The big news from Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage is that it really wasn't a scrimmage as Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis scaled back the hitting for the top of his roster.
Before about 6,000 fans at Paul Brown Stadium, the first and second teams got in four live plays. One each on short yardage and three each on the goal line. The third-teams and other backups pounded each other live for a period, but that was it.
"We kind of know who our guys are. It's important to make sure we don't overexpose those guys," Lewis said. "Smarter is better. I tried to get some of the young guys some good work."
STOPPED SHORT: After the offense dominated short yardage and goal line back on Tuesday, the defense jacked it up Saturday when the second team offense got stoned by the first team defense and the first -team offense had the same thing happen at the hands of the second-team defense. Both defenses held on third and short and then when the offenses started from the 3 it scored just once on six tries.
First-team middle backer Ray Maualuga stopped running back Brian Leonard on third down and then came back to knock down Bruce Gradkowksi's pass in the end zone to rookie tight end Bruce Davis.
"Earlier in the week we had a live period in short yardage and goal line and the offense kind of got the best of us," said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "So we kind of wanted to put our foot down today and redeem ourselves from last time. That's how you win games. Big stops like that. We really did a good job staying low, creating a new line of scrimmage and doing what (Mike) Zimmer told us to do."
DALTON FLINGS IT: In the last period of the day before hitting, quarterback Andy Dalton finished aflame and completed all five of his passes against the backups.
Two went to tight end Jermaine Gresham (one deep over the middle) and two went to wide receiver A.J. Green, one on a leaping catch over the middle off a play-action. Dalton started the session with a bullet out pattern to wide receiver Armon Binns and followed it up with a shot on a slant as Green continued to wear out rookie cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris.
"He was very good. Great at the line of scrimmage recognizing the holes and making strikes," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said of Dalton. "He's doing well and all the guys did well in that period. We're coming along at a good clip."
AARON STRIKES: Former Lions running back Aaron Brown, a sixth-round pick of Detroit in 2009, did exactly what a guy trying to make the team is supposed to do on Saturday. He made a play on special teams as a gunner when he swiped Kevin Huber's punt back to the 5 before it landed in the end zone, and he scored on a 34-yard run when the third-teamers went live.
(Also big was Zac Robinson, last year's practice squad quarterback. In the live show he went 4-of-5 for 69 yards and got a 27-yarder to Davis down the right side.)
The 6-1, 200-pound Brown went around left end, froze rookie outside linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, and then cut inside.
But he knows if he's going to make a team with Bernard Scott, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brian Leonard and Cedric Peerman, he's going to have to play special teams.
"I learned when I was in Detroit how important special teams (are) and how it can make the difference in a game," Brown said. "I just told myself when I came here; whatever I'm asked to do I'm going to do it. No more regrets, so it feels good."
But with Scott shelved in a cast with an unspecified arm injury, it's tough for Brown or any other back other than the top four to make it. (Rookie Daniel Herron is still battling hamstring problems and didn't practice Saturday.)
Indications are Scott has an injury that won't take him out of a large chunk of the regular season, if at all. So he may or may be not ready for the Sept. 10 opener in Baltimore. But that means he'll have to stick on the 53-man roster.
LEWIS ON GHEE: Lewis didn't give great news on cornerback Brandon Ghee, who injured his wrist Thursday night when he landed on it after unsuccessfully defending a jump ball to tight end Jermaine Gresham in the end zone. Lewis said he didn't know if Ghee was going to miss the entire season, so it sounds like the Bengals are going to have a tough decision if he doesn't have a season-ender because no matter what it sounds like he'll miss extensive time.
But even though the Bengals had to move rookie receiver Taveon Rogers to corner Saturday and sign cornerback T.J. Heath three days after Jacksonville cut him, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer thinks he's got enough corners. Even if they can't stay healthy, although Jason Allen and Adam Jones are expected back Sunday or Tuesday and Dre Kirkpatrick is expected back to practice near the end of the preseason.
"I feel bad for him because finally he had kind of turned the corner where he was getting to a point where he was getting involved in the mix," Zimmer said of Ghee. "He was competing all the time. He was doing a nice job in covering. He's a good athlete, somebody that's finally worked into it and kind of earned the right to be here and do some of those things. It's disappointing for him. And for us, too.
"I'm not really that concerned because I think we've got some and we're going to get them back. I think (Dre) Kirkpatrick will get back. He's going to be behind obviously. (Terence) Newman's done a good job. And we're being careful with some of the guys. We've got (Nate) Clements back. Obviously Leon (Hall) is doing a nice job, and Jason Allen will be back shortly. I think we have a good group. I feel good about the group. I think they'll compete and they'll try to do what we ask them to do. And I think they'll all tackle."