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More Quick Hits: The Fastest of Zac's Fastest Bengals Team; New Mantra For Defense; Major League Moment For Chidobe Awuzie

CB Chidobe Awuzie runs during practice at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Wednesday, September 6, 2023.
CB Chidobe Awuzie runs during practice at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Wednesday, September 6, 2023.

Bengals head strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese is not only in the brigade of personnel that has helped quarterback Joe Burrow and his strained calf get to the threshold of Sunday's opener (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) in Cleveland, but he's also trained the fastest Bengals team maybe ever that is anchored by the blinding 22-plus miles per hour of cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and wide receiver Tee Higgins.

Head coach Zac Taylor says it's the fastest of his five teams after looking at Boese's annual opening week presentation to the team this past Monday.

'The high speeds are where Joey factors into the overall team speed," Taylor said at his Wednesday news conference.

Some of the numbers are so staggering that Boese and his staff of Garrett Swanson (in charge of the data) and Todd Hunt have had to re-check them. What they discovered is one would have to log a top GPS time of 21.4 miles per hour to just crack the top ten, an elite number.

"Every year on this Monday I go through what is going to be the weekly routine so they can mentally get ready for what is expected physically," Boese said. "I go through the things we look at and what's important to us and the last thing I show them is the fastest guys on the team. That gets a little excitement going in the team room."

Boese's staff uses times from this year's practice and games, as well as data from last year for injured players like Awuzie.

"We take max velocity, the highest number they've got GPS-wise miles-per-hour on the monitor and those numbers across the board are the highest we've had," said Boese, one of Taylor's first hires when he was hired.

"In the past we've done top ten on offense, top ten on defense. But we felt like it would have been a disservice to a lot of these guys if they weren't on the list and we expanded it to the top 20."

And they still had to be going briskly enough to get near 21 miles per hour to even make that. Everyone knew how fast this draft class is even as they raced through the seven rounds and Boese's list confirmed it. Cornerbacks DJ Turner and DJ Ivey and wide receiver Andrei Iosivas made it, as did undrafted wide receiver Shed Jackson. And, pass rusher Myles Murphy and running back Chase Brown are close enough to make a top 20 move.

"That's the thing. The list is changing and there are a lot of guys maybe just .2 or. 3 away," Boese said. "It gets buy-in from players to help us do our job and help them do theirs."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: That brigade that has put Burrow on the threshold includes the staff of head athletic trainer Matt Summers and director of rehab Nick Cosgray.

"I wouldn't be able to be back on the field without those guys," Burrow said after Wednesday's practice. "They've put in a lot of work to help me get back to where I'm at, and they're going to continue to put in work to keep me healthy. And those guys are critical to what we're doing." …

Heading into last season's AFC title game, Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's crew came up with seven straight games of forcing a turnover in the fourth quarter. This always-find-a-way trend, he thinks, began when safety Vonn Bell's culture-changing hit forced Pittsburgh wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster's fumble in a Monday night Paycor Stadium game late in the 2020 season.

Every Cincy kid knows the litany that play produced, two of them by linebacker Germaine Pratt. The first was the goal-line pick of Derek Carr to end that first playoff win in 2021 and then last year's forced fumble on Chiefs all-world tight end Travis Kelce. Then there's Bell again poking the ball away from running back Rhamondre Stevenson as the Patriots were poised to score the go-ahead touchdown in the last minute. And, of course, left end Sam Hubbard's playoff-record 98-yard fumble return to turn last year's Wild Card Game.

Now they've got a motto. Maybe it's not senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner's legendary, "They Have To Play Us," but it's pretty good.

"We are never out of the fight."

"No matter what the situation is we are never out of it. Keep swinging. Good things can happen," Anarumo said before Wednesday's practice. " 

"I would be lying if I didn't say, 'Wow,' sometimes. Sam's play in the playoff game. Vonn at New England. Germaine on Kelce in (last year's) first game. There are so many you can think of. It's like anything. They feel the momentum and it keeps going and going and we keep preaching it to them." …

Awuzie, Anarumo's No. 1 cornerback, returns to the field Sunday where he suffered a torn ACL last Halloween night. They've talked about it and on Thursday, Anarumo, still a big baseball fan even as his Yankees implode, invoked the classic movie "Major League."

"What was the scene in the movie where they did the voodoo on the bats? He gets a bucket of chicken," Anarumo said. "Maybe we'll do something like that over that spot.

"In any player's career, when they go through something like that, to know that he's less than a year removed from that happening, mentally that's a huge accomplishment at the level of football that these guys are playing. It'll be emotional for him, I'm sure. I'm sure he'll go over there and (make) his peace and move on, knowing Chido the way I do. It's something I've seen other guys do before. So, I'll go over there with him if he wants me to." … 

Keys to the game? It's no more than this:

On Halloween, the Browns beat the Bengals with running back Nick Chubb going for 101 yards on 23 carries. Six weeks later at Paycor, the Bengals held the Pro Bowler to 34 yards on 14 carries in a win.

"As we know, he's one of the best backs in the league, if not the best. Selfless guy," Anarumo said. "Everybody knows his work ethic. Hard to bring down one-on-one. He doesn't fumble. I think he's only got (seven) in his career. He's a challenge. You've got to gang-tackle him. You've got to get a lot of hats around him. We did a better job against him in the second game last year. But he is certainly a handful." …