ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Time for a nickname for Bengals rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham.
How about "The Real Deal"?
Or maybe "Jumping Jermaine" after the slam dunk celebration following his first NFL touchdown Saturday night that opened the scoring of the Bengals' 35-20 loss to the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
After his four catches for 45 yards, Gresham has 10 catches for 116 yards for an 11.6 average. The Bengals have had a tight end with at least 10 catches in the regular season get that much per catch only once in Marvin Lewis' seven seasons and that was Reggie Kelly with 12.1 four years ago.
The club is concerned with Gresham's mental errors, but it also loves the way he plays 100 miles an hour and he nearly saved the second series with a big dive for the first down on third-and-15, but his knee barely touched a yard shy.
But Gresham did back up the second touchdown drive when he flinched on the Bills 1 and he had a holding call that blew up a series late in the second quarter when it negated backup quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan's 12-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan Shipley.
"He did some good things; he still makes errors," Bratkowski said. "He made some critical mistakes tonight, but they seem to be diminishing."
Gresham is a good fit for the up-tempo style.
"I like it," he said of the no-huddle. "I came from a school that did a lot of it at Oklahoma. We came out and caught the defense off-guard. It worked out very well."
PENALTY PLAY: The Bengals were one of the most penalized teams in the NFL last season and the trend has continued. They came into the game averaging nearly 10 penalties per game and now they are averaging more than 10 in the preseason after racking up 12 for 122 yards against the Bills.
But Lewis was adamant it won't keep happening. The two flags that apparently disturbed him were a personal foul on left end Jon Fanene and a holding call on left guard Nate Livings because they are regulars.
"More concerning is who does it than what it is," Lewis said. "I don't know what happened on Fanene's personal foul. That's a guy we know is going to be playing for us. The other thing is we overwhelm a guy and we get a holding call so we have to look at that and why. We know these things get cleaned up during the season and they're not called because the officials are getting graded on this as well. And I know that's the kind of thing people are kind of looking at now. They're kind of overdoing that, but we have to learn from it and go forward. But I think those are the only two offensively and defensively with guys that mattered."
That may not bode well for a guy like safety Marvin White that picked up a penalty on his first play back with the Bengals (roughing the passer) and added a hold on a punt return. Lewis also said the hold on tight end Dan Coats that eliminated running back James Johnson's 46-yard run was "a good call."
The Bengals did have other starters make miscues. They've had more pass interference calls than usual and cornerback Leon Hall picked up his second of the season for 19 yards covering wide receiver Lee Evans on the game's first snap. Also Gresham had his two penalties and right tackle Dennis Roland had a false start.
ZIMMER STOIC: Hard to get a read on defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer after his guys got raked by rookie running back C.J. Spiller in the first half for 52 yards on 12 carries and two catches for 33 yards. One was a 20-yard touchdown run (a missed tackle by White was involved) and one was a 26-yard catch on a screen.
But when the first defense was in there, they dumped Spiller for losses of 11 and seven yards. The Bengals already had three defensive linemen that didn't dress (Tank Johnson, Robert Geathers, Frostee Rucker) and three safeties (Roy Williams, Chinedum Ndukwe, Gibril Wilson). The backup secondary was in there early in the second quarter and it was mix-and-match from there.
"We're not very good," Zimmer said. "We had three or four defensive linemen not dressed; no safeties. It's all right; we'll play them in November."
Asked if he was more vanilla than usual because the Bengals play the Bills later in the season, Zimmer said, "We'll see."
Middle linebacker Dhani Jones wasn't happy.
"Too many mental mistakes," he said. "Mental mistakes lead to tragedy."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Long-time Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham told cornerback Adam Jones after the game he's the best return man he's seen since his teammate from the '70s, cornerback Lemar Parrish. High praise. Parrish went to six Pro Bowls as a Bengal, eight overall.
On Saturday, Jones opened the game with a 51-yard kick return, added a 39-yarder on the next one and swiveled for 11 yards on a punt with a sweet hesitation move.
And talk about tough. He played most of the game at cornerback, went step-for-step with Evans (one of the fastest guys in the loop) to force an incomplete fly pattern, injured his knee, came back and left for good with a neck problem. There was no word how serious it was.
» Mike Nugent hit his 54-yarder; Dave Rayner hit his 32-yarder. Nugent had one kickoff two yards deep in the end zone, Rayner had one three yards deep and one two yards deep. Nugent had other kickoffs to the 9 and three. On a 77-degree night with a five-mile-per-hour wind, there were no elements.
If the kicking derby was even, where is it now? Nugent probably has the edge but it is close.
» Can wide receiver Quan Cosby make it if his main competition is Jerome Simpson and Matt Jones?
He had the best night of any receiver in the preseaon Saturday with four catches for 82 yards, one a 44-yarder from Jordan Palmer in the middle of the fourth quarter. He also fumbled on the Bills 14 with 1:35 left in the game, but he's racked up great return numbers, too, coming into the game with a 41-yard kick return and a 16.8 punt return average. He popped another 31-yard kick return Saturday and had a four-yard punt return.
Meanwhile, Jones caught one ball for 12 yards and Simpson had one catch for six.
» Rookie cornerback Brandon Ghee could have suffered a concussion Saturday night in his frightening helmet-to-helmet hit with Bills running back Chad Simpson. After being prone on the field for five minutes, he rode off sitting in the cart and was able to make the trip back.