
And if you talk to the Bengals defensive line long enough, you find out their best man is Jones, their relentless cover man ranked the fourth best corner in the league by profootballfocus.com. Left end Carlos Dunlap raves Jones is so smart that he runs the receivers' routes for them. He hasn't given up a touchdown this season and quarterbacks have a paltry rating of 53.9 throwing at him while he also finds time to be rated fifth stopping the run at his position.
It's getting to the point where teams aren't even throwing at him. In the last two games, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw at him twice and the Browns' Manziel just four times. Both completed just one pass on Jones.
One of the reasons for these home stands is Jones' consistent play since he got healthy in the 2012 season has meshed well with the Bengals pass rush that is among the top of the league in sacks per pass. Another reason is that guys like Jones and WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict have almost super human football IQs.
"We can go on and on about my respect for him," Gilberry says. "At the end of the day I know when it's third and 3, I can count on Adam locking up whoever he's guarding and give us time to get a sack."
Finally, at age 32 and in his ninth season, Jones' notices are beginning with his play on the field rather than his tumultuous off-the-field life earlier in his career that cost him two full seasons.
"I've known about Adam since he was in college," Gilberry says. "To his testament, he's nothing like what people think he is. Outside the locker room, he's nothing like that. Don't get me wrong, he's not going to take no crap from nobody. That's just how he is. But he's nothing like the picture that was painted before I got here . . . The media creates that . . . A lot of that stuff was self-inflicted. But at the end of the day, he's nothing like that. Nothing whatsoever. One of the most caring guys you'll ever want to meet. Give you the shirt off his back if he knows you needed it."
At the moment, Jones isn't even taking the shirt off the receivers' backs and he's still shutting them down. He has no pass-interference penalties, or holding calls, or illegal hands flags. It is a page straight from the playbook of former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Zimmer, the current Vikings head coach, preaches playing with the feet and eyes and not the hands.
After one of his former players lobbied Zimmer to give Jones a second chance, Hall-of-Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, Zimmer took him up on it before the 2010 spring camps and that's what Jones says revived his career.
But current Bengals cornerbacks coach Vance Joseph has also caught his attention when it comes to the particulars.
"I think as far as technique and eliminating routes, I think V.J. is one of the best I've ever been around," Jones says.
Joseph shrugs. He'll take a 32-year-old corner that can run any day. Especially one, he says, like Jones that looks at times like he's 25.
"If you can find a guy with that kind of experience, those are the guys that are playing well," Joseph says. "(Darrelle) Revis and (Richard) Sherman, those older guys with experience that can think the game, but can still do athletic things. If an old guy can't run, it doesn't matter. But (Jones) can still run, he can still change direction. But ultimately he's playing with his brain and that's huge. Most young cornerbacks don't play with their brains, so they feel the stress."
What Joseph loves about Jones is that he plays with about as much stress as a day at the beach. He says, "He doesn't cover the route." And by that Joseph means Jones knows what not to play as much as he knows what to play by intensive studying of formations.
"He's not guessing. He's not so worried about all of the routes," Joseph says. "He understands by formation what an offense can and can't do. That's experience, film study, listening to coaches. It helps you relax. You're playing what they can do and not what they can't do."
The guy who may have the most stress Monday is Texans head coach Bill O'Brien. At the beginning of the century when O'Brien was coaching at Georgia Tech, he thought he had successfully recruited Jones, one of Atlanta's mega prep stars, to stay home.
"Broke my heart,' is the way O'Brien referred to Jones' last-minute decision to go to West Virginia.
Jones added to the drama, where he says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution photog caught O'Brien's look of disbelief when Jones made it official.
"I walked up with a Georgia Tech hat on and a white suit. I took my suit jacket off and I had on a West Virginia shirt and I put on a West Virginia hat," Jones says. "I've still got the (newspaper) . . . It was pretty cool . . . When I put on that West Virginia hat, it was like the whole state of Georgia was made at me. But I think I made a great decision. It was one of the best decisions of my life."
A few good decisions on Monday and Jones is looking at breaking O'Brien's heart yet again.