The Bengals defense, already ranked second in the NFL and displaying five first-round draft picks, is about to get a sixth with cornerback Adam Jones saying he's ready to come off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) in time for the Oct. 30 game in Seattle.
And Jones, the highest of the picks at No. 6 in 2005, is confident his top 10 skills are still intact after being shelved since last Oct. 24 with a herniated neck disc.
"Of course I do," Jones said Monday. "Now I have to go out and prove it and show I can stay healthy and play with good technique and do what Zim wants."
"Zim" is, of course, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, the guy that stuck his neck out in the spring of 2010 and agreed to take on Jones, a marked man because of his off-field problems that got him suspended multiple times.
But Zimmer loves Jones's attitude and says he continues to buy in despite his long rehab.
"He's in. He's all the way in. He's first in line," Zimmer said. "He's paying attention. He's chomping at the bit, he can't wait ... he's itching. He's itching bad."
Once the Bengals decide to return Jones to practice, they have three weeks to put him on the 53-man roster. The thinking is they'll do that next week if they see what they expect on the practice field.
"I think he can help us," Zimmer said. "He's studying receivers. He's studying tape. He's asking me questions during meetings. 'Why are we doing this?' 'Why aren't we calling this more?' He's all in."
Jones is so all in that Zimmer had to tell him to move back on the sidelines during Sunday's game. Jones isn't so sure where he fits, but there's no question Zimmer is going to get him on the field.
"We shall see. Whatever they want my role to be; I just want to help," Jones said. "The defense is playing much better than last year. No question. The front seven is getting good pressure and we're playing great in the back end not giving up many shots downfield. Everyone is playing great."
Whose spot Jones takes on the roster remains to be seen. The Bengals have four cornerbacks, but have played three games with three with Kelly Jennings resting an injured hamstring.
TAYLOR HITCH: Safety Taylor Mays finally played his first game as a Bengal on Sunday two months after the trade that brought him from the 49ers. And that was on kick and punt return and kick cover as Zimmer brings him along slowly.
Mays, a second-round pick from 2010, has enormous physical abilities but the Bengals are looking for him to mature some. Zimmer said Monday he's seen signs lately.
"He's a good talent; his time will come," Zimmer said. "He'll end up playing. I don't know in what yet. Part of his problem was we got him so late, then he got hurt (knee), then he was doings things the way he used to do them at USC or San Francisco or wherever it was. Now we had to over discipline him.
" 'You're not going to do that. You'll never play here if you do it this way.' The last two weeks he has started to come along. His time will come, but we have to feel comfortable that he's going to do what we ask him to do when we ask him to do it and not revert back to doing those things. I think he wants to do it our way. He likes attention. I think he wants to do it the way we want it done."
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Left tackle Andrew Whitworth prepped for his Sunday shutout of Colts Hall of Fame sack ace Dwight Freeney in practice last week working against rookie defensive end DeQuin Evans, the free agent from Kentucky making the switch from linebacker on the practice squad.
The 6-2, 250-pound Evans offered a different target than the 6-1, 268-pound Freeney, but Whitworth praised Evans's great simulation of his speed simply because of his work ethic.
"With him it's the effort, the aggressiveness he plays with every single play," Whitworth said. "Even your great players probably don't play with that kind of effort. He's one of these guys that plays with an extreme motor. Kind of like a (Kyle) Vanden Bosch. That's kind of his thing. He plays with that great motor and that simulates the speed you need to see."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Brandon Tate is among the NFL leaders with five punt returns of at least 15 yards and his 32-yarder against the Colts early in the second half was huge because it set up a touchdown. Cornerback Nate Clements dropped back to catch the first punt of the game, but not because Tate was benched. Clements is the designated returner in plus-50 situations when a decision to catch it or let it go most likely has to be made. But the Bengals feel once Tate gets more acclimated to punts, he'll be able to do it. Clements hasn't returned a punt since 2009, but he's got 82 in his career compared to Tate's 22 after Sunday, 21 of them this season. Tate is 14th in the league with a 10.6-yard average.
» The Bengals are tied for ninth in the all-important turnover margin at plus-3. Only two teams ahead of them have fewer than four victories. The 3-3 Texans and the 1-5 Vikings are tied with the 4-2 Giants for sixth at plus-four.