It sounds like rookie linebacker Germaine Pratt, the Bengals’ third-round pick, is close to getting more than the three scrimmage snaps he’s received in the first two games after getting none last Sunday.
“I would think so. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. Because he’s practicing well. He’s doing a good job,” said linebackers coach Tem Lukabu after Thursday’s workout. “He’s adjusting to the pro style of football. Urgency. The details of it. Just understanding, ‘What play can I eliminate by seeing this and seeing that?’ while still lining everybody else up. He’s come along way with that.”
He has received a total of 40 snaps in the kicking game and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons likes the flashes of speed and physicality he’s seen.
“I’m not going to judge anybody on two NFL games. Ask me in midseason,” Simmons said. “He has the physical talent. We’ve just got to get him to understand how to play and what to do in each situation. And I believe he will. He’s a conscientious guy that wants to do well. He’ll come along as fast as he wants.”
Another day to get better. Check out some of the best photographs from Thursday's practice as the Benagls prepare for the Week 3 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
PASS WORD: What wide receiver John Ross has accomplished in the first two games shouldn’t be taken lightly. After two weeks, he’s leading the NFL with 270 yards and that’s coming into September with 210 career yards. Not A.J. Green and Isaac Curtis did that in a season’s first two games. Green’s best was 233 to open the 2014 season. Chad Johnson did eclipse it with 304 yards in the 2007 season (with the help of that 209-yard game in Cleveland in the second week) and it was nice harbinger. That’s the year he set the Bengals receiving record with 1,440 yards. But, weird, that’s the season his streak of four straight AFC receiving yardage titles came to an end when Randy Moss went off for 1,493 yards and 23 TDs from Tom Brady in New England. But it was the Colts’ Reggie Wayne that went for 1,510 to carry the day in the NFL and AFC.
Ross has caught the attention of his quarterback.
“He’s got a great understanding of this offense, and he’s probably doing some different things than he was doing in years past,” Dalton said. “His attention to all the details has been on point, and he’s playing with confidence. He knows he’s going to make these plays, and I think it’s a belief in himself and that’s shown in the way he’s played so far.”
Now, how about Tyler Boyd’s 18 catches in the first two weeks? None of the franchise leaders ever did it. Not The Ocho, Green, Curtis or Cris Collinsworth or Carl Pickens. The closest looks to be T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 17, also in 2007, the year he tied for the NFL lead with 112 catches.
“We have a great for feel for how he runs routes and how he gets open,” Dalton said. “He catches everything, and that’s what it comes down to. For me, he makes it easier, and I know exactly where he’s going to be. He’s going to be in the right spot at all times, so we want to give him the opportunity to make plays.”
Dalton, by the way, has thrown more passes than any Bengal in the first two games of the season with 93. It’s got an interesting historical partner. That breaks the 1984 record of 87 when Ken Anderson threw 86 and punter Pat McInally one. Those were the first two games of head coach Sam Wyche’s tenure, both losses. It’s also four yards shy for the most net passing yards in the first two games, held by Dalton in 2016 ( 690-686).
CONSISTENCY: Lukabu is looking for more consistency from the guys that are getting the snaps, Preston Brown and Nick Vigil and Brown says it’s no surprise what’s coming at them Sunday after they allowed 259 rushing yards last week.
“We go against a team that’s probably going to do the same thing they saw happen to us,” Brown said. “It’s going to be the same plays over and over. They’re going to have two backs and two tight ends and try to run the ball.”
When the Bengals gave up their three 500-yard games last season, the culprit was thought to be the complexity of the scheme that slowed everyone down. But Lukabu said there was very little confusion against the 49ers.
“We were in the right spots for the most part. A lot of the stuff is about finishing,” Lukabu said. “We’re on the ball. We have to finish. We’re not confused. We’ve got two intelligent guys that make the adjustments on the side. They know what’s coming. We just have to finish better.”
If anything, Brown thinks they may have played too fast.
“I need to slow down on some plays. A lot of us just need to slow down,” Brown said. “Just read your keys and then go when you know what’s going on instead of trying to be ahead of the play. If we all read our keys, then we’ll take our right steps and we’ll be in the right place.”
