Updated: 5:20 p.m.
One of Marvin Lewis's biggest fans showed up for Friday morning's practice at Paul Brown Stadium and pronounced the Bengals headed in the right direction despite a four-game losing streak.
Brian Billick, the former Ravens head coach who mixed Lewis's NFL-record setting defense with an opportunistic offense to win the first NFL title of the 21st century, thinks the core of a contender is in place.
"It's a young team; you can't lose sight of that," said Billick, now one of those ever-present network blazers analyzing games everywhere for everyone. "They're having the kind of year we thought they were going to have last year with a young quarterback. They're ahead of the curve and they're almost victims of their own success."
Billick, in town working Sunday's 1 p.m. game against the Giants for Fox with play-by-play man Thom Brennaman, isn't all that surprised that Lewis and Bengals president Mike Brown agreed to re-up through 2014 in a deal that would put Lewis with one club for 12 years.
"Who are you going to get better than Marvin?" Billick asked. "You'll get something different, but not better. I think Mike is to be commended on that. Consistency is a big thing in this league.
"It's hard not to fall into the pattern of the cycle make-the-playoffs-one-year-don't-make-it-the-next. I know it's frustrating, but that's the NFL. The big thing is you need the quarterback and I think Andy Dalton can be that guy. Now, they need to get the running game going, that's for sure and they have to stop giving up some big plays, but they've got a lot of what they need."
The one thing Billick thinks the Bengals lack is confidence. Pittsburgh, he says, is overflowing with it now, and Baltimore seems to have lost some. If either one of them sweeps the other, Billick says that team is the AFC favorite.
"Marvin's great strength - and very few guys in the league have a better sense of what their team is about," Billick said. "They're going to be a team that wins three of the last four or four of the last five. It may or may not be good enough to make the playoffs, but I think they finish strong heading into next year."
SIMS UP: Defensive tackle Pat Sims came off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list Friday, indicating the run specialist list is going to be active for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-WLW-AM 700) against the Giants at Paul Brown Stadium.
In order to make room for Sims, the Bengals released backup linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy. Muckelroy, a fourth-round pick in 2010, was cut at the end of the preseason but brought back two weeks later when starting WILL backer Thomas Howard tore his ACL. He played in five games, primarily on special teams, but when the Bengals activated rookie outside backer Emmanuel Lamur last week they deactivated Muckelroy. The move leaves the Bengals with nine defensive linemen, six backers, and 11 DBs.
There is one move left. If Sims is indeed active Sunday the Bengals have to decide how many D-linemen they take into the game. It would be Sims's first game in nearly a year, Nov. 27 against Cleveland when he injured his ankle. They have gone into games lately with seven linemen and making rookie tackle Brandon Thompson inactive.
GREEN MOVES ON: Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green apparently continues to be surprised that his remarks Thursday during Boomer Esiason's radio show on New York's WFAN sparked so much attention. Green said the Giants defense has "plenty of holes," and that made the rounds in the Giants locker room.
No one is arguing with him. The Giants are ranked 25th in defense (26th against the pass) and given Green's history of saying 0.0 career controversial things, he no doubt thought he was stating a simple fact rather than igniting newstand sales. Before Friday's practice he declined to elaborate.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis shook his head after practice. He said it was a simple case where Green agreed with the question that was asked.
"Leading question," he said. "Just like the questions they tried to lead others into all week. Guys will learn from experience. Let him answer his own question. Don't answer his question because the question is never printed. That's not a controversial moment. That's just A.J. agreeing with what someone said to him."
NELSON DOUBTFUL:Safety Reggie Nelson (hamstring) missed his third practice of the week Friday and is doubtful for Sunday. Wide receiver Marvin Jones is going to miss his third straight with a sprained knee. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (thigh), who just made his NFL debut last week after getting over a bone spur near his knee, surfaced on the injury report Thursday when he was limited and he was out Friday while marked questionable.
Everybody else was full go Friday and probable, such as both centers, Jeff Faine and Trevor Robinson, as they fight hamstring issues. Nelson's injury could give Taylor Mays his third start, but he's been nicked, too, with a knee problem and went limited Thursday. The Bengals could always start Nate Clements instead, but they backed him off at safety last week and used him more as a cornerback again.
"It's part of the flexibilty he has," Lewis said. "We'll see where Waldo is this week."
If Nelson is inactive it would snap his streak of 66 straight games, dating back to his second season in the league in Jacksonville. He's played all his 40 games with the Bengals.
WEATHER CHECK: A chamber of commerce forecast from the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-WLW-AM 700) against the Giants at Paul Brown Stadium: Temperatures in the upper 60s, sunny, no chance of rain and winds out of the south and west at 10 to 15 miles per hour.