There is a lot of respect in the Bengals locker room when it comes to Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, ranging from the guy that shares his No. 25 and style of play, running back Giovani Bernard, to one of his good friends, former Chiefs teammate Wallace Gilberry.
Bernard is second in AFC rushing with 235 yards on 5.7 yards per carry and Charles is third with 231 yards on 4.8. It's rare to have more yards per pop than Charles, whose career average of 5.5 leads all active running backs and is second all-time to Hall-of-Famer Marion Motley's 5.7.
Charles is just 28 and came into the league in 2008 and the 23-year-old Bernard observes, "Great running back. I've watched him since I was young. One thing about him is that he's a smooth player. He doesn't take many bad hits."
Charles is 5-11, 199 pounds and Bernard is 5-9, 205. They're both jitterbugs that are threats to break runs for TDs and can double as a wide receiver. Charles has 14 catches for 81 yards and Bernard has 12 catches for 75.
Bengals safety Reggie Nelson has noticed.
"He puts his head down and runs. Just a great athlete. Speed, balance. He's like a Gio guy. I'm not comparing them," Nelson says. " Gio's an athlete, he's shifty, and Charles is the same way. They do a lot of things with him and we're going to have to play great defense on him."
Bernard does have the edge over Charles in one category. He's ranked third among NFL running backs in elusive rating while Charles is ranked 17th, according to profootballfocus.com.
Charles and Gilberry, the Bengals rotational defensive lineman, broke into the league together in Kansas City in 2008 and the two have remained close.
"Quiet. He loves to have fun, everybody around him loves to have fun. Hard worker," Gilberry says. " Everybody has respect for him. I'll tell you what kind of guy he is."
Gilberry and Charles go to each other's youth camps in the offseason and in Charles' hometown of Port Arthur, Texas this year they honored him.
"Andy Reid showed up," Gilberry says of the Chiefs head coach. "Most of the offense. (Tight end Travis) Kelce. That tells you all you need to know about him."
As for what Charles is on the field, Gilberry thinks he is simply Olympian.
"Usain Bolt. He's a track star, man. You give him daylight, and he's going to burn you," Gilberry said. "He's one of those guys you have to contain, you have to get hats around him, you have to hit him. If not, he can go the distance. He's goes between the tackles, outside the tackles, so he's one of those guys whenever you get a chance to put your hat on, you have to put your hat on. That's the only thing that will slow him down is when you put your hat on."
TACKLING STRESSED: So it would follow that the word has gone forth from Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, especially with Charles coming to town, that they have to clean up their tackling because it almost did them in last Sunday in Baltimore.
After practice Wednesday Guenther was still fuming over the missed tackle on Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. on fourth-and-five at the 50 that turned into a TD with 6:27 left in the third quarter and cut the Bengals lead to 14-7 instead of a stop that would have given them the ball at the 50 with the shutout intact.
"We didn't really feel threatened as a defense until we gave up that run after the catch for the touchdown," Guenther said, "It just goes to show you how missing a couple of tackles can turn a game around. A game that should be over at that point and turns it into a battle again."
Nelson, SAM linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, and safety George Iloka all had a shot at Smith right after he caught the four-yard pass on the right sideline. Nelson missed a chance to stone him for the turnover.
"We definitely can't tackle like we did Sunday, especially me being in the back end," Nelson said. "We noticed our mistakes and we're working on it."
The stats have been hard on Bengals tackling this season after such a good start in the opener. Profootballfocus.com had them for 13 missed tackles against the Ravens and the web site has Dre Kirkpatrick tied for most misses among NFL corners, while Vincent Rey is tied for fourth and Lamur tied for 10th among outside linebackers. That said, Kirkpatrick and his fellow corners, Adam Jones and Leon Hall, have more sure tackles than most corners this season and are giving great effort. But they all had two misses last Sunday and have to make sure they wrap up the elusive Charles.
According to PFF, Charles doesn't have a great yards per contact average (2.2), but he's so good in space catching passes, and he's eight years younger than Smith.
"He gets the ball in so many ways," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "He gets the ball as a runner; he gets the ball as a receiver, and they're going to try to work to get the ball in his hands in a lot of different ways. He's a matchup that's not a good open-field matchup for most linebackers."
Guenther said they worked on tackling for a long time Wednesday and said it can be done in an NFL practice game week since they were wearing shoulder pads.
"You work on it, whether it is open field tackling or vice tackling with the corner and linebacker, or the backer and the safety," he said.
As Nelson said, "It's not hard to do in practice. You get in position and simulate the tackle."
COMPETITIVE SOULS: There's an interesting dynamic with Bernard and Jeremy Hill in the backfield. After a break-out rookie year last season in which Hill led the NFL in rushing over the second half of the season by getting 54 more carries than Bernard, they've got the same amount of carries this season (41) and Bernard has 112 more yards and has played 42 more snaps, 125-83.
Hill has struggled early, but it hasn't affected their friendship.
"There's always that point we always just want to compete," Bernard says. "We play with FIFA against each other all the time and I swear I hate losing to him. He's up like three something on me right now. If we can find something to compete on we're going to do it. Video games are where we kind of let off steam a little bit. He's up on me on that, so hopefully I can come back. I have to practice a little bit."
Their teams: Bernard takes Barcelona and Hill Real Madrid.
"Bigger vs. smaller, faster," Bernard says. "Makes sense."
3-0 OR 3-0: The question of the week is, how is this Bengals 3-0 different than last year's 3-0?
"We don't have the bye this week. The early bye not might have been the best thing," Bernard before Wednesday's practice.
It will be recalled the Bengals were bestowed the No. 1 spot in some power rankings last year, had a week off, and then got drilled by the Patriots to make a quick exit from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Not only do the Bengals have a Paul Brown Stadium game this Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Chiefs, but Bernard thinks something else is different.
"The guys are walking around with a little more swagger, a little more confidence," Bernard said. "Confidence is a huge thing for an offense and for the team. We know what we have to do. We know the playmakers we have on this team. We just have to go out and compete."
SACK CO.: Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth has seen them all and if there's a better 1-2 pass-rushing tandem in the league than Kansas City's Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, he doesn't know what it is. He'll get Hali most of the day and right tackle Andre Smith is going to get major doses of Houston's 22 sack machine from last season. Sometimes they flop. But it doesn't matter. Whitworth says it is like playing the feared Terrelll Suggs and Elvis Dumervil in Baltimore, a tandem now at half-speed because of Suggs' season -ending injury.
"What's crazy is Tamba Hali gets (Houston) a lot of his sacks," Whitworth said. "Tamba wins and forces the quarterback to him and Justin is more a power rusher, so he's pushing his guy back and Tamba is winning and he can't get there for the sack but Justin gets it. Those two guys when watching them on film, they're heat-seeking missiles for the quarterback."
INJURY UPDATE: Safety George Iloka, who pulled himself out of last Sunday's win in Baltimore with an ankle injury in the second half, didn't practice Wednesday. Neither did cornerback Adam Jones (elbow), but he was looking spry bouncing around with the secondary in sweats while the defensive backs did drills on his 32nd birthday. Whitworth got a veteran's day off and Smith (hip) was limited as they prepare for a challenging Sunday.
Also limited were cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (shoulder) and cornerback Leon Hall with a vet day.
Defensive tackles Pat Sims (hip) and Marcus Hardison (knee) were back full. Sims missed Sunday's game and Hardison, the rookie, won't be active for awhile.