Notebook: Third Down First Priority; Lewis Won't Talk Hue; Torn ACLs Rip Through Roster 

Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has third downs at the top of his bye list.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has third downs at the top of his bye list.

First things first for the Bengals' embattled defense during the bye week. It's as easy as one-two-three for defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

Third down.

The Bengals are giving them up at a 55.9 percent clip after the Bucs went 10-for-18 and Austin is trying to stop a season-long trend that began on Opening Day when Colts QB Andrew Luck clicked on 11 of 17. It's been a huge factor because it has kept a battered unit on the field. Only Cleveland has taken more snaps than the Bengals' 570.

"We've shown the ability at times. I think yesterday we started the game pretty decent on third down and we had a lull and couldn't get off the field and all those different things," Austin said Monday. "So we'll probably start with third down and work our way with the big plays and find out what's happening."

On Sunday the Bengals started out 2-for-5, which means the Bucs went 8-for-their-final-13. But they were 1-for-their-final-four against reliever Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bucs QB in the final 17 minutes.

"Is it scheme, are we giving away a tell when we're doing a coverage that allows people to get deep on us and all those different things? Is it personnel?" Austin asked rhetorically. "Whatever it is, we've got to look at everything and decide what we've got to do better moving forward because obviously the nice thing is our guys are finding ways to win, and that's the great thing. The bad thing is we can make it easier. There's not many times I've been involved in a game where we had four turnovers, you scored a touchdown, six sacks and you're in a dogfight. Usually doesn't happen that way. So we'll just look at everything."

Injuries aren't helping. They started the game without two of their nickel linebackers, WILL Vontaze Burfict and SAM Nick Vigil, as well as their slot corner Darqueze Dennard. Then early in the game one of their better pass rushers, right end Carl Lawson, was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

JAX REACT: Since the franchise was founded by a guy that was fired as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, it wasn't a bad question.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who hired Hue Jackson twice and gave him four different jobs before Jackson interviewed with Cleveland hours after he called his last plays as Bengals offensive coordinator in the 2015 Wild Card loss, refused to say Monday if he'd welcome him back.

"I'm not going to make a headline," said Lewis, who wouldn't talk about one of his closest friends in the business.

There were reports that before Jackson signed with Cleveland that there was a succession plan in place to make him Bengals head coach when Lewis chose to step down. That reflects the high regard ownership has for Jackson, but it's a little soon after Jackson's 3-36-1 stint in Cleveland to even start speculating about all that. When Jackson didn't get an offensive coordinator job after he was fired in 2011 as head coach of the Raiders, Lewis brought him to Cincinnati as an assistant for special teams and defensive backs for a season before he became running backs coach for another season and then offensive coordinator for two more. In Jackson's first Bengals stint from 2004-2006 as wide receivers coach, Chad Johnson led the AFC in yards all three seasons and T.J Houshmandzadeh missed by back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons by 44.

It was a Bloody Monday for former Bengals assistants. The Cowboys axed offensive line coach Paul Alexander.

Images from week 8 as the Bengals host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

SLANTS AND SCREENS: When Billy Price (foot) is healthy, Lewis said he'll be the starting center when he returns and that looks like it's for the Saints at Paul Brown Stadium on Nov. 11. But Trey Hopkins has drawn rave reviews at the spot and there are those wondering what might have been if they had turned to him last season at some point.

"He's grown a lot in his first exposure to playing center in significant games," Lewis said. "He's really done a nice job from the communication part of handling his own job, getting on the right person and being able to execute and block his guy. We have all been pleased with Trey. He was somewhat of an unknown (at center) when he played in the preseason there, but he has upheld his end of the bargain." …

Lewis said left guard Clint Boling should be OK after he left Sunday's game with back spasms …

Price looks to be the only injured guy that appears ready for the Saints. Running back Giovani Bernard (knee) looks to be a maybe ….

Lawson ended up with the club's fifth ACL tear of the season. It started with rookie guard Rod Taylor going down on one of training camp's first snaps in pads and then rookie safety Trayvon Henderson, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow and tight end Mason Schreck. It's believed to be the most in the last two decades. In the five previous seasons they had a total of six. …

Advertising