Notes: A to Z matchup coming soon; Moch flashes

Geno Atkins

The hitting doesn't start until training camp does on July 27 in a 3 p.m. practice and the marquee matchup to circle is defensive tackle Geno Atkins against right guard Kevin Zeitler.

The Bengals still have to get through next week's mandatory minicamp (one practice each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), but you still have to wait seven more weeks for the real stuff.

And Atkins-Zeitler is going to be worth the wait in a true everything-you-want-A-Z matchup.

There is the 24-year-old Atkins, 6-1, 300 pounds, just off his first Pro Bowl season while leading NFL interior players with eight sacks. There is Wisconsin's 22-year-old Zeitler, 6-4, 315, the 27th pick in the draft and the first guard the Bengals have ever taken in the first round.

Both are relentless, powerful and smart. And if you ask Zeitler, going off the nine OTA sessions, Atkins "definitely has the upper hand right now."

"Geno is an absolute freak," Zeitler says. "He's good. Really good. Geno does everything well. Every part of his game is tough. Very tough. It's a good thing. It's only going to help me get used to what I'm going to see."

Yes, Zeitler says, Atkins looks to be the quickest down lineman he's ever seen and he admits he's battled it all month as he tries to get used to the speed of the game. But Zeitler hasn't done it with contact and pads yet and that should aid him come July.

"I know where I am; I know where I have to be," Zeitler says. "Right now I'm very low. I have a long way to go. (Being a rookie) isn't an excuse. Once you're on the field it doesn't matter what you are. It's a matter of technique, confidence. Things like that."

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has been helping Zeitler along (he took him to Wednesday night's Reds game as he begins to divide his loyalties with the NL Central rival Brewers) and he thinks going against Atkins in training camp is going to boost him.

"He's starting to get better; he's starting to figure things out," Whitworth said. "It's starting to come together. Each day he's getting better against those guys. We've got probably one of the most agile defenses you'll see."

As for Atkins, he says there is life for a Pro Bowl pass rusher even in the spring when there are no pads.

"I'm just trying to work on stepping right, making sure my hands are in the right place; you can still get work done," Atkins said. "You can work on hand placement, getting upfield on the right foot and making sure the O-linemen can't touch you in the chest."

As for Zeitler, Atkins knows what waits next month.

"He's good," Atkins said. "He's smart, strong, fast."

MOCH FLASHING: There are some at Paul Brown Stadium that feel SAM linebacker Dontay Moch has the same incredible physical skills as a pass rusher that former Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson displayed as an acrobatic pass catcher. Simpson is no longer here because of his inability to adapt to the offense, but the Bengals think Moch can make the switch from college end to NFL backer.

Make no mistake about it. In the OTAs Moch has displayed a very athletic and very quick rush that gives tackles problems.

"He can definitely get upfield," said linebackers coach Paul Guenther. "He's got value to us as a pass rusher, but we have to have confidence that we can play him on first and second down, too. And fourth down (special teams) is going to be very important for him."

If the Bengals know Moch can rush the passer, they also know there are plenty of questions surrounding him, too, and none of them are going to be answered until the preseason games start. If then, because the biggest one stems from the multiple published reports on the league's Web site and everywhere else that says he may be suspended for a banned substance. The reports suggest he's appealing it.

Moch didn't comment this week ("It's out of my hands," he said), but if it's a Bobbie Williams-type deal it will be four games and announced when the team gets down to 53 players the week before the regular season opens.

The other questions? With his transition from college end to NFL SAM stalled, how quickly can Moch pick up playing linebacker after never playing in a game as a rookie last season and missing most of the practices with a foot injury in the preseason opener that was followed by a stretch of migraine headaches?

Not being on the field has hurt him.

"He's been here for a year and he's making mistakes that he shouldn't be making," said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer this week. "He's sat in the meetings and heard stuff but that's not the best way for him to learn. He has to get out there and do it. He's behind schedule that way."

Moch, one of the stars of the 2011 scouting combine before the Bengals took him in the third round, acknowledges he needs the reps.

"The more I get, the more I understand and the better I feel," he says. "Taking notes is one thing. But then going out and doing it on the field is a whole different thing."

Moch says he hasn't had a problem with migraines in six months and while doctors are puzzled by the cause, he says they seem to have the situation under control.

"I feel good. I feel like I can contribute and I'm just looking forward to more reps," he says.


» As he usually does, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis used the last OTA on a field trip and on Thursday the club took on sand volleyball at Mariemont's Hahana Beach. The team anchored by defensive tackle Domata Peko and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga won the team tourney title.

» When word came down Thursday that former Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco got cut by the Patriots, two things came to mind. Well, three things:

The first is that there's no way he's coming back. Just can't see it. Look, the Bengals already have a guy that caught more balls and more yards from Tom Brady in a season than The Ocho did last year.

(Brandon Tate with 24 for 432 in 2010. In 2011 The Ocho went 15 for 276.)

The second is an observation from Shalise Manza-Young of The Boston Globe. She described an OTA last month where The Ocho bolted offsides and then had to be told where to line up by another player.

Sound familiar? (So don't look for Jacksonville and former Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski on the list of possibles for The Ocho.)

And the third is this observation by the guy that used to tell Ochocinco where to line up here, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, as he went into free agency back in March:

"If I went with Tom Brady and didn't produce, I'd hang it up," Houshmandzadeh said. "Are you kidding me? Tom Brady? If you go with a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees, or an Eli Manning, or Aaron Rodgers, and you don't produce?"


Ask enough people around here and they just don't think the Ocho played with the same verve and aggressiveness after Browns safety Brian Russell absolutely drilled him over the last middle in the 2006 home opener.

All that said, the guy was a heck of a player here, one of the top receivers of his time, and before he got carried away with himself, great for the game and city. The only question is how Bengals fans are going to welcome him when he, hopefully, checks back in at some point after his career is done.

And hopefully they applaud. It was a memorable run with a lot of thrills.

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