Vigil agrees with Brown. The Bills are going to test them with what they didn’t stop against the 49ers.
“It’s a copycat league,” Vigil said. “Teams see what you struggle against and they’re obviously going to put it in the game plan with a lot of the same plays. You see that every week … You might not see it this week, but you’ll see it two to three weeks from now.”
That means the Bills are going to attack the edges and Vigil says the formula is simple: “You have to read your fits. And you have to be in your fit. If they block down, crack on guys, cornerback comes down to set the edge, likewise D-line, linebackers. We had guys miss at every position level to make plays. We missed a lot of tackles.”
Enough that profootballfocus.com has them for 18 missed tackles (11 last week) and rated them last in tackling. Brown, who led the NFL in tackles during his last season in Buffalo in 2017, thinks that can be corrected.
“A lot of us had dead feet. Just hitting guys and falling off,” Brown said of the need to keep the feet moving through a tackle. “In this league guys run through that … There are things you’re able to do in practice. Sure angles. That’s the big thing in practice. Coach says make every rep a tackling rep. Take good angles and have good fits and hope it works out in a game.”
It’s Brown’s first regular-season appearance in Buffalo since he left. But no big deal this trip: “I got all that emotion out last year when we went up there in the preseason.”
INJURY UPDATE: If you had to put together the Bengals’ inactive list for Sunday going off Thursday’s practice, defensive linemen Ryan Glasgow (thigh) and Kerry Wynn and rush end Carl Lawson (hamstring) would be on it because they didn’t practice. Lawson was the only one on the rehab field. But head coach Zac Taylor says it’s not a hard and fast rule that a player is out for the game if they miss the two biggest days of work, Wednesday and Thursday. Or even if they miss Friday.
“It’s a case-by-case basis,” Taylor said after Thursday’s practice. “It depends on the position, depends on the player, maybe the experience he’s had where one guy has logged enough reps to where you feel comfortable and another guy really needs the reps and you don’t feel comfortable putting him out there.
“Some of those guys, its position specific. We’ll just see how they go. Maybe they’re not even participating, but if they look good doing the stuff we’re asking them to do and we feel like they can play, we’ll obviously kind of manage it by player. But we’ll see how it goes.”
Lawson and Glasgow are classified day-to-day. That’s how he’s got slot cornerback B.W. Webb (forearm) even though he’s in a cast. He also put rookie left guard Michael Jordan (knee) in there, too, and he was on the rehab field. So were wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) and left tackle Cordy Glenn (concussion), two guys definitely on the inactive list with rookie quarterback Jake Dolegala.
Glenn has been in concussion protocol for a month and that’s where Taylor leaves it, although Glenn has done physical activity publicly for the first time the past two days.
“It could be any day,” Taylor said. “It’s a sensitive issue with any concussion, to be honest with you. It’s really on if the player feels symptoms, then it’s important to protect the player. That’s really all I can even say about it.”
RED-ZONE ALERT: The Bengals need to reverse the trend quickly Sunday. The Bills (five times) and Seahawks (four times) are the only teams to score touchdowns on each of their possessions inside the 20. The Bengals are ranked last in red zone with one touchdown in six trips. It’s been tough down there. They’ve run a total of just 15 plays in there and among them are a lost fumble and a sack. There have also been four penalties, one which negated a touchdown. So brief that Taylor looks at it as getting just one red-zone snap in two games. The one TD came on a one-yard flip to tight end Tyler Eifert last Sunday.
“We just got down to the two-yard line very quickly. We called a run play, threw the ball to wide receiver) Auden Tate for six yards, and then just called some tempo runs to quickly try to hammer it in,” Taylor said. “That’s not really a red-zone offense. That’s just getting on the ball and trying to hammer it in on them really quick — we hit them with a quick play-action on the goal line. Aside from that, it doesn’t feel like we’ve really been inside the 15-yard line or the 10-yard line, where we get the chance to utilize our red-zone stuff. We’ve just been moving backwards too much.”