One thing you've got to say about Bengals safety Taylor Mays. When he hits you, it's a story and there's a good chance you're leaving the game, and head coach Marvin Lewis is noticing him becoming "a presence."
In his third start Thursday night in the 27-13 loss to the Packers at Paul Brown Stadium, Mays made his third hit that have people buzzing and sent a player packing for the night. For the first time it was a guy on the other team when he blew up tight end Tom Crabtree right in the tracks of his 22-yard catch over the middle. Crabtree left with a shoulder injury and Mays got flagged for a personal foul that no one thinks he committed.
Even Crabtree, who said he saw it coming, says it was shoulder to shoulder and not head to head and a legal hit.
Which has to be nice to hear after the previous two weeks, when Mays was in on the plays that middle linebackers Rey Maualuga sprained his MCL and Vontaze Burfict got a concussion.
"I think the main thing is he was high when he caught the ball and I was high when I hit him," Mays said. "The emphasis we've been talking about is me striking from a lower position. The lower I get the less room for argument. I don't know. Replay it."
Lewis didn't have to see a replay, but he did have to be cautious about what he said about the replacement officials.
"It was exactly shoulder-to-shoulder. Unfortunately, the guy that made the call's explanation was not correct," Lewis said. "It's one of those things. They are getting better. Hopefully, it will get closer and closer to what we need. His understanding was that the player was a defenseless receiver. He was, but you are allowed to hit a defenseless receiver shoulder-to-shoulder. There is no such thing as a defenseless player unless he is hit in the head with your head. It was a misinterpretation of the rule. I know they are working hard. The league is working hard to get this stuff corrected. They are working overtime on it actually. It'll get better and better.
"It's a good thing because Taylor is learning. He's doing good things physically. He is a good physical presence back there."
Mays is part of what defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is trying to make a versatile secondary. Early in the fourth quarter when the Bengals were trying to stop the run, he ran Mays out there with two other safeties for a three-safety set. Earlier in the game he was trying to blanket the multiple Packers receivers and he lined up three cornerbacks with one of them, Nate Clements, moving to safety.
With five corners injured, there's only so much of it Zimmer could do. Lewis says he'll have first-rounder Dre Kirkpatrick (leg) back for next Thursday night's preseason finale in Indianapolis and possibly Adam Jones (calf) and Jason Allen (leg).
"We got Nate some snaps at safety. That's a good thing. We didn't get as many as we wanted because we are a little bit thin at corner until we get our guys back and going," Lewis said. "So we'll have an opportunity to show some more flexibility in some of the things we are doing. These guys are playing a little more than what I would like, but it is where we are right now. We don't have much choice."
Clements says he's enjoying going back and forth at both spots. He did note that he saw the 35-year-old Charles Woodson lining up at strong safety for the Packers Thursday night after 14 seasons at cornerback. Clements, in his 12th season at age 32, liked that, too.
"It's good to see a wily old vet still going at it," said Clements, who's not sure if the move could extend his career. "Possibly. We'll see."
MARV AGAIN: Now the question may not be if Marvin Jones becomes the Bengals No. 2 receiver, but when?
Jones, the fifth-rounder from California, kept his hot preseason rolling Thursday night with his first touchdown catch, a 15-yard throw to his back shoulder from backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. That comes with the confidence of catching one ball for 45 yards in the opener and one for 42 yards last week.
Jones has yet to play with the first offense in a game, but he certainly chews up the backups. He's the leading receiver on the team by more than 50 yards with 111 yards on five catches. As the clock ticked under five minutes left in the third quarter Thursday, the Packers moved into press coverage.
This is why the Bengals think Jones has come along faster than they thought. He's not only 6-2 and can run, but he's smart and can tell you why.
"They went with one-on-one press. They loaded the box. It was an easy call," Jones said. "He was backpedaling and he was real tight to me, so Bruce did a good job throwing it to my back shoulder and for me to come back and get it."
Throw in an 18-yarder on his first NFL punt return and Jones seems to just get better and better. He did what special teams coach Darrin Simmons always urges. He went up the inside of the blocking and found the seam.
"I'm getting more and more comfortable the more experience I get," Jones said.
CED SAYS: In the first game of his post-Bengals career, Cedric Benson ended up carrying the ball as many times as his quarterback Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium. For fewer yards. But the man who used to bristle at times as about a lack of carries is as happy as, well, a ...
"I'm like a kid in the candy store," Benson said after his 38 yards on six carries in Green Bay's 27-13 victory over the Bengals.
Benson, a bit miffed the Bengals didn't re-sign him, had the fresh legs with an 11-yard run, a nine-yard run and an eight-yard run after joining the Packers about 10 days ago. His eye candy is a defense that has to spread itself thin to cover quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his receivers out of a one-back set.
"All I have to do is press the hole and let the linemen get their head on one side and explode through the hole on the backside," Benson said. "So it's like a kid in the candy store."
There were no surprises for the Bengals. His old teammates knew he would come charging at them. Just ask his good friend Mays.
"Ced always runs hard; he always runs with passion," Mays said. "I told him to just keep running hard, stay healthy, and we're rooting for him. I'm rooting for him. He looked good. He looked ready. I missed a tackle on him and that made me mad."
It looked like old home week before the game on the field as Benson said hello to Bengals and staff. The Bengals may have decided to move on because of his 12 fumbles in the last two seasons and prickly approach to the carries question. But his mates always appreciated his intense approach.
"Ced's my guy. He's only been in there a week, so he was probably limited as far as the scheme," said outside linebacker Thomas Howard. "He'll be good for them."
Asked about what he'll miss about Cincinnati, Benson was already getting nostalgic.
"Football. I was in Cincinnati to play football. Just the team," he said. "A lot of those guys are young guys, early-year guys on defense and offense as well. I've watched them grow and have seen them in their rookie years, seen them in their second years. Now, a lot of them are in their third or fourth years. They've progressed a lot."
But the defense wasn't feeling that way after allowing Rodgers to scramble six times for 52 yards on top of his 154 yards passing in a half of work.
"I think (Benson) looked solid, honestly," said left end Jamaal Anderson. "I don't think we played our best game on either side of the football. We have to look at the film tomorrow and see what we can get better at and prepare for the last preseason game because this isn't how you want to play. You want to go out on a better note going into the season."