One of the big topics for the Bengals heading into Sunday's game against the Seahawks at sold-out Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) is defending Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham, making the move from the Saints during fee agency back in March, is struggling to find his niche.
But after four games he has 18 catches and two for touchdowns, but the 9.7 yards per catch has some worried.
The Bengals defended Graham about as well as possible during their 27-10 victory in New Orleans last season when they held him to three catches for 29 yards with safety George Iloka and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. A huge red-zone target, Graham didn't get a sniff in the Bengals' game-changing goal-line stand late in the first quarter.
One of the reasons? They were physical with Graham throughout and head coach Marvin Lewis thought Iloka's hit on Graham across the middle was huge. Lewis disagreed with the roughing flag Iloka on the play and the NFL must have agreed with him because he wasn't fined.
"It took a little bit out of him for the rest of the football game," Lewis said last year the day after the game. "We have to be around him and close, and he's obviously such an effective receive. "I think that (as) George was coming through to the football."
Or, at least he didn't get the full fine.
"I think I they gave me part of it back. You don't ever get all of it back," Iloka said. "I don't understand. It's like 'Am I right or am I wrong? What are you giving me this back for?' But that's last year. But obviously you want to try to be physical as much as you can with the teams that are known for being physical themselves."
Iloka made it clear you have to be physical but clean.
"Stuff like that sets a tone. But obviously you don't want to do anything dirty," Iloka said. "I don't think it was anything dirty. It was shoulder to shoulder. The ref just said it was kind of late."
But look for the same kind of formula.
"Right out of the gate you want to try to knock the quarterback off his rhythm, knock a good receiver off his rhythm, running backs, too," Iloka said. "Once they hit their stride and the ball rolling and start feeling confident, it makes things twice as hard. We're just going to try to come out and play our brand of defense and hopefully by the end of the day we're the best defense out there."
Iloka (ankle) appeared on the field again Thursday after being limited Wednesday and was limited again. Cornerback Adam Jones (groin) also was on the field Thursday after he didn't work Wednesday and was limited. Wallace Gilberry (calf), the first defensive lineman off the bench, brought out his helmet, but went to the bike first and then was listed as missing his second straight practice. That could mean the first activation of the year for third year end Margus Hunt.
In Seattle, Pro Bowl running backs Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) went limited, surprising no one at PBS, where everyone expects him to play. Lynch backup Fred Jackson (ankle) didn't work for a second straight day Thursday.